Saturday, September 8, 2012
Ever since 1999 with the box office indie horror hit The Blair Witch Project, Hollywood studios and independent filmmakers alike have used the "found footage" gimmick. With having a shoe string budget, this could give indie horror filmmakers a way to get their foot in the door. These days, it seems exorcism and haunting movies are the most popular genres to do with the gimmick. In October 2009, Paramount Pictures released the majorly overhyped Paranormal Activity, which has spawned three prequels and several knockoffs. Most folks, myself included, are getting sick of the gimmick as we feel it is used way too much as well as the fact that nothing major really ever happens besides a bunch of people running around screaming at nothing. There are exceptions as I felt the gimmick was used well in The Blair Witch Project, Megan Is Missing, Rec/Quarantine, and even the awesome teen comedy Project X. Meanwhile, another subgenre of horror that was very popular in the '80s and '90s is the anthology, which is a collection of short stories for those who don't know. Television shows such as Masters of Horror, the short lived Fear Itself, Twilight Zone, Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, or Tales From The Crypt were great displays of horror anthologies. Anthologies were pretty popular in the movies during the '80s and '90s with Creep Show, Creep Show II, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Tales From The Hood, and Campfire Tales. Anthology horror movies have been making a pretty big come back in the independent scene beginning with 2009's cult classic Halloween film, Trick 'r Treat, and has continued on with last year's tribute to Drive-In B-Movies, Chillerama, and now with a horror anthology using the popular found footage gimmick with V/H/S. When I saw the trailer to V/H/S, I have to admit, I was very impressed. A movie that used two very popular techniques in horror sounded like an interesting watch. Of the found footage horror genre, I have to say that this is probably the most creative one.
A group of vandals are going around video taping themselves spray painting buildings, breaking windows, and attacking girls by pulling up their shirts to expose their boobs for the camera. The guys get a strange call to retrieve a VHS tape from an old house to get some quick cash. When they arrive, they find some dude dead sitting in front of a few television screens with a bunch of tapes surrounding it. As the rest of the group searches the house, one of the guys starts playing the tapes. Five tapes are played displaying 5 tales of horror.
I guess the best way to review this movie is to talk about each story separately. Since I don't know the specific titles that the filmmakers gave each story, I'll just make one up regarding the context of the story.
A group of college guys aim to shoot an amateur porno in a motel. One of the guys bought a special pair of glasses that has a built in camera. The friends go to a local night club downtown to find the "lucky" girls to be the stars of their little show. They have some drinks and bring two girls back to their room for a good time. One of the girls though comes off kinda weird. She is really quiet and keeps telling the guy with the special porno vision glasses that she likes him. The other girl passes out drunk while one of the guys is trying to have sex with the weird girl. All the sudden, the girl's teeth turn sharp and she begins fucking and eating one of the guys. The guy with the glasses runs out of the motel room while Lily follows him.
I really loved this first story. Horny guys pick up the wrong girl at a bar/club and take her back to their room to find out she is a monster. It had a classic horror story vibe to it. Kinda like a major twist on the urban legend except instead of the girl being a killer who drugs the guy and he wakes up in a bathtub full of ice with his kidney missing, it's a succubus story. I also really dug the way this one was shot in areas, especially when the lead guy is trying to get away from the girl and we get a horrific close up of her as she is trying to give him a blowjob from Hell. Awesome story.
THE HONEYMOON'S A KILLER
A young married couple are I think on their honeymoon at the Grand Canyon it looks like where the woman is filming their trip. After riding around and seeing the sites, they come back to their small motel room. In the middle of the night, a girl knocks on their door and asks if they could give her a ride the next day. That night while they are sleeping, someone has entered their room and is using the woman's camcorder where we see her/him steal the man's money and can see that the unknown burglar has a knife as he/she slowly brushes it lightly across the woman's side and panties. The next night, the masked stalker comes back and decides to cut somebody.
This story, which I believe was written and directed by one of my favorite modern horror filmmakers, Ti West, was a pretty good story with a great twist ending. While I do believe an explanation could have helped, but I like that this film really leaves it up to audience interpretation which we don't get a lot of nowadays. I really dug the stalker's mask too, which was pretty creepy.
THE RIVER MASSACRE
A group of college friends head out to the river for a good time of smoking pot and skinny dipping. Soon, the friends start getting killed one by one in gory ways by a supernatural killer. Turns out the girl who brought them there knows more than she is willing to tell.
Being someone who loves backwoods horror movies like Friday The 13th or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I really dug this story. The kills were pretty gory and there were a few jolt scares. I liked the homage to Friday The 13th and how the killer could appear and disappear, which is obviously a joke on slashers where the killer is always able to be in several places at once. The girl's connection to the killer confused me though. More explanation could have been used, but this short was fun as a supernatural slasher story.
A young couple are having a long distance relationship through webcam due to the girl's boyfriend working out of town. Meanwhile, the girl is convinced that her new apartment is haunted. What she doesn't know is not everything is as it seems.
Eh, this would be my least favorite of the stories told. It's not that a ghost is haunting this girl's apartment and thank God we actually get to SEE the damn ghost unlike some found footage flicks (Paranormal Activity)! But, the girl is very bizarre. She has some enormous hole in her arm that she likes to pick at and put a knife in to move it under her skin, which was really gross. But, the so called twist just left me going "Huh?". There's no explanation and while I just rolled with it in the other stories, there should have been an explanation for this one. Leaving to interpretation is one thing if there's a lot of ways to interpret something, but this one was confusing. I liked the use of Skype though in this short and the girl had some nice boobs.
Some college guys are heading to a Halloween party. They decide to stop at this old house on the way. The place looks empty so they goof around, scaring each other. Soon, weird noises are coming from up in the attic. The guys go to check it out to find some men who have a woman tied up and are chanting as she is screaming. The guys try to save the woman and all the sudden weird shit starts happening. People start getting sucked up through the ceiling, hands start coming up out of the walls and out of the basement floor, things begin moving by themselves, demonic footprints magically appear going up the walls, and the doors lock up. The friends soon realize that they should have just gone to the party.
My personal favorite story of the film. I was really impressed by the use of special fx. It looked like this place was really haunted. Loved the hands coming out of the walls and ground. Had a classic horror movie vibe. And that ending was pretty good too. Definitely the most fun story of this movie.
And of course you have the main story with the vandals in the old house, which is it's own story. I like to call that one DEATH, ZOMBIES, AND VIDEO TAPE. My only real issues with the film is that the camera does shake way too often where it can get disorienting some times. And of course I do think that some of the stories, particularly Long Distance could have used more of an explanation. V/H/S was written and directed by many underground indie horror filmmakers. The only one I really follow of the bunch is Ti West who is best known for his tributes to old school '70s/'80s horror movies with The House of the Devil, The Roost, and this year's supernatural horror film The Innkeepers. V/H/S also stars relatively unknown actors as do most found footage films. I do love how it feels like we are actually watching old VHS tapes rather than films shot on an HD camera. The film has a great throwback to the 1980s and 1990s VHS era of horror cinema.
Overall, V/H/S is a fun, bizarre, sleazy, and creepy little found footage anthology of horror. These are the kinda stories I could see people telling around the campfire and they definitely have almost a Tales From The Crypt/Creep Show vibe. Total recommendation. You can rent it through Amazon, VOD, or iTunes now.