Cinema Review: V/H/S

Screened as part of Leeds International Film Festival, Leon Nicholson takes a look at V/H/S, with segments directed by Adam Wingard and Ti West.

2012 has to be the year of ‘found footage.’ There have been a fair few crappy straight-to-DVD movies starring our friend ‘shaky cam’ supported by ‘bad acting’. What was an innovative, inventive sub-genre seems to now be used as a vehicle to make low budget ‘horror’ films. Tedious and tiresome, these movies will not be named and shamed (but if you want an idea take look at some of my old reviews including The Lost Coast Tapes… whoops… ah well!) but there does come a time when, as a viewer you say ‘enough is enough’.

Then comes V/H/S, an anthology horror movie that features a series of found footage shorts (my initial feelings meant Mr Sandman was bringing me a dream, making someone the cutest that I’ve ever seen). But hold on, there was something different about this, some sort of quality that has not been in this sub-genre for a while. Mr. Sandman was taking a trip back to dreamland as those Zzzzzs were kicked into touch.

At first V/H/S starts like Jackass or Dirty Sanchez as we see a group of  young people dossing around with a VHS camcorder. It turns out however they are a bunch of petty criminals who get their kicks from filming all the crimes they commit. They are hired by a mysterious collector to steal a rare VHS tape from an isolated house. After breaking in, they find a dead body in front of multiple TV screens surrounded by an immense collection of tapes. As they attempt to find the correct tape they are subjected to horrifying, soil your pants scary footage – each tape outdoing the previous. It looks as if these thieves will get a hell of a lot more than they bargained for!!!

With the likes of Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die) and Ti West (The Innkeepers) contributing with their directed segments, the viewer is in for something special. With six stories within the movie, the differing styles should cater for everyone’s tastes.

If you love blood, you’ve got it. If you love twists – you’ve got it. If you love thrills, you’ve got it. Ultimately the viewer’s favourite story will be down to the type of horror they fancy, or (if you prefer) their personal taste. V/H/S has plenty of strengths and as many weaknesses too as there are some lacklustre stories as part of the anthology. Thankfully these segments are not detrimental to the movie as the good stories more than make up for some of the shortcomings.

Whilst all the segments may differ in quality the overall feel of V/H/S is very much welcome and it does breathe much needed life into an increasingly infuriating sub- genre. The performances are strong, the storytelling is decent and on the whole it’s engrossing. The highlight of V/H/S is surely the final segment about a group of lads who are heading out for a Halloween party only to find the house where they are heading is deserted… or is it? An extremely well written story and wonderfully performed, this is the segment that has its share of genuine chills, terrors and skin-jumping moments.

V/H/S is a must for found footage fans, anthology enthusiasts, short film aficionados but most of all horror fans.

FMV Rating ****

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