3 March 2013

Review: V/H/S

(Dir: Adam Wingard / David Bruckner / Ti West / Glenn McQuaid / Joe Swanberg / Radio Silence, 2012)

The concept of merging multiple short stories into one longer feature is nothing new to the horror genre, having been utilised liberally in the past for the likes of Tales From the Crypt, Creepshow and many more. It certainly adds some variety but having one or two bad stories will drag the whole endeavour down. So what happens when all but one of the stories are bad? This is the problem faced by V/H/S, a collection of five short horror stories stemming off a sixth framing device, all shot in the style of "found footage" and each coming from a different director.

So let's cut to the chase - why does V/H/S fail on almost every level? The stories, the characters and the deep vein of distasteful misogyny coursing through it all. Starting in reverse - horror hardly has a good rep in terms of gender equality. Films usually directed by men chiefly aimed at a male audience featuring liberal female nudity and a never-ending supply of weak willed victims. I know that's somewhat a generalisation but there's truth in there. In the case of V/H/S virtually all the male characters seem to be sex obsessed, seeing women as meat for their own fun and gratification. To some degree it's a feature of every story here leaving a very bad taste, especially when there is never any sort of satisfactory comeuppance à la I Spit On Your Grave. It's the nastiest aspect of this anthology.

Tying into this none of the characters are remotely interesting. In a short you have limited time to make an impact or opportunity to develop, but the dumb, boorish representation of the modern male here is plain depressing and unlikeable, whilst the female characters are just clichés. Unfortunately not even the individual stories can make up for this. Teens in the woods; house with a dead guy; someone who's not what they seem etc etc. It's all been done before, both scarier and much much better. That's not to say these stories are entirely devoid of any merit as a couple of fleeting good ideas do exist in there somewhere, but they easily get lost amidst the myriad bad aspects.

Except... after an hour and forty minutes or so we reach the final story (10/31/98) which delivers fifteen minutes of sweet relief - at last, a decent well executed story! This one may too lack originality but it understands the concept of build up and pay off, featuring some really neat little tricks when it does. All this is aided by characters who don't come across like dicks, which got me wondering - it's set on Halloween night in 1998 (random aside - that exact night I went to the cinema to see The Exorcist for the first time!) so has the twenty something male degenerated in the intervening fourteen / fifteen years? This film definitely suggests so and it makes you wonder if technology is to blame? Deep thinking aside, this final story actually offered a rush and brief moments of fear, all enhanced by the shooting style. 

And what of the shooting style? It mostly tries too hard, adding very little apart from in a few notable scenes, whilst bordering on unwatchable at times. I've said it before and I'll say it again - if you can't match the quality of [rec] when going "found footage" then give up. This basically applies to more than 80% of V/H/S - it's pretty much unscary, delivering only for gorehounds. The short format doesn't work for these stories so we end up in the disappointing scenario where a great director like Ti West, who beautifully handles tension in The Innkeepers and The House of the Devil (read my rather lengthy and gushing review of that latter film here), offering something that doesn't work because it lacks the time needed to play out. V/H/S has left me intrigued about Radio Silence, the four guys who directed and starred in the final segment (they prove to have great taste in music too, giving love to Asian Man Records in their short!), but the rest... I wish I could forget I watched. Don't waste your time too.

No comments:

Post a Comment