"“If there is one thing worse than a mediocre horror movie, it's five mediocre horror movies...”"
V/H/S brings together a series of filmmakers to each produce their own short horror segment in the found footage format, yet each representing a different aspect from within the genre, be it supernatural, slasher, or simply stranded in the woods. Although certainly creative and original in parts, this is a film severely lacking in the one thing we most anticipate from such a movie; being scary. If there is one thing worse than a mediocre horror movie, it's five mediocre horror movies.
We initially follow a group of repulsive young men who make a living for themselves accosting young, vulnerable women in the street and filming it on their handheld device. Although perversely enjoying their line of work, they are anonymously hired to burgle an old mans house and steal a rare VHS tape. However when they arrive and notice the occupier is dead, they get cautious. Then in order to find the desired tape, they begin working their way through a host of disturbing footage, and it's that very footage we are fortunate enough to be watching. Amongst the tapes – which all share the reoccurring theme of disaster - we have a fateful attempt at a one-night stand, a couple's supposedly romanic break away, a trip to the woods, a webcam session gone wrong, oh, and a haunted house, of course.
It's not often you can leave a film thinking, “well, I enjoyed two fifths of it”, but when it's been broken up into segments composed by alternating directors, that can happen, and in this instance, it does. The one section that stands out in particular, and is evidently of a higher standard to the rest, is the supernatural webcam chat between a young boyfriend and girlfriend – directed by Joe Swanberg, bringing a unique, relatable spin on the found footage sub-genre. The positive aspect to having a series of short movies is that often horror filmmakers have good ideas but they're without the legs to fill a full feature length film, so by cutting them all short does rectify this somewhat.
In fairness, the acting and use of handheld camera work is impressive and implemented in a believable fashion. Each individual director plays up on the normality of the characters to add to the naturalistic feel that must come when using such an approach. They all just come across as regular people, living regular lives, allowing us to feel an accessibility towards the stories. Although, isn't it funny how all of these horrific, surreal incidents only seem to happen to young, attractive, American people?
However it still remains that found footage is becoming tiring in cinema, as too many directors are trying their hand at it. Of course as a cheaper alternative to typical filmmaking, you can see why it's so popular at present, yet that doesn't excuse it – particularly within V/H/S, which is found footage within found footage. You can barely escape it.
V/H/S does get better as it goes along, as although the first three segments are disappointing, we end on a high note as the final two are well-crafted and innovative in their approach. However that said, the latter stages are still not quite impressive enough to work as a suitable reward for sitting through a somewhat dire first half.