V/H/S (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
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V/H/S (2012)

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I have seen a number of great horror films this year and V/H/S arrives seemingly set in that mold.  It's a horror anthology film from many different directors with each finding a different way to use found footage to tell their stories.  The analytic part of me wants to sit down and calmly lay out how each segment is presented as an imbalanced equation on the distribution of power through gender in horror films.  Then there's the other part of me that just flat out hated most of what I saw and found it repetitive.

Each film becomes interchangeable from the last.  The baseline description for each of the shorts is "Found footage but with x" where x is replaced with exorcism, demons, serial killers, and one other twisty plot device I found too stupid to repeat and would hate for anyone to have to discover.  There's just varied enough camerawork to make you think that one film is different from the next but, no, all you are doing for nearly two hours is watching horrible people murdered brutally in service of the same idea in slightly different frameworks.

Despite how much I disliked most of the film, each director show at least one visual or idea that I enjoyed even in the worst of the shorts.

Normally anthology films are a bit difficult to review since each director is providing a different experience but that issue really isn't a problem with V/H/S.  The overall narrative is that a collection of scumbags who like to rob stores, molest women, and tape their crimes in the meantime, are tasked to go find just one VHS tape and return.  Well, they find several, and decide one by one to watch the tape in the player while sitting alone in a room with a dead man.

I understand people wanting to ignore logistics at times in service of what a film is doing, but as each one of the horrible men disappears after finishing the tape I couldn't help but wonder why they didn't just leave.  The key words to that thought are "couldn't help", as in once the basic theme was established, emphasized in the first film, subsequently reinforced in every segment thereafter, and each done in a style little changed from the last then plot logistics were the last thing to challenge my mind.  Many other questions came as the film continued on but rather than present a list of those, let's go back to my disappointment at the otherwise lofty goal of gender examination in these horror shorts.

Of the six films, the overarching narrative counting as one, only two were effective.  Of those two I enjoyed the segment by Ti West the best.  He directed the very smart The House of the Devil and utilized the found-footage motif in a way that was beyond "found footage but with x."  He shows a married couple on the way to their second honeymoon and leaves in just enough lingering shots of the wife pulling away, or the husband getting frustrated, to see that something is going on with those two.  When it ended the landscape had turned as much as the marriage had and the final shot made a point of how the camera is as much a tool of power in  relationships as it is in fiction.

The attempt at self-aware camp that led to this regrettable bit of acting is the most awkwardly delivered moment of 2012.

The final, and most enjoyable segment, comes from the quartet known as Radio Silence.  They wrote, directed, and starred in a story of what are possibly the only decent, non-manipulated, people in the film who go out in search of a Halloween party and end up in the wrong place.  What happens from that point on genuinely surprised me and had a number of fun special effects shots (I think specifically a series of prints and some arms that seem on loan from Day of the Dead) integrated into the exciting conclusion.  I was a bit disappointed at the very end because no good deed goes unpunished, but the ride was fun.

All the other segments were brutally heavy handed and dull.  The biggest problem with the sequencing order of these segments is that they start off with the worst offender.  Directed by David Bruckner, it just shows a group of horrible male predators taken out by a female who seems to embody that term a bit more literally.  I hated just about everything about this segment, from the drunk-vision photography to the Helena Bonham Carter on crack (also, a near-literal description) that begs more of those plot questions from earlier.  The other three segments, directed by Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, along with the overarching narrative from Adam Wingard, are just boring and horribly acted.  At least in the case of McQuaid's segment the campiness of the acting is part of the point, a merely interesting idea does not make a good short.

I did not enjoy V/H/S even if I can respect the ideas put into it regarding violence, horror, and sex.  But when the results are as repetitious, boring, and downright nasty as this when other films released this year have tread the ground in much better ways I can't recommend it.  Best if you just try and find the shorts by Ti West and Radio Silence, the rest can be forgotten.

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V/H/S (2012)

An anthology of horror films directed by Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and Radio Silence.

Posted by Andrew

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