Taking ten directors and getting them to make what is essentially one story sounds like a recipe for a spectacularly bad movie. However horror movies don’t seem to have this issue and this is seen, to a great extent, in this ‘lost footage’ horror collection known as V/H/S.
The overall setup is that a group of guys get paid to break into an ‘old guy’s’ house and steal a VHS tape. Sounds straight forward but, given this is a horror movie, obviously things don’t go to plan. They find a ton of tapes and end up watching them and this is where the rest of the shorts come in.
Adam Wingard is the director while the guys are in the house and he gives this part of the film the feeling of an 80’s pop video with the ‘gang’ spraying graffiti and smashing an empty place up. For me this section takes too long. We don’t really need to know who these guys are, we don’t need to know much about them but the writer and director want us to so we must.
Onto the actual videos themselves and we have essentially five short films with no link to each other. The first video, Amateur Night, and the final video, 10/31/98 stand out as the best however the segments Second Honeymoon and The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger are also good, the weak links being Tuesday the 17th and the Tape 56/film narrative.
Amateur Night, directed by David Bruckner, sees a group of guys on a night out (a common theme throughout) who pick up a couple of girls in a bar, one of them obviously a little strange. The night is seen through the eyes of one of the guys thanks to some camera glasses he has on, which does help with the ‘why don’t they just put the camera down and run’ feeling you often get in these types of movies. It’s well written by Bruckner & Nicholas Tecosky and doesn’t always take the obvious horror way out, often surprising though it’s not without its cliches.
10/31/98 (or 31/10/98 if you’re from the UK) is directed by a collective calling themselves Radio Silence, two of them starring in the segment as well as directing. We’re back with a group of guys on a night out (different guys), dressed for halloween & en-route to a party. Arriving at the house they see it’s empty but once they’re in and some spooky things start happening they think they’re in an attraction rather than an actual haunted house. The segment has a feel of Poltergeist but is very well put together and has a nice ending though it is a tad predictable.
This is a great way for up-and-coming actors and directors to show their abilities. However the majority of the shorts still fall into the classic horror cliches of people falling over while escaping, not putting the camera down, not just heading for the door (but hiding in the bathroom) and staying in the house you’ve just broken into instead of taking the items elsewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the shorts ended up getting made into feature length movies or we ended up with a sequel, D/V/D anyone?
18th January 2013