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.

28 Comments

  • I guess the benefit of the ABCs of Death structure is that the stories have to at least be concise.

  • I only stuck with it to see the guys who sexually assaulted that girl in the parking lot get their comeuppance. That wrap-around story was awful, I think it must have been produced like Paris Je'taime, only these guys were given half an hour to make their film.
    I quite enjoyed the last story.

  • The last story, of which I remember surprisingly little despite watching it only yesterday, was certainly better than most. I'm surprised they organised the film the way they did considering how terrible the first few stories were.

  • God...the camera work. How did I forget to write that in my short review? That was AWWWFUUULLLL. I will say, even though I didn't like the movie as a whole, the first two entries stood with me. "The Second Honeymoon", when "that moment" happens, the sound that is made makes me squeamish. It comes off as genuine pain. Well, at least I think so.

  • Finally someone else out there thought this was awful! My attraction was because I loved House of the Devil and liked The Innkeepers. However, Ti West could not save (nor add much to) this project in my opinion. Poorly shot is right! I'll add poorly hatched, poorly acted, and poorly directed all around the table. 1/5 from me and I like your review here, Adam.

  • @MrTaylor: Thanks. Having not enjoyed anything Ti West has directed I wasn't surprised he would deliver one of the weakest shorts. I'm always baffled by his popularity.

  • I don't think you can count the shaky cam against it since the whole premise of the movie is found footage hand cam. I agree that I wish that technique would die! I didn't love any of the shorts either but I thought there were about 3 stories that I found original and wish they would be made correctly, into full length films. I only gave it a 4(5) or 7.5(10) by judging it against other shorts movies. Will not watch the movie again but will think about how I would write a full length movie for the alien skype.

  • @Gary: The reason I single out the shaky cam is because I found it far more intrusive than most found footage movies.

  • i normaly have a rule with anthologies if i like at least one story the it was worth it, and even if i didnt like any of the shorts in v/h/s i did like things about them. it did have the potential of being better, i hope that the sequel is better and not the same or worse

  • Fantastic review. I really detest found footage movies because they give me severe motion sickness. Blair Witch Project was the only movie I stopped watching halfway through because it was making me so ill; I managed to sit through Poughkeepsie Tapes though. Thanks for the warning on this one.

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