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V/H/S


Be kind, rewind ... or die.

Rod Lott December 7th, 2012

My problem with most found-footage films is that there's not much to them. Most can be described legitimately as an hour of buildup for one scene of payoff. When you shorten the stories, however, as is done in the horror anthology V/H/S, you have a handful of payoffs without all that pesky incidental padding.

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The wraparound story gives this indie effort a loose framework to let multiple directors in on the fun: Camcorder-toting youths up to no damn good break into a house in order to steal some mysterious VHS tape for blackmail. In the place, they find a dead man lounging in front of a bank of TV sets and a VCR into which they feed the tapes that unspool for our viewing pleasure.

From The Signal’s David Bruckner comes “Amateur Night,” in which three college guys acquire a pair of spy glasses in hopes of capturing footage of the night’s conquests. Their idea is terrible for three reasons:
1. It’s illegal.
2. It’s immoral.
3. And the crazy-eyed girl they pick up and take back to their motel room is ... well, let’s just say “not all there.”

A motel is also the setting for “Second Honeymoon,” in which a couple is tormented by a stranger. Helmed by The InnkeepersTi West, this segment exploits our vulnerability while we sleep in ways that the original Paranormal Activity promised, but could not quite meet. The less known about “Tuesday the 17th,” the better. The title should give you a big ol' clue, but only that, because Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead) has a novel twist awaiting his campers (and us).

“The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” plays as a webcam chat between a man and a woman, the latter of whom relates the details of her supposedly haunted apartment. It’s the best work Joe Swanberg (Nights and Weekends) has ever done, because — unlike his tiresome mumblecore features — things actually happen.

Finally, “10/31/98” recounts a Halloween night in which some would-be revelers arrive at the wrong house for a party. From the directorial collective billed as Radio Silence, the tale boasts no shortage of scares in its rousing, heart-pumping pacing. (The DVD’s special features include an alternate ending for the story I'm glad they didn't use; elsewhere, you'll learn the meaning behind V/H/S' in-title slashes.)

Arguably, V/H/S saved the best for last, and while quality naturally varies, I don’t feel as if any single segment failed. So such a low-fidelity exercise, it brings high reward, clever both in concept and execution. Even at two hours, the experience stands as one of the most fun among all 2012 movies. I eagerly await next year’s sequel. —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
I Sell the Dead DVD review     
The Innkeepers Blu-ray review   
Nights and Weekends DVD review 
Ti West interview     

 
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