I’m a sucker for cheap horror flicks. I unabashedly love the straight to Video On Demand cheesefests that seem to litter On Demand this time of year. One film this season has been getting glowing reviews from festivals and showings, and that film is V/H/S. It’s a mix up between a good old fashioned anthology and the found footage genre, giving the viewer a constantly changing point of view. But how does it do? Is this a film that deserves a place among cheesy horror greats, or is it a dead format?
I love cheesy horror flicks. I love anthology style horror flicks. I’m completely not against the found footage genre, if done right. So the main selling points for VHS got me excited. All the glowing reviews its gotten from around the internets got me really excited for the release date to Video On Demand. It has all the right parts, and it has some interesting names involved, so I thought for sure it was going to be a pretty good flick. I loved some of the ideas that they were bringing to the table, and before watching it, I could have sworn it was going to be a fresh breath into the horror genre, a la Cabin In The Woods. But boy was I wrong.
The film centers around a group of miscreants that get their kicks from filming themselves causing a great deal of mayhem, from burglarizing houses to molesting women in parking garages. After we’re shown an introduction to the group that boils down to all of them just smashing stuff, the paper thin plot kicks up. They get hired by an unknown man to break into a house and steal a bunch of VHS tapes. Once at the house, they start viewing random tapes of the huge collection amassed in the house. It’s whats on these tapes that’s the real meat of the story. There’s four main stories, each one involving a completely unrelated group of people. Each story relies on a pretty unique schtick, which is a pretty fresh approach to the found footage genre. One story is chronicled by a dude wearing nerdy spy glasses, and one is a recorded Skype conversation. Most of the stories are pretty unique, but with a couple of them its also their downfall. Each story is roughly twenty five to thirty minutes long, and its really not long enough to connect with any characters, know any motives, or even flesh out the story very well in some cases.
The scares and gore are typical splatterfest material. There’s tons of blood, there’s tons of guts, and there’s a ton of random boobs thrown in for good measure. While usually well done, it hardly ever gets to the torture porn threshold most horror flicks get to. It really reminded me more of late 80’s horror that relied on the sudden gross out factor, then moved on. Some will find the mostly practical effects cheap, but I liked them a lot. It gave the film more of a real feel, albeit a low budget real feel. The scares throughout are mostly pretty good, but once again rely on falling back to cheap jump scares any chance they get. Some of the stories really stick out though, while the others just feel too short.
I really wanted to like this flick, I really did. After watching it, I hate to even describe it as an anthology, since there’s no connective story, there’s no underlying plot, hell, there isn’t even common characters. I liken it more to a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, but without the commentary and the viewer getting knocked off after every story. While most of the stories themselves are presented in either a unique manner or have a pretty solid twist, they are ultimately just too short to really feel fleshed out. There’s some good scares and some good gore going on, but you really have to sit through some very dull parts in between. After watching it, I didn’t really like it. I really didn’t hate it either, though. Its one of those movies that just balances on mediocrity, and comes out being mostly forgettable.
All in all, there’s worse you can do if you’re looking for a good horror flick. There’s also loads better, but if absolutely need something hold you over till the good flicks start rolling in, you can do worse. Just don’t expect too much, or you’ll be really let down.
Two out of five