I’m gonna be completely honest here. I watched the horror anthology V/H/S back on October 19, 2012 and I wanted to write a review on it. I really did. The problem was that I completely forgot about it. Seriously; the second I turned off V/H/S I forgot all about it. Now we all heard the stories about film festival viewers who ran out of the theater due to the violent, gory content. For those of us who saw it, we know these reports are grossly exaggerated and, to be quite honest, bullshit. There were tons of early reviews praising V/H/S as the best, most intense horror film of the year. Really? What the hell version did I get? The film I watched was boring, full of some of the douchiest, asshole characters ever put on film, and most of the stories were dull and didn’t go anywhere. Let’s look closer at this one.
As mentioned above, V/H/S is a horror anthology with a lot of familiar names. Glenn McQuaid (I SELL THE DEAD), Joe Swanberg, Ti West (HOUSE OF THE DEAD), Adam Wingard (YOU’RE NEXT), and the most disappointing to me (because I love this guy), David Bruckner (THE SIGNAL). In all there are ten directors and eleven writers who worked on this film. You’d think that there’d be at least one segment/story in this anthology that would blow you away. Nope. The framing story is about a group of complete assholes hired by a mysterious third party to break into a house and steal a VHS cassette tape. When the group of fucktards get to the house they find thousands of VHS tapes scattered all around. They start watching the videos and the stories in this anthology are what they were watching on those tapes.
Here’s the first problem. The guys in the wrap-around story are some of the most unlikeable people ever put on film. They walk around sexually harassing women, picking fights with other guys, and in general act like the kind of assholes you’d like to see as victims of a school shooting (too soon?). The individual stories themselves are so short that there’s no character development, so what we end up with is no one to identify with and side with in this film. Every character was a bigger asshole than the next and I couldn’t care less about how violent or drawn out their deaths were.
The stories themselves, as mentioned above, are short and there’s barely any time for character, and in some cases, plot development. Take for example the first story, “Amateur Night.” This is the story of a bunch of guys who are just as big of assholes as the guys in the wrap-around story. They go to a bar to pick up a few girls and just generally act like retards. One chick, Lily (Hannah Fierman) is so odd right off the bat that you can actually see the crazy jumping off of her. But hey; I’ve been there where I focused on a girl knowing that she was bat-shit crazy just because she also looked easy. I’ll let that one slide. They all end up in a shitty hotel room. The one dude’s chick passes out but Lily seems ready to go with another dude. There’s insinuations of date rape with the passed out one and while Lily is making out with her choice, another guy just gets naked and plans on joining in. That’s when Lily loses it, shows her true self, and starts killing. Sure its an interesting story (this one was directed by Bruckner), but it’s full of annoying characters you don’t sympathize with (at all) and there’s way too much time on the build up. As soon as Lily “changes” and starts killing, the story ends. A real disappointing misfire from Bruckner!!
This is something we see happen time and time again in these stories. This is a POV/found footage flick, and just as the killing and gore starts, all the various cameras either malfunction or get destroyed. Lame.
In all there’s five stories, six if you include the wrap-around. Most of the stories are completely forgettable and if I didn’t take notes while watching them I’d never in a million years remember a single detail. The Ti West story, “Second Honeymoon,” is everything you’ve come to expect from West. It’s slow, very shallow characters, and there’s no payoff at the end. Glenn McQuaid’s “Tuesday the 17th” has an interesting concept but it’s so poorly executed that you’re left scratching your head wondering how the hell it ever got produced. And just in case you’re wondering, “Do we get a ghost story,” fear not. I really mean that … Fear not. We get one and it’s about as scary as watching your grandmother knit.
The only story that really grabbed my attention was the fourth story, “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger.” This entry was directed by Joe Swanberg and was written by Simon Barrett (who wrote the extremely fun 2004 flick, FRANKENFISH). All the stories are shot in that POV/found footage style, but this one uses the gimmick of the video chat, and it works. Emily (Helen Rogers) and James (Daniel Kaufman) are in a long distance relationship and use a Skype-like video chat service to stay in touch. Emily tells James that her apartment is haunted so we get to see a lot of funky things through the video chat. We get a nice build up and a rather surprising twist during the climax. The only problem was the complete lack of storytelling here. It’s one thing to have an “open ending” that’s not fully explained so the viewer can fill in the details themselves, but this won’t work if the twist comes completely out of left field and really makes no sense. I was with this one and actually enjoyed the twist. But by leaving the viewer in the dark it hurt what was an otherwise solid story.
The overall gore was pretty lame as well. A few cut throats, a few murders done off screen (maybe that’s why people ran out of the theaters … they were pissed off), and some random gore happenings didn’t add up to a whole lot. And no matter if you’re a seasoned, desensitized freak like myself or if this is the first horror film you’ve ever seen, you won’t be traumatized. Trust me. “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” definitely had the best gore that was executed really well. The gore in the other stories are like the other stories … completely forgettable.
I don’t know what happened here with V/H/S. The individual stories are all very disappointing, and add to this a very unsatisfying wrap-around story and you got yourself a one-way ticket to disappointment-ville. I forgot for three months that I even saw V/H/S until I was looking through my old notes. Do not believe the hype on this one. V/H/S is a nothing horror anthology that won’t satisfy either the gore hound or someone who enjoys a good story. The VHS cassette is a dead medium and I wish it would take V/H/S with it.
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Chad Villella, Ti West, Adam Wingard
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars for the sengment “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” & 0 out of 5 stars for the other stories
Gore: 4 out of 10 brains for “The Sick Thing…” & 2 out of 10 brains for the other segments
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer