The found-footage sub-genre has become a popular choice among filmmakers since its birth and success in The Blair Witch Project. For over a decade, it has been telling us ambiguous stories in a way only a shaky hand cam could deliver. We’ve been scared, we’ve been surprised, and we’ve been nauseated. V/H/S gives us the best and the worst that this sub-genre has to offer, but is it worth the trouble?
The film begins with a group of 4 criminals going around the city terrorizing and destroying, all while recording their exploits on an old school cassette camcorder. The group is hired by a mysterious man with an odd request: Retrieve a VHS cassette from a stranger’s house. The mysterious man says that they’ll know which cassette it is when they see it.
After breaking in the house, they stumble upon a room with a dead guy in a recliner facing a wall of televisions with a VCR and a floor of scattered VHS cassettes. But which cassette is it? I guess we have to watch as many as we can. This then leads into an anthology of horror shorts each more different than the next.
The first horror short is a lesson about being careful who you bring home with you. In this rare case, maybe you shouldn’t be looking for a girl who is an angel on the streets, but a demon in bed. The second short gives us the ole cautionary tale that young people having sex in a forest where unsolved murders took place is just never a good idea.
The third short shows us how a relaxing road trip can turn in a permanent vacation from life. The fourth gives us a deeper feel on why long-distance relationships never work. The final short is by far my favorite, if only for the cinematography alone. This short gives us a view of how all Hallows Eve, when the veil between the world’s is at its thinnest, is possibly the worst time to go to a stranger’s house for a party. You never know who else is invited/summoned to the party (erm, cough, a demon, cough).
The shorts I’ve just described in vague detail (to keep from ruining any surprises) are the main reason to watch this film. Each vignette is a great example of the specific type of horror story they set out to tell. Although some are better than others, they are all much better than the over-arching story behind why we are presented with this array of shorts. I wish I were exaggerating when I say that I almost stopped watching this after the first five minutes.
After watching the film, I came to appreciate just how well the shorts were made when compared to how awful the filming was during the first five minutes. Is this the best horror film this year? Probably not, but underneath its seemingly awful exterior is a set of horror stories that breathes new life into a lackluster year for horror films.