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. So they go to this stranger's house to find it abandoned, aside from a dead man sitting in front multiple TVs that are 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. They soon realize that they are not the predators, but they are actually the prey. The second tape tells the story of a young couple on a road trip. They are documenting their trip using a video camera, but they are unaware of a strange girl who enters their motel room in the night as they sleep. The third tape tells the story of a group of young adults who are going on a trip in the woods. When one of the girls starts making ominous comments, a strange figure shows up which aims to kill them all.
The fourth tape tells the story of a couple in the midst of a long distance relationship. They video chat everyday, but the girl becomes the victim of a haunting. The fifth tape tells the story of a group of young men, on Halloween night, who are trying to find a "haunted" house. They soon realize that there is really a malicious supernatural presence within the house. Between each tape viewing, things get increasingly strange in 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 is blood, gore, terror, mystery, etc. This film really does a good job of playing into the terror. It does so by effectively utilizing video recording devices. Each main character (in the tapes) uses a video camera to record the events that transpire. Then, when some characters are 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. That is just one example of how effectively this film utilizes found footage.
Another example is in the second tape (on the couple's road trip), when the strange girl enters the motel room, she uses the video camera. We see our main characters sleeping and completely vulnerable to the dangerous person in their room. This tape really plays into the anticipation and unpredictability of this film. The viewer does not know anything about this girl so has no idea what her intentions are or what she is capable of. The second tape was so effective because it had a very interesting take on a found footage horror story, where segments were filmed from the antagonist's perspective.
These are just a few examples of how effective the horror was in this film. There are haunters, monsters, and slashers. Each tape has a unique tone but the quality of horror is constant throughout the film. This is a very fun horror film to watch.
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 this movie tried to do that, but failed in it's execution. The film opens 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 jumps out of the car, separates the couple, grabs the woman, pulls up her shirt, and records the whole thing to post online.
That is the first scene of the movie and it paints a pretty good picture of the type of men that form the group in the main story. The problem with these characters is that we learn absolutely nothing about them. Do we get names? None that I remember; the main characters are just a group of nameless, faceless characters that we (the viewers) are supposed to be invested in. Would my hatred have paid off if we saw bad things happening to these characters? Absolutely, but we never do. Do bad things happen to some of these characters? Probably, but it is all implied (never shown), so it does not allow the audience to enjoy the misery of these terrible men.
Pro: Horror Anthology (+6pts)
I thought this film did a great job of hitting the unique horror-tone within each VHS tape. There are five stories within this movie and each hits a different type of horror very effectively. We have monsters, ghosts, stalkers, etc. Each story feels very unique but the quality of horror stays 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 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 brief, to the point, and had 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 take place in present day (as far as I know). All stories were recorded using a video camera, or a video chat, which means that the technology within each story was very modern. However, you are telling me, that someone found all of these recorded videos and burned them to individual VHS tapes that look super old? Really? The person who found these videos has not heard of a flash-drive or (gasp) even DVD?
Maybe this seems like I am being overly critical of the film's concept, but "VHS" gives me the impression that these stories took place a long time ago (fifteen to twenty years ago) yet the technology (and the characters) in the stories suggest 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 storing device so I ask you: "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.
Pro: The Tape's Characters (+5pts)
I hated the main characters, and thought the existence of tapes seemed unnecessary, but I really enjoyed most of the characters. I thought the film did a very effective job at setting up the stories within each tape, and this includes the characters. I was not a fan of most of the characters in the first tape, but I do not think viewers are supposed to like them. I did, however, like the main character. He was relatable, which made the film easy to get into. The second tape focused on a couple going on a road trip. I thought this tape did an excellent job at 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 unfortunately the last tape did not do a good job at getting the viewers interested in the characters. Strange things happen in the fifth tape. They happen very quickly and things get very crazy. Unfortunately all of the characters were nameless and faceless which makes it difficult for viewers to care about the events that are 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. This was a result of good stories with interesting characters.
Con: Disconnected (-10pts)
The "plot" of this film is basically a group of rowdy, trouble-making young men who go to a strange house, watch horrific VHS tapes, and then start to disappear one-by-one. That is it. Do we get any character development so that we care about the characters who are disappearing? No, of course not. Do we get to see bad things happen to annoying characters? No, of course not. Basically, when a character is isolated in the room with the VCR, they watch one of the tapes, we watch the tape with them, then (when the tape is over) the character is mysteriously gone.
So all of the five tapes are connected by this main story in which a bunch of nameless and faceless characters (who the viewers will not care about) act like a bunch of idiots, sit down to watch tapes, and disappear. That is the connecting tissue for the rest of the stories and it did not work. A horror anthology, such as this, needs to do use one of the following methods: Have a well written story that connects each of the secondary stories, or fade to a black screen between each story and use that black screen as a title card (and transition) into the next story. This film has a very poorly written connecting story, which results in each of the tapes feeling disconnected and irrelevant. Fortunately, the short stories in each tape were able to stand on their own.
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 all come as a result of the main story.
The main story consists of idiotic and unlikable characters. They get no character development and we do not even get to see bad things happen to them. As a result of very poorly written connective tissue, the film had a tough time making the tapes seem relevant. I believe the film would have been much better of by simply showing the tapes and fading to a black screen (with a title card) to transition into the next tape. I (very honestly) strongly recommend watching this movie for it's short stories, but I definitely recommend fast forwarding through the main story segments. You may think to yourself "Well the main story is bad now, but it may get better." I promise you, it does not.