V/H/S aims to combine the old fashioned horror anthology film with the modern and now possibly over-familiar found footage movie. Anthology films such as Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath and Amicus Productions’ Tales from the Crypt gave audiences value for money by presenting a series of short, chilling tales, often bookended with an overarching story linking them all together.
This is the case with V/H/S; to begin with we’re watching the self-recorded VHS footage of a group of whooping morons who are vandalising houses, assaulting women and generally doing things which make you want them all to die as soon as possible. It’s never actually explained why they’re using VHS, as this part of the film doesn’t take place in the past, but in this age of pristine digital recordings there is now something inherently creepy about the grainy visuals and muffled sound of the obsolete format. After spending some time with this group and growing to hate them, we learn that they’re planning to break into a reclusive old man’s house in order to steal a VHS tape that could be extremely valuable. Of course once they’ve broken into the house and found it more or less deserted they decide to stay and watch the tape because, as I said, they’re morons.
We’re then presented with six fun-size found footage horror films from directors including The Innkeepers’ Ti West and I Sell the Dead’s Glenn McQuaid, all but one of which has a supernatural element, including ghosts, succubi and Satanists. Obviously the problem with any anthology film is that some sections will be more effective than others; one of the stories fizzles out anticlimactically just when it’s getting interesting and another, involving a girl living alone skyping with her boyfriend is laughably not-scary and its inclusion doesn’t actually make any sense, since the characters specifically state that their conversations aren’t being recorded. So how they end up on a VHS tape in a creepy old house is anyone’s guess.
But after a while it becomes obvious that V/H/S isn’t all that concerned with being logical, or with providing the kind of deep, disturbing scares of truly effective horror films like The Exorcist or Don’t Look Now, like the unsettlingly creepy trailer suggested. Instead its intention is to be a thrilling, ghost-train of a film with plenty of jumps and shocks and it’s largely successful. The found footage genre is getting a little tired and films like the seemingly everlasting Paranormal Activity sequels have driven the gimmick into the ground. But these quick-and-to-the-point vignettes manage to make the trope interesting again as each one is different enough, and over quickly enough to keep them interesting.
Overall Verdict: Blending classic and modern horror conventions, V/H/S is a horror film that isn’t afraid to have fun and although it’s inconsistent it’s an enjoyably visceral ride that is best seen with a game audience.
Reviewer: Adam Pidgeon