It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good horror movie that deserved a review here on Pandora’s Pen… and it looks like I’ll be waiting longer still for a worthy contender. In the meantime, let’s have a look (and maybe a laugh) at 2012’s flop of a found-footage feature, V/H/S.
I wanted to like this movie, and there were certainly some cool aspects of it, but overall it just didn’t gel. The premise is simple: some guys get hired to break into a house and steal a rare VHS tape. Yet the simple storyline got unnecessarily convoluted by the other storylines weaving their way through the main one.
What happens in the movie involves these guys watching the found footage on the VHS they’re looking for, but what the audience sees is a bunch of seemingly random vignettes hastily taped together around the framework of the thieves, which, because it is also shot with a handheld camera, doesn’t stand out at all as the frame of the movie. They don’t make it clear when we’re seeing the tapes that these boys are watching vs. tapes that the boys are taping themselves. The confusion with this storyline caused the bulk of this viewer’s disappointment. The other disappointing factors involved the moviemaker’s apparent infatuation with sex and nudity.
Obviously, sex and nudity happen in horror movies. It’s just a thing. But when there are boobs thrown at you in virtually every scene, as well as the almost-gang-rape scene (which thankfully ended with the girl transforming into a monster and devouring the men), it just gets annoying. Couple that with the terrible dialogue, and you might think this movie was written by a couple of horny teenage boys.
But onto the better parts: some of the effects were done surprisingly well, which was actually helped by the VHS-quality of the footage. Though it got annoying to watch an entire movie in such low quality (in this age of BluRay and HD), this did allow for some spooky moments… like the guy who you can’t ever fully see in the tape because it gets pixilated around him. Kudos to them for realizing what you can’t see is often scarier than what you can!
The girl from the scene-that-was-almost-a-gang-rape also turned out to be pretty creepy. Her voice, even before we knew she was a monster, was messed up on the tape, and when she revealed herself… well, she looked like this:
Not sure why she was split down the middle, but it definitely gave her an otherworldly creepiness that saved the scene.
The other found footage ranges from equally creepy to stupid, but you can tell from the hints of atmosphere and the way the filmmakers used the found footage trope that this movie had the potential for greatness. Had it lived up to that potential, it could have been 2012’s sleeper hit and a downright scary movie to boot. Instead, the shoddy splicing of the tapes, the poor dialogue, and the unclear framework crumbled the movie from an original creep-fest to just another mediocre addition to the found-film genre. Alas.
Story concept: 9 out of 10 creepy VHS tapes
Execution of plot: 5 out of 10 creepy VHS tapes
Script: 4 out of 10 creepy VHS tapes
Acting: 5 out of 10 creepy VHS tapes
Cinematography and visuals: 8 out of 10 creepy VHS tapes
Music and atmospheric sound effects: 6 out of 10 creepy VHS tapes
Scare factor: 7 out of 10 creepy VHS tapes
Overall: 6 out of 10 creepy VHS tapes
Don’t just take my word for it! If you want to come to your own conclusions about the movie, go watch V/H/S for yourself right here!