“When a group of misfits are hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for.” — IMDb
V/H/S, created by Brad Miska and the horror website Bloody Disgusting, features a series of five horror shorts tied together by a sixth wraparound short that ties them all together. It features different directors for each segment, (five individual directors and one directing team) which makes for an interesting bit of diversity throughout the film.
** SPOILERS! **
It’s no secret that I love the found footage niche of the horror genre. I’m also a big fan of anthologies, at least in theory (Creepshow delivered while The ABCs of Death, well, didn’t), so I thought this would be a home run. It was a great idea, and I think it was decently done, but the shorts varied a bit too much in quality (I only liked two of the six), while the wraparound itself was mediocre.
Tape 56 — the short that it continually returns to — was directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next, Blair Witch). It’s a decently interesting story to tie the shorts together but just didn’t do much for me.
Amateur Night, directed by David Bruckner (The Signal), was a bit too obnoxious for me to enjoy. I know the story centers around three seeming frat boys out for a night of partying (and amateur porn making), but the drunken WOOing and cackling gets old really quick. It makes it pretty satisfying when Lily — the mysterious, wide-eyed woman they bring back to the hotel — literally rips off the incessant laugher’s genitals. While they did a decent job making her a bit terrifying — I actually liked when she shows her face sort of split in the middle — the only real highlight for me was when she carried Clint off into the night with her talons dug into him, which was oddly convincing.
Second Honeymoon, directed by Ti West (The Innkeepers, The Sacrament), was maybe my favorite of the bunch. They were the most natural actors and the premise, while not wild or supernatural, was pretty great. Also, after watching Sam try to convince Stephanie — repeatedly and uncomfortably — to take her clothes off while on camera, I was pretty happy when he was killed off. The gurgling and struggling to breathe was surprisingly convincing, and it was a nice twist to have Stephanie run off with a woman.
Tuesday the 17th, directed by Glenn McQuaid, was one of the weakest, in my opinion. It went with the overplayed storyline of 20-somethings deep in the woods and, while the killer being unable to be captured on video was mildly interesting, the weak acting ruined it for me.
The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger, directed by Joe Swanberg (who actually starred in Second Honeymoon), had a decently interesting premise, but was somewhat painful to watch. It was neat to go into it thinking that it was your typical haunted house situation but then find out it went deeper into aliens-using-her-as-an-incubator territory. But still… it relied too much on cheap jump scares than anything else.
10/31/98, directed by Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, and Chad Villella, who also all — aside from Justin — acted in the film), was my second favorite. I thought it could have been overplayed to have the story take place on Halloween but it felt fun, especially since so many creepy moments got laughed off due to their belief that they were in an elaborate, but fake, haunted house. When they realize what is going on — or at least that it isn’t staged after all — the special effects come on a bit too heavy-handed (though, no pun intended, I thought the hands coming out of the walls was particularly creepy). It uses some of the classic White Lady folklore with the girl leading them by car to the train tracks and then abandoning them right before their death. Maybe not the most brilliant short film to ever exist but I liked it.
A bit disjointed overall and, again, the quality seems to jump around quite a bit. I wish the stories relied more on writing and acting than jump scares and camera glitches, but it’s worth a watch.
Rating: 5/10 | Director: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, and Chad Villella) | Writer: Brad Miska, Simon Barrett, David Bruckner, Nicholas Tecosky, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence | Cinematography: Eric Branco, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Andrew Droz Palermo, Victoria K. Warren, Michael J. Wilson, Adam Wingard | Starring: too many to list