Sunday, September 2, 2012

Movie Review: "V/H/S" by Ben Foutch

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, JoeSwanberg, Chad Villella, Ti West and Adam Wingard 
Staring: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes and Adam Wingard
Rated: R
Run Time: 116 min

To be honest, this might sound a little biased, but I've always loved anthology films. The individual stories have a way of packing a serious punch in a short amount of time, without having to sit through a full film that is less than satisfactory. And if one of the installments isn't the greatest, you can move on to the next one. So when news first broke on V/H/S and its "found footage" concept, I was more than intrigued.  

The main story is simple: some voyeuristic hooligans are tasked with finding a certain VHS tape in a specified house. They don't know exactly what to look for, but are told they will know it when they see it. While searching for this elusive tape, they watch some seriously messed up home movies.  

There is a grimy aesthetic that you might find in something like 8mm, but what keeps it from being a complete downerfest is a sense of humor and youthful inspiration. Multiple, young talents lent their skills and energy to this project, seemingly with freedom of expression. And it shows, as each story is an inventive take on a standard horror trope (monster, travel horror, haunted house, kids in the woods, etc...). Most of which include blood-soaked, shocking moments and nudity to keep the horror hounds at bay.

However, this collection of fright fodder isn't without problems. For starters, the main story that binds the footage together could have used some more elbow grease. It is an intriguing concept that set the tone and atmosphere, but was severely underdeveloped and unfortunately turned out to be the biggest let down. Also, a couple segments had some pacing problems that increased the drag factor.

V/H/S is a much needed logical step for "found footage" films and horror in general. It is low budget, delivers what it set out to do and is effective in its presentation, which kind of works as a commentary on society's desire for voyeuristic fulfillment and violent escapism. I can forgive the rough audio, patchy production and some of the more lackluster moments, because while this is a horror film, it is most definitely an art piece that took a simple idea to the next level. And in this particular case, these tapes were never meant to be seen in the first place; what they contain is brutal and unforgiving.  Watch at your own risk.