Movie Review: "V/H/S"
After a group of trouble-making young men terrorize a young couple, and film the whole thing to post online, they get word that a stranger has noticed their work and wants them to do a job. They go to this stranger's house to find it abandoned, aside from a dead man sitting in front multiple TVs that are all hooked up to a VCR. After exploring the house, they find a VHS collection and decide to watch the films using the VCR. Each tape has a recording of a strange and supernatural occurrence.
The first tape tells the story of a young man, and his group of friends, who are using a hidden camera in his glasses to hopefully record himself having sex with a random girl, but they soon realize that they are the prey, not the predators in this scenario. The second tape tells the story of a young couple documenting their road trip using a video camera, but they are unaware of a strange and mysterious stalker. The third tape tells the story of a group of young adults who are going on a trip in the woods, while a killer is on the prowl. There are more bizarre tapes like that, but between each tape viewing, things get increasingly strange inside the dead man's house.
The Pros & Cons
Horror Anthology (+6pts)
The Tapes (-3pts)
The Tape's Characters (+5pts)
Main Characters (-4pts)
Pro: Horror (+8pts)
The horror in this movie was excellent. There was blood, gore, terror, and plenty of mystery. The filmmakers really did a good job of playing into the terror. They did so by effectively utilizing video recording devices. Each main character (in the tapes) used a video camera to record the events that transpired. Then, when some characters were being chased, the viewer sees everything from the character's perspective. As a result, the viewer is able to put themselves in the character's shoes, so they have no idea how close the attacker is.
Another example is in the second tape (on the couple's road trip), when the stranger enters the motel room, the stranger used the video camera. We saw the main characters sleeping and completely vulnerable to the dangerous person in their room. This tape really effectively played into the anticipation and unpredictability of this story by doing this. The viewer does not know anything about this stranger so has no idea what their intentions are or what they were capable of, which made the scenes involving the stranger incredibly suspenseful, as the young couple were completely unaware of the stranger's presence. These were just a few examples of how effective the horror was in this film. There were haunters, monsters, and slashers. Each tape had a unique tone, but the quality of horror is constant throughout the film.
Con: Disconnected (-10pts)
The "plot" of this film was basically a group of rowdy, trouble-making young men who went to a strange house, watched horrific VHS tapes, and then started to disappear one-by-one. That was it. Did we get any character development so that we cared about the characters who were disappearing? Nope. Did we get to see bad things happen to annoying characters? No, we did not.
Basically, when a character was isolated in the room with the VCR, they watched one of the tapes, we watched the tape with them, then (when the tape is over) the character was mysteriously gone. All of the five tapes were connected by this main story in which a bunch of nameless and faceless characters (who the viewers will not care about) acted like a bunch of idiots, sat down to watch tapes, and then disappeared. This movie just had a very poorly written connecting story, which resulted in each of the tapes feeling disconnected and irrelevant. Fortunately, the short stories in each tape were able to stand on their own, but they left me wondering why the filmmakers even felt the need to have this connecting story at all.
Pro: Horror Anthology (+6pts)
I thought this film did a great job of hitting the unique horror-tone within each VHS tape. There were five stories within this movie and each hit a different type of horror very effectively. We had monsters, ghosts, stalkers, and more. Each story felt very unique, but the quality of the horror stayed constant.
I enjoyed getting so many different stories, as it allowed the film to feel fresh from beginning to end. The VHS tapes were relatively short, but they each had just enough time to setup the characters, setup the situation, present some horrific moments, and give a suspenseful conclusion. Each story (while short) was able to effectively tell a very interesting horror story. They were short, but they were good stories with effective horror.
Con: The Tapes (-3pts)
Okay, while I really enjoyed the stories in each of the tapes, I thought the existence of the tapes was a bit ridiculous. All of these stories took place in present day (as far as I know). All stories were recorded using a video camera, or a video chat, which meant that the technology within each story was very modern. However, the filmmakers wanted us to believe, that someone found all of these recorded videos and burned them onto individual VHS tapes that all looked super old. Really? The person who found these videos has not heard of DVDs or digital storage?
Also, I still do not understand how the collector had each of these tapes in the first place, as each story felt isolated from the rest. Maybe this seems like I am being overly critical of the film's concept, but "VHS" gives me the impression that these stories should have taken place a long time ago (at least fifteen to twenty years ago) yet the technology in the stories suggested that they took place within the last five years. Why not just call the movie "DVD", "USB", or something along those lines? Again maybe I am being overly critical, but the concept of this film could have applied to any video storage device so why did it need to be about VHS tapes? I get the impression that the filmmakers chose the title before actually knowing what the stories would be about, and then they did not care enough to explain it in a way that made any sense.
Pro: The Tape's Characters (+5pts)
I hated the main characters, and I thought the existence of the tapes seemed unnecessary, but I really enjoyed most of the characters within those tapes. I thought the filmmakers did a very effective job at setting up the stories within each tape, as well as the characters in each story. I was not a fan of most of the characters in the first tape, but I do not think viewers were supposed to like them. I did, however, like the main character of the first tape. He was relatable, which made the story easy to get into. The second tape focused on a couple going on a road trip. I thought this tape did an excellent job of setting up their relationship both quickly and effectively. By the time strange things started to occur (which did not take long), I was definitely invested in these characters.
The third and fourth tapes were just as effective as the first two, but I unfortunately thought that the last tape was the weakest when it came to character development. Strange things happened very quickly in the fifth tape and things got very crazy. Unfortunately all of the characters were uninteresting, which made it difficult for me to care about the events that were occurring. Luckily, four (out of the five) tapes did a very effective job at setting up the characters within their stories. I did not care for the characters of the main story, but every time a new tape began, I was hooked back into the movie.
Con: Main Characters (-4pts)
I absolutely hated the characters of the main story in this film. Sometimes, a horror film gets you to hate the characters in the hopes of getting you excited to watch bad things happen to them. I think the filmmakers of this movie may have tried to do that, but ultimately failed in the execution. The movie opened with a wound up group of young men (one of them holding a video camera) in a car watching a young couple walking by. The group then jumped out of the car, separated the couple, grabbed the woman, pulled up her shirt, and recorded the whole thing to post online.
That was the first scene of the movie and it painted a pretty good picture of the type of men that formed the group in the main story. The problem with these characters was that we learned absolutely nothing about them. The main characters were just a group of nameless, faceless characters that we (the viewers) were supposed to be invested in. Would my hatred have paid off if we saw bad things happening to these characters? Absolutely, but if anything bad did happen to these characters, it all happened off-screen, so it did not allow the audience to enjoy the misery of these terrible people.
Grade: C+ (77pts)
I was mostly impressed by this movie. Knowing that it was a horror anthology, I was concerned that it would feel redundant or would not have ample time to develop each story. This film did a fantastic job at setting up the tapes' characters and situations while maintaining effective horror throughout. I was very entertained during every one of these tapes. The issues with the film, however, all came as a result of the main story that connected these tapes.
The main story consisted of idiotic and unlikable characters, and we did not even get to see bad things happen to them. As a result of a very poorly written connective story, the film had a tough time making the tapes seem relevant. I believe the movie would have been much better off by simply showing the tapes and fading to a black screen (with a title card) to transition into the next tape. I recommend watching this movie for its short stories. They were not amazing, but they were decent horror stories. If you do watch the movie, then I definitely recommend fast forwarding through the main story segments. You may be hopeful that the main story gets better, but I promise you that it does not.