The conventions of modern horror are probably even beginning to wear thin on the most dedicated watcher. While some of us will continue to desperately pine for a solid slasher, others will search the bins for some sort of haunting, and not-a-one of us will mourn for the death of Japanese ghost horror. However, most will find themselves lost amongst a myriad of endless shaky cam films shot on the end of a fishing pole that you would swear had a nasty case of Parkinson's. Welcome to the fold V/H/S, an anthology horror title that's the latest in shaky cam horror.
There is a group of misfit vandals somewhere in America that like nothing more than to cause mass havoc and destruction. And what better to do than film it all (and what better than for the police to use that evidence to convict them later)? After all, the thrill of mass, wanton destruction simply for the sake of it is enough for the group as an every day activity. But imagine getting paid for it. A mysterious third party asks the group to break into a desolate, seemingly abandoned home and retrieve a VHS tape. However, when the group arrives on the scene they get more than they bargained for and find the tape to hold a strange collection of footage that just might be real.
Anthology horror is one of those things that can be extremely hard to do, especially when dealing with more than one director. In the case of V/H/S, we are dealing with a total of nine directors across five short films. And not all of them are necessarily horror directors. In fact, Chad Villella, Justin Martinez, Tyler Gillett, and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (directors of the segment “10/31/98”) have more experience in interactive movies than in horror directing. Though that tidbit is interesting because they directed the best piece on the collection. While we do have some actual horror directors on the piece like Ti West (The Innkeepers) and Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die), the piece really is not bringing us the genre's best, as it tries to promise. Perhaps if Adam Green or Steven C. Miller were on here, that comment could be dismissed. Then again, it probably should not be taken too seriously since the credit of the comment goes to an 'Anonymous' off of imdb.com.
V/H/S takes us through a nearly two hour shaky cam nightmare. From start to finish, it does not stop until those credits roll, and even through the credits the shaky cam techniques continue. What is so annoying about this is that the technique has become so tripe and overdone that this film just feels like abuse. And yet it feels like so much more than that. It honestly feels more like a first person shooter video game at times with parts that have strangely focused and stable shots; almost as if someone were directed to make sure certain shots were clear and clean. Segments like the steady reaching for a knife while absolute insanity is exploding onscreen actually serve to take us out of the picture more than suck us in. There is even a segment that focuses itself around webcam chat which will probably make just about anyone vomit up memories of Paranormal Activity 4. Still, there is plenty of walking and running for everyone's eyes to behold so do not assume the film travels too far off course.
Perhaps the films might be better improved if they did not feature a carbon copy line up of interchangeable characters from every horror film you have ever seen. From oversexed fraternity boys, and straight up moronic characters, to anarchistic sociopaths, the level of personal identification to these characters is less than zero. It is not a horror film anymore when you want to see every character die. That is not horror. That is slaughter. John Carpenter one said, and I paraphrase, that Micheal Meyers (Halloween) should never be someone the audience relates to. When Carpenter said that, one can assume he did not mean the slaughter fodder as well. Let us face it, the audience needs to be able to relate to the hunted within the film, and the director(s) need to find ways to accomplish this. West's very good film The Innkeepers managed to accomplish this. Why not in here? Why are all the characters in V/H/S so vacuous, callous, and, essentially, worthless? Why is there not a single character in here that does not act like some archetypical convention? Some of the shorts are so full of stereotype that you will keep expecting the party cop from Cabin Fever to show up.
If there is anything, one single positive thing that can be said about V/H/S it is this: the last story's effects are kind of cool. Beyond that, as far as film flow goes, it is interchangeable characters and bad stuff happening. There is nothing to write home about here. Nothing in terms of imagination or creativity. The distortion effects are ridiculous to the point of inane. The weird pixalations and very digital distortions that sometimes occur seem more akin to a modern era. Especially considering much of the film goes out of its way to not use VHS. You will find yourself amongst hidden cameras and webcams which makes the whole vintage feel that the film is shooting for moot.
V/H/S is an abysmal film that goes on for way too long, largely ignores the format it advertises, and has gone through the cliché checklist in order to make every character death as painless as possible. Shot-on-shaky-cam and found footage movies are essentially trying to drink for a bone dry well, but this one accidentally took the rat poison. It is a film that collapses in on itself before the credits even roll with the overarching story of the misfit burglars wrapping up before the final short. Something that is just confusing to say the least. If you find this footage, just leave it lay to decay. Save yourself a headache.