V/H/S is the latest incarnation of a group of fledgling young filmmakers resorting to the low-budget, shaky-cam gimmickry of the found footage horror genre. Debuting at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and gaining limited theatrical release thereafter, the film is a divisive and uneven affair. With absolutely zero promotion in Australia; my only knowledge of the film’s existence came solely from the notoriety it received through my various social media streams.
The film is a portmanteau of 6 short unrelated horror stories. Each chapter is chaotically shot and visually bastardised to represent a cheap, amateur, voyeuristic look not unlike The Blair Witch Project. The film is derogated even further by filters and editing tricks that complete it’s 90’s cassette-like aesthetic. The results render certain sections of the film to be near unwatchable or simply just irritating. Instead of inducing the terror they’d hope for, the filmmakers simply incite nausea.
Not helping matters further is the film’s adoption of brutal nastiness to mask their lack of originality. Almost every single character (played poorly by the filmmaker’s friend – one can assume) is an obnoxious, sexist, chauvinistic douche-bag. The vast majority of these characters exist to have sex or violently destroy their surroundings (including people). I know these stock characters and their actions are firmly established tropes of the genre – but it doesn’t excuse poor taste and one’s ability to challenge generic conventions.
This attempted horror ‘anthology’ does have one bright spot though, which deserves credit and fan’s viewership. With each episode focusing specifically on a different horror sub-genre (demons, paranormal activity, slasher etc), it’s the film’s final chapter 10/31/98 that stands alone as a very worthy entry. Written and directed by a talented group of filmmakers known as Radio Silence, the finale delivers one hell of a frightful atmospheric jolt to your system. While the previous episodes focus on unnecessary and excessive gore and cheap nudity to shock its audience, 10/31/98 delivers a haunted house experience that does hurl a healthy dosage of terrifying thrills through the execution of some outstanding ‘shoe-string’ visual effects wizardry.
Ignoring the great efforts of the very satisfying (and downright scary) finale, it’s hard to watch moronic tools behaving badly for two hours – no matter how bad and grotesque their comeuppance is.
I don’t quite see where the hype and enthusiasm stems from. Perhaps fans only tuned in for the final twenty minutes or so.
Perhaps that’s what you should do too.