Saturday, 1 September 2012

REVIEW - V/H/S ★ ★ ★ ★

Review by Damon Rickard
Stars Calvin Reeder, Kane Hughes, Adam Wingard, Hannah Fierman & Mike Dolan
Written by Simon Barrett, Radio Silence, David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Nicholas Tecosky,  Ti West
Certification UK 15
Runtime 115 minutes
Directed by Adam Wingard, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, David Bruckner, Joe Swanberg & Ti West

Thought you'd seen everything found footage films had to offer the horror genre?  Think again, as V/H/S takes it along a fresh path, melding it with the other tough sell of an anthology movie and spits out a superbly crafted and scary ride through six stories.

A sleazy group of guys, that make money from selling videos of themselves stripping unsuspecting women, are hired by an unknown third party.  All they have to do is to burgle a house and steal a very rare and particular VHS tape.  Seeing it as easy money they jump at the chance but inside they discover a dead body and a host of tapes, but don't know which one the one they need is.  So they begin to look through them to see what they have.  They find a deadly one night stand, an eventful Grand Canyon road trip, a slasher in the woods, a spooky Skype call and a Halloween party that goes very wrong.

The first trick that this film pulls of is to get rid of the usual trappings of "found footage".  By this I mean 30 minutes of people shouting "stop filming" and the inevitable question of "why are you still filming?".  Also, by doing short segments it avoids half the film having to be the camera looking around at nothingness (such as people's feet and bushes) as generally found footage stories don't contain enough to make a full feature. It did however use the one thing that still drives me mad, the crackling of the tape as though there is a fault with it.  It is used as a cutting mechanism, I get that, it's just very annoying and thankfully wasn't used excessively here.

So found footage pitfalls and failure out of the way, what about the actual film itself.  Well the weakest part of it, as it generally seems to be with anthology movies, is the wraparound.  Nothing really happens in it and the characters are all so unlikeable that you wish you'd seen them all meet a horrible end.  However this does not detract from what is, overall, a supreme collection of innovative shorts films.  I'm not going to go into detail on each one as I don't want to spoil what they're about as half the fun of this film is seeing where each one goes.

What we have to ensure you don't spend most of your viewing time sucked out of the film, as your suspension of disbelief is gone due the fact you're wondering why these people are doing what they're doing, is a variety of different recording methods.

We have a spy cam for three guys on the prowl for one night stands and they want to record their trophies, a helmet style cam in a Halloween costume, the ingenious use of Skype, the documenting of a road trip and a camera that picks up more than the human eye.  All of these techniques ensure you remain firmly engaged with the film and all work perfectly.

The film overall is chilling, scary and violent and exceeded my expectations all the way.  The performances are very "real".  You feel like you're watching someone's home movie which only adds to the atmosphere. So often in found footage films, the performances seem very forced in trying to create that natural feel and therefore only serve as a detractor.  The direction is all centered around build up but not to ineffective ends as all the shorts had a suitably satisfying conclusion.

The other area in which this raises itself above some anthology films is the length.  None of the segments are too long and in keeping the whole film under two hours you don't find yourself hoping the next one is the last one.  In fact each one leaves you wanting more.

This film just kept on delivering and I highly recommend you go see it.


  1. I did like this, even though I hate found footage films, can't stand shakey cam.... f***'s my head right up.

    But I did like the majority of segments, the one I thought was the weakest was the "human" story of the couple sightseeing. I'm sure I've seen something very similar before, anyway the rest were superb. The final story being my favourite.

    Just a pity I can't watch it again!

    Nice review (Shawky1969)

  2. For me I think V/H/S and Sinister were the best films at Fright Fest this year!