‘V/H/S’ is in theory right up my street. I’m a fan of the ‘found footage’ horror sub-genre and this coupled with an anthology format allowing a number of talented directors to showcase their talent in bite-size segments had me incredibly interested in what the film could offer. Did my expectation match reality? Well, yes. And also no.
The synopsis of ‘V/H/S’ is that a group of petty criminals are tasked with stealing a sole VHS video cassette from a house inhabited by a single resident, an elderly gentleman. Easy money. But as you know from genre convention, these things never go smoothly. What they encounter is the world’s most peculiar and low-rent home cinema. The old man in question retires, lifelessly in a chair in front of a glowing array of CRT monitors. So far, so creepy. Of course, in order to make sure that the correct cassette is retrieved the tapes must be viewed, quite cunningly creating an anthology format of 5 separately contained yet possibly cohesive stories.
Now, when ‘V/H/S’ is good, it’s VERY good. After the intentionally clumsily cut opening where we’re introduced to our reprehensible band of criminals we cut straight into the first segment, titled ‘Amateur Night’. As an opening to the feature it was truly gripping. Characters are given room to breath initially, seeds are planted in the viewer’s mind that things aren’t quite as they seem and by the time the tried and tested scenario of predatory males with vulnerable drunk females is flipped on it’s head it’s genuinely tense stuff. The direction and editing are excellent, theperformances are solid and I was left with the impression that if the rest of the anthology hit these standards I’d have a new genre favourite on my hands.
Unfortunately, I can’t honestly say that this was the case. The rest of the collection was patchy, with only Ti West’s ‘Second Honeymoon’ approaching the quality of ‘Amateur Night’ which is to be expected from such a talented director (give ‘The House of The Devil’ a shot, it’s a wonderful tribute to 70′s/80′s horror). The other sections suffer from problems as far and wide as tonality issues, climaxes not matching a promising set up and poor or patchy performances which obviously can be kryptonite to a movie that builds tension and discomfort based on the found footage premise.
I can’t entirely slate ‘V/H/S’. It does have some excellent elements. It’s something a little bit different and that should be applauded. And let’s be fair, we all have different tastes, some of you may find more to like here than I did. I would recommend a definite rental or Netflix/Lovefilm viewing for genre heads, simply because at least two of the sections are great examples of what can be done with short story telling in the hands of talented people. I’d file this particular well-worn cassette under the ‘nice try’ section. Here’s hoping the upcoming sequel can make up for the shortfalls we see here.