The world of shaky –cam found footage movies is a slippery slope at best. Despite its realistic portrayal, you still find yourself having to suspend your disbelief to some degree. “V/H/S” is a horror anthology that brings all the gritty goodness of camcorder shot video together with over-the-top schlocky ridiculousness.
That’s not to say that “V/H/S” is for everyone, but I for one have a soft spot for horror anthologies. Ever since its heyday in the 1980’s, horror anthologies have always been a slice of the good, the bad, and the preposterous in terms of low budget horror. The most memorable of which; Romero’s “Creepshow” series, “Tales from the Darkside”, and “Trilogy of Terror” were all staples of their respective era. Unfortunately, horror anthologies are very much a thing of the past, but I feel as if horror fans are itchin’ for a resurgence of sorts. Barring the phenomenal “Trick R Treat” anthology which was released back in 2009, there hasn’t been much to write home about in a couple decades.
Albeit not for everyone, “V/H/S” at the very least, has a refreshing concept. Amidst an over saturation of vanilla horror which tends to happen this time of year, it’s certainly a welcome change of pace. The film itself consists of five found-footage shorts strung together by an additional short which acts as the main story arch. For those of who are easily irritated with shaky-cam POV shooting and the glitches inherent with VHS quality footage (ie white lines, snowy picture, etc…), “V/H/S” is probably a lengthy endeavor not worth pursuing. Yet, fans of short stories with a fantastical twist shot in first-person-perspective will be pleasantly surprised.
Directed by a number of up-and-coming young horror directors, most notably Ti West of “The Innkeepers” and “House of the Devil” fame, “V/H/S” comes away with having a very schizophrenic personality. The shorts range from the comedic (“10/31/98”), to the cerebral (“Second Honeymoon”), to the downright bizarre (“The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger”). Clocking in at 2 hours in runtime, each short is given just enough time to develop a fairly loose plot and thusly an abrupt twist-ending. The visuals are dizzying at times given the heavy emphasis on first-person shooting, but it all goes with the territory. Despite the other-worldly elements riddled throughout the film, “V/H/S” stays grounded in its realistic portrayal. That is to say, the acting and the overall aesthetic was perfectly executed. Amidst the winged succubus, the alien ghost children, and the satanic cults, I was surprisingly invested in a majority of the shorts.
The only downside of “V/H/S” is its inconsistency from story to story, which is an inherent quality in most every horror anthology. You take the good with the bad and if the former outweighs the latter than it was a successful outing. I would deem “V/H/S” as a variably uneven film with more positives than negatives. It has the vibe of a midnight HBO movie. It’s perverse, schlocky, and uniquely independent but at the same rate uneven. Despite its flaws though, I found myself personally attached to the film. Perhaps my 10 year old self could relate to sneaking downstairs to watch scrambled late night movies on “Showtime”, or maybe I’m just a sucker for found footage films. Yet, in a month that breeds some of the best and worst movies in the genre, “V/H/S” stands as a uniquely engaging experience that any horror lover could relate to.
In the spirit of independent schlock of its kind, “V/H/S” is scheduled for an extremely limited release so make sure to catch it if you can. If not, I can only hope there’s a VHS release planned for the future.