Horror’s first found footage anthology! Ok, that might not ring your bell, whet your whistle or blow your mind based on the various mind-bogglingly horrible efforts we’ve been subjected to in the past 5 years. But, truth be told, there are more scares and ideas in V/H/S than a thousand The Last Exorcisms and a million Apollo 18s. Though they aren’t perhaps as brightly written as one might of hoped, there is no denying that they are certainly scary and, when trying to get to sleep long after the film, have a returning creepiness which can’t denied. The bottom line is this: Adam Wingard, Dave Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg and the team who dub themselves Radio Silence build their films on a fairly ludicrous premise with aplomb.
A group of Jackass wannabes (immediately unlikeable simpletons who get off on lifting the shirts of their friend’s lady friends on camera, smashing bottles and saying “dude” a lot) take on a mysterious job for a client. It would seem they have been hired to break into a house to retrieve a VHS tape containing some-kind of damning material. The group decide that it’s for the best as the footage is obviously just sitting there, waiting to do horrific damage to some high ranking politician. But when they arrive at the house in the dead of night, things aren’t quite as normal as they’d first hoped and, as they begin tape to taping a pile of videos the night only gets more odd.
The five tapes that our nasty little pieces of work get through are the five short films produced by each director, punctuated with weirder and weirder developments in the house during the break in. Though it’s never clear where the haul of the VHS footage is from or indeed what they are for, the quality of the films are good enough to put V/H/S on the top end of a genre slowly running out of steam. A couple on holiday encounter a strange girl on their road trip, a group of guys out on the razz get more than they bargained for during a motel room “love in”, a trip into the woods turns foul, a group of guys look for a halloween party and a girl is haunted in her house during a series of Skype conversations with her boyfriend.
Frequently terrifying and undoubtedly creepy, V/H/S is shockingly worth more than the sum of its parts; Although each of the stories can’t boast the most unique of plot lines, the directors do well with their twists and limited budgets, using the short film run time to their advantage and, in making the most of the “dirty quality” of the format, the film as a whole is more or less a success in scares. Which is both admirable and surprising when restricted to a floundering, increasingly gimmick driven genre.