V/H/S 2012 ★½

V/H/S blends one of the newer fads in horror - the shaky found footage movie - with one of the oldest - the portmanteau anthology. It is an interesting blend, on paper at least, allowing the hottest new indie directors to flex their creative muscles in shorter form films whilst tackling a range of horror sub-genres. Unfortunately the results are far less interesting than the film’s potential. Rather than utilising the strengths of the portmanteau structure - allowing for wildly different stories with great hooks and twists - it merely accentuates the problem with the current trend of found footage stories.

Although the film works its way through most sub-genres of horror (vampires, stalkers etc.) all the self-contained stories are frustratingly alike. Rather than being short sharp shots of condensed horror what we get with V/H/S is a group of five overly long and tedious movies that fail to establish interesting characters or a creepy mood. There is little point discussing each story in turn, despite some naturally being better than others, as they follow the same template: obnoxious dicks with a video camera spend ages doing nothing of interest before the film finally descends into a poorly shot bloodbath. Every story is at least ten minutes too long whilst the indulgent pacing never once builds intrigue. Instead all the vaguely creepy stuff occurs in the final closing minutes of each story yet it never delivers the shocks it strives for.

The film’s shaky camera work is amongst the worst I’ve seen. I don’t normally have a problem watching found footage films (beyond the general boredom they induce) but here the film was giving me a headache from the opening minutes and it didn’t seem to stop. If I was forced to choose a standout story I would have to pick Joe Swanberg’s clumsily titled, The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger, which at least told a complete story and delivered a vaguely effective and creepy atmosphere for much of its lengthy run time (until it blew it with a rather silly climax).

I’m glad to see that the portmanteau horror has been resurrected but V/H/S is a failed experiment that never once delivers on its promise to scare the audience.

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