V/H/S (2012) Movie Review

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VHS (2012) Movie Poster

“V/H/S” is a weird movie because I enjoy it much more in retrospect than I did sitting in the theater. There are some elements that will delight horror fans, but there are moments of extreme frustration as well. “V/H/S” is another in the line of recent horror anthology films, and features a who’s who of hot young independent horror directors. Radio Silence, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, and Joe Swanberg all take a turn at the helm. The individual pieces of “V/H/S” are, for the most part, solid standalone horror shorts, and many of them have great, stand out elements. You will have to have a high tolerance for douche bags to watch “V/H/S”, but you’ll enjoy watching most of the characters die. How the pieces of the puzzle come together, or in this case, how they don’t, is the central problem with the film.

On their own, each segment is nice little bit of nastiness, and if I were watching any of them alone, everything would be fine. There’s a demon story, a slasher joint, some supernatural flavors, and more. All of the pieces are held together by a frame story, and the frame story is by far the weakest link. It isn’t the only chink in the armor, but it’s the biggest. The attempt to connect all the stories is terrible and obnoxious, so bad that it came close to ruining the entire movie.

V/H/S (2012) Movie Image

The gimmick of “V/H/S” is that these guys who videotape themselves doing all sorts of violent, destructive things—they break in and destroy abandoned buildings, they grab random women and pull their tops off—break into a house to find a particular videotape. They’re looking for one tape out of thousands, and as they check each tape they find that each holds a horrific tale of horror.

The biggest stumbling block to “V/H/S” is length. Each section is too long, and as a result the movie runs twenty or thirty minutes beyond where it needs to. The frame story takes way, way too long to start. It drags on and on, and you start to not give a shit by the time the chapters kick in. And every installment shares the same device, a found footage sort of thing. That has its own drawbacks, but it’s fine. However, every chapter spends time setting how the story will be told. After a couple sections, you don’t need that road map anymore because each segment that comes before already established the methodology. Instead of spending ten minutes telling you how this story will unfold, they could have done in four or five, been just as effective, and quickened the overall pace of the film. Instead, after each section, you’re forced to sit through another plodding introduction. Just when the pace, action, and tension all pick up to a fever pitch, the momentum stops and you start all over again. This is insanely frustrating to sit through time after time.

V/H/S (2012) Movie Image

One of the middle chapters is framed as a home movie of a couple on a road trip. By this point in the movie, you’ve been through a couple runs, and you don’t need to see these two walk around a faux old west town doing stupid touristy bullshit. By the time you get to the heart of the story, you’re bored and a little annoyed. Like I said, if you watched any single piece of “V/H/S” they all function as an independent horror short. Any one taken alone are pretty damn cool. They’re full of inventivness, as well as frights, gore, and genre playfulness that makes them fun. Pasted together like they are, it simply never comes together as a whole like it should, or, more tragically, like it could.

That’s why I like “V/H/S” more now than I did when I was watching it. I can think back to the pieces, examine them in retrospect, and realize, yeah, that was pretty great. It’s easy to see why they chose each piece. But the way “V/H/S” tries to fit everything together causes problems. I wish I could take the film, fast-forward through the frame story, and watch each piece on its own.

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Chad Villella, Ti West, Adam Wingard (directors/screenplay)
CAST: Calvin Reeder … Gary
Lane Hughes … Brad
Adam Wingard … Rock
Hannah Fierman … Lily
Mike Donlan … Shane
Joe Sykes … Patrick
Drew Sawyer … Clint
Jas Sams … Lisa
Joe Swanberg … Sam
Sophia Takal … Stephanie

Author: Brent McKnight

Brent McKnight lives in Seattle with his dogs. He likes beards, movies where things explode, and overcast skies. His three favorite movies are "Rubin and Ed", "A Bittersweet Life", and "Out for Justice". He wishes his knees didn't hurt. On Twitter @BrentMMcKnight
  • Juggernaut

    I can’t wait to check this out. All of the problems that were mentioned were the same ones I thought that a film like this would have. And that girl in the the trailer is super cute!

    • http://twitter.com/BrentMMcKnight Brent McKnight

      Some of the individual pieces are absolutely fantastic. It is the way they’re put together that is problematic. But there are some really great moments.

  • Sultansam

    Just watched the film. I have to agree. The first one was by far the best. It had me scared and gave me high hopes. But there were a lot of questions I had from a few stories that weren’t answered. I felt like the skype one ended so abruptly and they didn’t really explain what happened. The honeymoon one was also boring. Nothing happens until the end and it’s just lame. Again, ending abruptly. All in all though, it was a good movie. I love horror anthologies and I thought this was okay. It could have been better had they filmed it normally without the handheld cameras

  • Armando dela Cruz

    Totally agree. After watching the movie, the stories still haunt me, albeit I knew it (the movie as a whole) couldn’t be described more as a “watchable” horror film.

  • Juggernaut

    I agree with everything written here. The movie was watchable but underwhelming. There were some cool parts that couldn’t be more because of poor execution and interesting concepts that were never full realized. The acting was sub-par. Each short had an inventive premise but never reached a climax and left a lot of unanswered questions.
    My personal favorit was “10/31/98″. It was the only story with characters that had any redeemable qualities and therefore had an emotional investment in. The effects were clever and the overall plot was really relatable. Whereas not everyone has performed random acts of vandalism and assault before being hired to illegally retrieve a mysterious tape, tried to lure co-eds to a dingy motel room to molest and degrade women, go into secluded woods with an odd girl for a drug addled excursion, whatever the hell was going on with the Skype installment (?), however, going to a Halloween party is something that almost everyone has done. Even with all of its merits the piece is still flawed and, like the rest, leaves you hanging.
    The worst short was the main story arc titled “Tape 56″. Besides the total lack of structure or any signs of an intertwining narrative the characters are completely annoying and the plot or motivation of the events is non existant.
    All in all the film is worth watching but will leave you dissapointed and wanting answers.

    • http://twitter.com/BrentMMcKnight Brent McKnight

      10/31/98 was also one of my favorite segments. It had a ton creepy cool visuals, and it felt like they did the most with the set up. It was also one of the few where you didn’t dislike all of the characters.

      • Juggernaut

        Absolutely. I can see tsome of the segment having unlikable characters like the group of miscreant, petty criminals in “Tape 56″ or the gang from “Tuesday The 17th” segment because that story was modeled after the 80′s slasher flicks where those types of characters are a dime a dozen. Even the mysogynistic frat boys in “Amatuer Night” are understandable but the characters from the other segments like the married couple in “Second Honeymoon” or the boyfriend/girfriend from “The Sick Thing That Happened To EmilyWhen She Was Younger” should have evoked some sort of apathy. There just wasn’t enough care given to the plots to make them whole, cohesive stories. They can blame it on the restraints of the anthology format but what it really comes fdown to is bad filmaking in my opinion.