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'V/H/S': Less like horror, more like schizophrenia

V/H/S movie


When "The Blair Witch Project" came out in 1999, it added a whole new dimension to film. Maybe you loved it, or maybe you hated it. But it was the first time that a horror movie said "based on a true story" and kept a straight face. The handheld camera is to film what a first-person, present-tense narrative is to literature: it's supposed to make the story feel immediate and personal and tangible, and sometimes, it actually works. Even today, there are still a few people who will insist that the whole thing was real. "V/H/S" will never suffer from that. No one in the history of ever will watch this and actually care about any of the characters, let alone wonder if they existed.

All the cheap elements of a horror movie, but without the horror...
Bloody Disgusting, 2012

The movie is a strange combination of the now ubiquitous shaky-cam and slow, bloody scenes of demon-chicks and people in scary old hoodies. Within the first ten minutes, you hate the jerk holding the camera for being the kind of guy who films public attacks on women, and you subsequently hate yourself because the film style is meant to make you feel like you are the one holding the camera. That same camera is also entirely superfluous here, even though it is the focus of the plot: a group of delinquents are hired to steal a VHS type (because people still have those, right?) and instead come across a whole bunch of random videos of people dying. The camera routinely cuts away from the immediate action to show short vignettes of murder, demons, and more murder. It doesn't make sense - is the guy with the camera also filming the videos that he's watching? If so, why aren't we watching a TV screen instead of the movie itself? Did he use a video editor (after he died) to splice it all together? Already, the annoying narrative style doesn't make sense and defies our ability to suspend disbelief. And then the movie keeps going.

Each short video is an independent story, the first of which is a twenty-something guy who wears a pair of glasses with a nanny-cam on it. He uses it to film girls at a club, and later, in his hotel room. Then it's the age-old tale of the drunk girl turning into a succubus and dragging men away to their doom. If you thought the movie was silly to begin with, this is the point where it turns into a comedy. The second video is about a young couple on vacation, and...I'm already bored. There is just no suspense. You don't even care about the people you're watching, so why waste ten minutes finding out what happens to them? It's not like they really matter to overall story arc, and they don't even die in particularly interesting ways. There's just some blood and maybe a scream or two.

Really, "V/H/S" is one of those movies that you just don't bother finishing, and a shaky camera is the least of its problems. It's boring when it should be frightening; its characters are numerous and forgettable; and the stories are too silly to even summarize. Maybe play it in the background while you do the dishes or as a way to get unwanted guests out of your house. Or just watch the three minute trailer, because