Friday, September 7

V/H/S Review

Directors: Ti West, Adam Wingard,
David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid,
 Joe Swanberg, and Radio Silence

Horror fans are well familiar with “found footage” style filmmaking, so much that it’s reached a point of excess. The anthology is another design of storytelling, one that I particularly enjoy, that the genre has explored in years past, most memorable with films like Creepshow and Black Sabbath. V/H/S is a combination of both found footage and anthology that offers a surprisingly impressive and creative example of independent horror filmmaking.

The premise is simple. A group of deviants, who find twisted satisfaction recording physical sexual harassment on women and then selling the footage to online companies, are asked to break into a house and steal an important video cassette. Once in the house the group discovers more than a few tapes scattered throughout. Their curiosity is enticed and they begin to watch them. Each tape that is played introduces a new horrifying perspective for their viewing pleasure.

V/H/S is helmed by a bevy of horrors newest independent talents, their individual resumes are only further certification of the quality of work they have done in the genre. With the creative pool being so large, and eclectic, it allows for the proposed gimmick of “found footage” to find fresh perspectives. This concept alone is difficult to achieve with so many films utilizing the cinéma vérité technique, but the group finds some unique ways of presenting it. A couple of ways the film achieves this is through the application of perspective, for instance the use of video camera spyglasses for one entire segment and a creepy combination of a computer webcam and video chat feature, both work effectively. It’s crude and naturalistic photography that, along with the narrative, proposes a gritty and realistic tone successfully. The cinematography works by leaps and bounds for a majority of the film but there are moments when this distracts more than accommodates; specifically in one customary instance when the slasher perspective, an ode to Black Christmas, occupies too much time.

The success of any anthology weighs heavily on narrative variety and pacing. While the storylines don’t always need to interweave themselves, a la Trick ’r Treat, they need to be individually surprising and fluid. The narrative structure of V/H/S is well conceived and, without spoiling any of the surprises, offers a little bit of everything for all genre fascinations. There is also a nice balance that is achieved between the usually horror film elements; specifically gore offset by frights and vice versa, the directors understand the strength of these assisting parts. Another delightful aspect is the seamless use of practical film verse computer generated effects to assist in development of the atmosphere of each story.

V/H/S has taken a few familiar film styles and, through some clever and innovative restructuring, made an excellent independent film. The five stories held together by a simple wraparound compose a satisfying horror anthology; accompanied by an innovative, if sometimes overly jolted and slightly disrupting, use of cinematography. This is not an over-polished studio feature with recognizable stars; this is a bare bones, concept driven film from a group of horror enthusiasts with an understanding of specific genre conventions.

(Available on iTunes, Amazon, and VOD)

Monte’s Rating
4.00 out of 5.00

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