Closing out this the Toronto After Dark Summer Screenings was the much anticipated V/H/S. Following the endless insanity of Detention, this film uses the anthology format along with the found footage concept to create a solid addition to the genre. That is, as long as you can handle some of the most shaky camera work I have ever seen in a found footage film.
The idea is that a group of hoods decide to step up their game, and take on a better paying job of stealing one VHS tape from a guys house. When they arrive, they find the owner of the house dead in a chair, and a stack of tapes. In order to find the right one, the criminals begin watching the tapes, and what they see are the short films that make up the movie.
The found footage genre is one that instantly turns some people off. Normally, I wouldn’t care, but V/H/S goes above and beyond the idea of shaky cam, giving just about everyone I talked to a case of the spins. Had they kept the shaking down to a minimum, this would have turned out much better. Instead, it’s a spinning ride that goes from mundane to fantastic over the course of two hours. Like any anthology film, some of the shorts work, and others don’t. The ones that I did enjoy, turned out to be incredible. The wraparound of the guys searching for the tape wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been. It also has some of the most shaky cam work. They’re just there to push the story along really, and the focus is rarely on that group anyway.
The opening short starts off in the most obnoxious fashion possible, with a group of guys looking to make some homemade porn with a pair of spy glasses. The constant hooting and hollering quickly wears on the nerves, but when they finally get a couple of girls back to their hotel room, things get bloody. This one had a strong finish, which played well and made up for the annoying start. Next up was a story about a couple taking a trip. They wind up at a hotel, where a girl knocks on their door asking for a ride. They think nothing of it and head to sleep. That’s when their new friend makes an unexpected nighttime visit. There’s an interesting ending that spices things up, but this is certainly one of the more tame sequences.
The middle short is the most painful to watch. A group of friends head into the woods where they run into some sort of supernatural killer. Unfortunately, the camerawork is terribly shaky, the acting is below par, and the only thing this short left me with was a headache. It’s interesting enough, but filled with screeches, scratches, and more shaking then I could handle. The ghosts start showing up after that short with an entry about a woman video chatting with her boyfriend. She’s convinced that her apartment is haunted, and wants her boyfriend to help her investigate. Some great scares are delivered here, but a very lame ending destroys everything that came before it.
The final short manages to be my personal favourite. A group of guys are headed to a party, but wind up in the wrong house without realizing it. The ghosts come out in full force, leading to some incredible frights and amazing effects. Like an out of control urban legend, this was by far the best of the film. I only wish that every short could have been this good. The end result is a solid effort, but it’s almost ruined by the found footage concept. Many scenes are almost unbearable to watch because everything is bouncing around so badly. This takes away from the shorts that are really well done, and causes the less impressive ones to become almost useless. I think a small screen will be better for V/H/S, just like we used to do it back in the day, when people actually had a VCR.
Under the marquee – Will