Monday, 8 October 2012

Review : V-H-S (2012)

Now here's a fresh idea...

Get together some well known names in independent cinema/horror cinema together and set em to work on a horror anthology. Not just any horror anthology, but a found footage horror anthology. How bout them apples?

This premise has understandably got a lot of horror fans excited. Its trying something new, and the wealth of talent on display has to point to good things abounding. Not to mention VHS is getting great reviews from tit to top-hat, as all and sundry praise it as a 'gem', and one of the years best. I wasn't buying the hype then, and I'm not buying it now.

I'm in the minority, but I often feel that anthologies don't quite work as a whole, (other than the mighty TRICK 'R' TREAT and CREEPSHOW). While they can be fun, they feel more like fast food than a hearty meal, and almost always lack depth, character and balance. Not to mention your practically gaurenteed at least one weak-sauce short story in there. Its a given. So, you can see why my excitement levels were running pretty low for this one.

Still, I was curious to see how they'd use the found footage format in an anthology, and I'm always willing to watch anything by Ti West at least once. I just wasnt as fired up as so many seemed/seem to be. And its a good thing I wasnt, because despite having some very strong moments, VHS, as a whole, is a bit of a mess.

We get six stories in all, one of which is a wraparound tale, all filmed using a variety of handheld techniques, and all lasting around the twenty minute mark. One of the stories is great, two are average, one is a huge fucking mess, one is nonsensical and one is as forgettable as date rape. I won't keep you guessing as to which is which, though I will leave you guessing who directed what, (as its sorta fun to guess while watching). Heres a quick rundown of the stories....

Story 1 - The wraparound story deals with a gang of hired thugs who are payed to break into an old house and steal a VHS tape. When they arrive they find an elderly dead guy and a whole library of videos, which they begin watching, and which make up for the rest of the tales. Theres some strong atmosphere in this one, but it goes absolutly nowhere and its characters are as unlikable as they come. Its instantly fogettable, and garners no suspense whatsoever.

Story 2 - The first of the separate tales follows yet another group of reprehensible ass-clowns who drink and drive, and treat women like meat, until they meet a strange girl who turns the tables. This one boasts some beautiful shots of the naked female form, some great tension and a really creepy performance from the lead actress. Its worthwhile and ranks second from the top.

Story 3 - A slow-burn tale of a young couple on their honeymoon, who recieve a knock on their motel door one night from a sinister girl looking for a ride. This one builds tension well, and has some solid acting from the leads. The slow pace leads to a very bloody payoff, but it lacks satisfaction and is perhaps too abrupt to really register. Altogether a decent tale.

Story 4 - A bunch of asshole kids head out to a lake where they are picked off one by one by blah blah blah. This on is the real rotten apple in the basket. It boasts a very cool slasher called 'The Glitch' who can't be filmed, but it does nothing with the concept, and the actors are uniformly atrocious, as is the script.

Story 5 - Told via Skype webcams, this tale deals with a girl who believes her home to be haunted, and asks her boyfriend to watch from his laptop to try and capture the mysterious entity on film. This one starts really strong, with its original use of laptop webcams as its visual medium, and some genuinly suspensful searches through the gals dimply lit house. It also has some nasty gore to chew on, but the whole thing falls apart when the twist arrives. Frankly, it made no sense whatsoever.

Story 6 - Its Halloween night, and four young guys have been invited to a fancy dress party. When they arrive, the find that there is no party and that some sort of apparently satanic ritual is going on. Now this is how you pull off a short story. This one has a great premise, very likable and noble characters, some brilliantly spooky special effects and a wince inducing final shot in the back of a car. After such a mixed, average bunch of tales, this one ends VHS on a high. Its great.

So there you have it...a very mixed bunch. The lack of narrative connection really does hurt the tales, (though there seems to be a half-formed thesis on the male condition in here), and the film feels rushed and only partially thought through. That said, it has some fun segments, and one truly excellent finale, and its creators all deserve our respect and support. Its just that this particular experiment, while no doubt made with love, is something of a failed one. When it shines, it really shines, but sadly, it does so all too rarely.

Check it out, but keep your expectations low.

5 Cat-women out of 10

1 comment:

  1. Story 2 and Story 5 were the only ones worth watching. I went into this not knowing any background information on the film. I was very disappointed, but the last story definitely gave the film a bump up.