You know what the cool thing about V/H/S is? It's an anthology film, so you technically don't really have to say whether you love or hate ALL of the movie. Maybe you can only like some of it, and pretty much hate the rest of it - which was sadly my reaction to the film. I really wanted to like V/H/S so much, and had such high hopes for it, but ultimately a good portion of it disappointed me. I will say that the stories got better as the movie went on - just the overall execution on everything was not my favorite.
Directed by Adam Wingard
(A Horrible Way to Die, You're Next)
Tape 56 is the wraparound story (ah, so that's what that is called) of the anthology and there's really not a lot to it. Pretty much right away, you hate all the characters and therefore couldn't give a shit what happens to them. They are a group of petty thieves and crooks who think that a hard day's work includes smashing up windows, stealing stuff, and grabbing innocent women in parking buildings and exposing their breasts for a video camera. Classy. They break into a house to steal a rare VHS tape and come up a dead guy in a room with a bunch of tapes and they start watching them and those tapes are the rest of the movie, get it? Was especially disappointed with this one after I found out that the director was Adam Wingard, the man behind the wonderful movie A Horrible Way to Die. I don't really get what happened at the end of this segment
Also, I need to point out that like all of Wingard's other projects, most of Tape 56 was shot in Columbia, Missouri - very near where I am sitting right now. Hit me up for your next project, dawg. I'll get your coffee.
Directed by David Bruckner
Fuck you. Seriously? With Amateur Night, we just go from one group of assholes to another group of assholes. If I were in the same room as the main characters in Amateur Night, I guarantee they would have been dead a lot fucking sooner. So again, I hate all the characters and don't give a shit about what happens to them. They're just some douchebags who make the token "nice guy" of their group wear glasses with a camera on them so he can film the guys having sex with girls in their hotel room. They go bar hopping and bring back two chicks - one passes out almost immediately, and the other is... well, not what you would call normal. There's a bit of awkward suspense with how weird the girl is and how she keeps whispering to Token Nice Guy "I like you". It's pretty obvious that she's going to turn on the guys and kill the guys. The gore work when it finally happens is very good, which is a nice balance to the fact that I don't give a shit that these guys are getting ripped apart, and the makeup on the girl is also very cool. Dug the ending as well. Definitely unexpected, and something I haven't seen before.
Directed by Ti West
(The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers)
So with Ti West's previous projects, I was betting that we could expect a bit more of the slow burn (well, not too slow - he only had about 20 minutes to work with here) with not a lot of payoff at the end. But for some reason, this one still worked on some level for me. Most of it is rather boring as it follows the road trip of a young couple apparently having their second honeymoon, I guess. There are a couple of creepy parts when a girl comes to their door and asks for a ride and when an unknown person comes into their hotel room while they are sleeping, and West does a good job of frustrating the audience by not letting us know what this means for the characters. Was it just a burglar? Or somebody with more sinister intentions? I'm really starting to like Joe Swanberg as an actor. He was great in A Horrible Way to Die and I love just how real and normal he is in this. He's also the third asshole of V/H/S as he makes a few suspiciously asshole-y remarks to his girl. For me, this made the payoff at the end actually be a very nice payoff.
Word of advice, guys: Do not act like a dick when your girlfriend will not strip and/or have sex with you on camera. That's a good way to... well, just watch the segment and find out.
Tuesday the 17th
Directed by Glenn McQuaid
(I Sell the Dead)
Hm. Not really too much to say about this one. As the title might imply, this short is your typical kids-getting-killed-in-the-woods story, even though it does have a bit of a twist. The girl, Wendy, that brings all her friends to these woods acts very creepy and the woods themselves seem to have a strange effect on the camera. There are some subliminal shots of dead bodies around the woods and when the requisite killer-in-the-woods shows up, he is always distorted on the camera so you can't really see him. That part was a cool idea, but the rest of this segment was just meh. Again, the gore work was great looking, I just wished that there was a bit more to the story. Tuesday the 17th might make a good feature-length film to help explain just who/what the killer is.
The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger
Directed by Joe Swanberg
So now Mr. Swanberg goes behind the camera with short whose title is longer than the film itself. This segment makes a nice break from the video camera footage of the other segments by now using Skype footage of a girl with an apparently haunted apartment talking to her surgeon boyfriend who is away. They try to jump-scare the audience with images of ghostly little kids running around Emily's apartment but that doesn't work out too well. I like the twist where it's revealed that her boyfriend is not really in Michigan but rather in one of the apartments right next door, and the reason for him being there is... well, here's a spoiler: the kids are not actually kids but aliens, I guess, who have been using Emily to make their little alien babies since she was twelve. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this, as there are so many unanswered questions with this scenario. This segment is a nice attempt, but ultimately falls short of being scary or interesting and instead is just confusing.
Directed by Radio Silence
Okay, this was by far my favorite of the bunch. Awesome way to end the movie. Four guys trying to go to a Halloween party end up at the wrong house, where they get a lot more Halloween-type craziness than they bargained for. One point for this segment comes from the main dudes actually not being assholes. Another point is given for the cameraperson's costume - a nanny cam. Very cute. The most points are given for the awesome freaking climax. For a while the guys just wander around this empty house (why they stay there when there is clearly not a Halloween party going on is anybody's guess but we can overlook that for now) but when they find their way up to attic and come upon some dudes yelling all Evangelical priest-like and have a girl tied up, that's when the fun starts. The crazy guys get mysteriously pulled up by some force and disappear into the ceiling, and the main characters get the girl and run out. The house has now become alive - objects flying around, hands and arms coming out of the walls and floors, doors disappearing - and that shit was AWESOME. I was seriously freaked out the whole time and absolutely loving it. My kind of haunted house, seriously. Or possessed house, or whatever it was.
So all in all, V/H/S turns out to be hit and miss. The concept is nice because it gave the directors the opportunity to put a bunch of totally different stories together; it's just that only two of them were great and the rest barely mediocre. I liked that the look of film really was in VHS style, but the many, many times throughout the piece that the video and audio went all distorted got very annoying after a while. V/H/S was not the biggest disappointment of 2012 but a lot of the film left something to be desired. Repeated viewing will probably have me skipping over most of the segments to get to the actual good ones, especially the last one. A sequel is (of course) in the works already with a new crop of directors, but I'm still interested to see what they come up with.