January 22, 2013

V/H/S (2012)

Directed by Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and Radio Silence. Starring a lot of people. Rated R.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Magnet/Magnolia)
Running time: 01:56:04
Country: USA

A group of vandals who make a name for themselves by terrorizing people, breaking shit, and filming it, are hired by someone to break into a house and steal a specific VHS tape (sorry... "V/H/S" tape). They find some dead guy sitting on a recliner but ignore him and proceed to rummage through a bunch of video tapes that are scattered throughout the house. As the vandals preview each of the videos, a different segment for this overlong but ambitious found-footage horror anthology plays out. Interesting idea for a wrap-around story that doesn't quite work considering a lot of the footage is shot with digital cameras or, in one case, recorded from a computer.

The first segment, AMATEUR NIGHT, directed by David Bruckner (THE SIGNAL), sees a group of douchey college frat boys bar-hopping. One of them - the runt of the litter - is wearing a pair of glasses that has a hidden camera and microphone built into it with the intention of filming their wild night. They pick up a drunk girl and take her back to a motel room, and tagging along is a weird and seemingly sober chick with really big eyes who takes a liking to the one with the camera glasses. Long story short, the camera man's admirer turns out to be... well, not what she seems, and shit gets crazy. The pros of this segment are that it does some creative things with the found-footage motif, and the actress who plays the strange woman (Hannah Fierman) is legitimately scary at times. There are moments towards the end of this segment where my eyes were glued to the screen. Tense (and violent) stuff.

The next segment, SECOND HONEYMOON, directed by Ti West (HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, INNKEEPERS) and starring the director of a later segment, Joe Swanberg, sees a young, boring couple on a road trip through the American Southwest. If what we're seeing is true "found" footage (as in raw and unedited), then this couple films the weirdest and most random shit, but I guess people tend to do this while on road trips? Things take a turn when a mysterious young woman is spotted loitering outside of their motel room at night and a weird voyeur/stalker comes into the picture. Not a lot happens in this segment and it takes a long time to get to a pretty underwhelming pay-off. Some could probably say the same for some of Ti West's films, but I think his movies are great. This segment, though? Not so much.

"Hey, it's the guy from POULTRYGEIST!" was one of my first thoughts as the Glenn McQuaid-directed third segment started. The aptly-titled TUESDAY THE 17TH feels the most out-of-place in comparison to the other segments, but it's my favorite, personally. As the title suggests, it's a slasher and an homage of sorts to the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies without making any particular references to the iconic slasher series. A bunch of teens who are on a road trip end up in the woods and "break the rules". There are whispers of a legendary killer who roams the area. Some creative and cool stylistic choices are made when it comes to how the killer is presented, which I found to be nice touches that still somehow worked within the confines of the found footage motif. It's also the most stylishly constructed and edited of all the segments. Well done, Mr. McQuaid.

And now for the controversial fourth segment. The Skype segment. The Skype video call that somehow ended up on a VHS tape.


Anyway, THE SICK THING THAT HAPPENED TO EMILY WHEN SHE WAS YOUNGER is directed by Joe Swanberg and stars Daniel Kaufman and the adorable Helen Rogers, who plays the eponymous Emily. They play a couple in a long-distance relationship who keep in touch via Skype video calls. She claims she's been hearing footsteps at night. What ensues is basically a haunted house investigation that's recorded on Skype, with a bizarre (and disturbing) throughline that involves an infected wound on Emily's body. A majority of this segment is pretty good, until it turns into something bonkers and a little too over-the-top for my taste by the time it's over. How (and why) it ended up on a VHS tape, though, will forever be one of the main flaws of the entire film. By the time this segment ends, V/H/S has sort of overstayed its welcome, but this is mostly due to the length of the Ti West-directed second segment. Needless to say, I groaned when a fifth segment started. Fatigue set in, and I quickly lost interest in V/H/S, which I had fairly high hopes for despite the bad word-of-mouth it's been receiving since its release.

Oh yeah... the fifth segment. I think the most interesting thing about this one is that's directed by a group of people who call themselves Radio Silence. A group of friends go to a Halloween party, but the house they end up at is empty. Turns out the house is legit haunted, but they all think it's a joke and simply brush off the ghostly activity. Everything takes a turn once the friends make it up the attic and see something that they're not supposed to witness. Not much needs to be said about this one, and, quite frankly, it's a terrible segment to end the movie on. What follows is a very celebratory, upbeat, music video-style closing credits sequence, as if the people who made this movie were like "Oh yeah, we just made something cool and everyone's gonna love it!" Yeah, not quite.

V/H/S is quantity over quality. I'll say this though... this review may sound negative, and it is to a degree, but I appreciate this movie for being different and refreshing, and for having a little bit of everything (slasher, supernatural horror, ghosts, aliens). I'm also a little biased because I love both found-footage films and horror anthologies. Bloody Disgusting's head honcho, Brad "Mr. Disgusting" Miska, was apparently the brainchild behind the project; he had a great idea, but a little more thought should've been put into it beforehand rather than it seemingly being a case of assembling a bunch of young indie/horror directors and having them contribute whatever they want. The pacing is horrible and there are a lot of things about V/H/S that just don't make any sense (the wraparound story and the lack of effort to live up to the "VHS" theme), but I like most of the actors involved in the project, I like how most of the individual segments were shot (especially AMATEUR NIGHT and TUESDAY THE 17TH), and it delivers the violence and scares when it needs to. Despite my score, I do not recommend this movie. I like most of the individual segments, but V/H/S is sort of a step backwards for found-footage as a whole.

Score: 6.5


  1. From what I have been told, people either love this movie or hate it. I haven't seen it yet and I'm still deciding if I should. It won't stop staring at me in my Netflix. Great review. :)

    1. Thanks, Jenny! I'm still really torn... the more I think about it, the more I dislike it. But I enjoyed most of it when I watched. I think. I dunno. Very curious to hear what you think about it if you see it.

  2. I love The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger. Weird twist and all. It hits me like few other things in horror do. I want to love Tuesday the 17th but it just doesn't work for me. The premise seems tailor-made for this particular movie, fitting the VHS motif better than most of the other stories but the execution is a little too Syfy Channel for me. It definitely runs way to long as a whole. Glad you liked i more so than not.

    1. EMILY just really lost me with the twist, but everything leading up to it was pretty intriguing. The segment as a whole was creative. TUESDAY felt just as out of place as EMILY in some ways, but I loved A) that it was short, and B) the glitchy killer. To each their own... I've listened to a couple of reviews of this and read some feedback online, and everyone seems to have very different opinions on this movie. Thanks for stopping by, Cody!

  3. I hated it with a passion, lol. Easily the biggest waste of $11 in recent memory for me. I did like the last story, though.