I remember the ancient days of the VHS tape. Before we received the glorious creation of the DVD – as well as his malformed older cousin, the Laserdisc – I remember popping in my "The Empire Strikes Back" tape, sitting back and trying to see the movie through the unbearable lines of static that never seemed to disappear.
Now comes "V/H/S," a found footage horror movie at its most authentically ugly, which is commendable to a certain extent. It's shot to bring back grainy memories of the VCR, but unfortunately, with low-quality video comes just another low-quality horror flick.
The film presents a collection of five short horror movies, directed by some of the genre's most up-and-coming directors. They're held together by a frame story about a bunch of obnoxious bros who, in between sexually assaulting random women on the street and ransacking people's homes, are looking in an old man's house for a certain tape. The segment doesn't provide many thrills until the very end, and until then, you have to put up with a lot of unpleasant behavior and static-filled shaky cam. So, essentially the worst parts of any found footage movie.
David Bruckner directs the first short, entitled "Amateur Night," about three equally distasteful bros going for a night on the town that goes horribly wrong when they bring a succubus back home with them (a reoccurring theme in the film is women are not to be trusted). It's one of the more successful parts of "V/H/S," building as much creature-related tension as it can with its limited running time.
"Second Honeymoon" comes next via director Ti West, who's built himself a nice cult following with "The House of the Devil" and "The Innkeepers." This short, however, won't win his cult many new members. The twist at the end is nice, but for the most part, it's just watching a couple's rather uninteresting trip out west.
The third short, directed by Glenn McQuaid, follows a band of college students into the woods, and – get this – bad things start happening. It has some good elements, including a pixilated killer, the requisite gore and a nifty mid-movie twist, but once again, it's hindered by the time it's allowed. Its relatively dense story needed a bit more time to get developed and fleshed out.
"The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger," directed by mumblecore director Joe Swanberg, is just as clumsy as its title. Though it has some ghoulish scares, the story doesn't make much sense (it needs more time, as usual), and the dialogue is pretty awkward. Plus, it's filmed via Skype, so it doesn't even fit the theme – unless the theme was looking bad, which in that case, the computer glitches fit in perfectly with the other segments' grainy static.
The anthology smartly ends with its best segment, "10/31/98," directed by the quartet known as Radio Silence. It's a standard setup – bros looking for a party end up in a haunted house – with dumb characters, but the short builds solid tension in its limited time and delivers with a hectic barrage of creepiness. Out of all of the film's shorts, it's the only one to provide fun jolts throughout instead of just waiting until the end.
With Halloween coming up around the bend, there are admittedly worse horror movies one could choose. However, considering the number of talented writers and directors behind "V/H/S," it's disappointing to discover more turned out to be less. It's just one more stake in the heart of the seemingly undying menace known as found footage.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published July 22, 2014
"The Purge: Anarchy" finds DeMonaco coming closer to turning a good premise into an actually good movie. The sequel still feels like a missed opportunity for something smarter, sharper and just overall better, but hey, at least he made a decent horror thriller this time.
Published July 22, 2014
In addition to the successful rotation of the Oriental, the Downer and the Fox Bay movie theaters, the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival has recruited the Times Cinema to its Avengers team of old school Milwaukee movie houses.
Published July 21, 2014
Thankfully, "Fire and Rescue" is a step above its predecessor, if only because the movie was actually made for big screen consumption this time. Gone is the stiff, antiseptic joylessness of the first film, now upgraded to mere bland competence. If "Planes" was like eating cardboard, "Fire and Rescue" is slightly more digestible cardboard. So progress?
Published July 19, 2014
All musicians create new music. Even the most derivative Top 40 hit features a new combination of notes and lyrics. Very few, however, can claim to have come up with a whole new genre of sound. Chicago blues extraordinaire Corky Siegel is one of those few.
Published July 17, 2014
As a fan rooting for Argentina in the World Cup, last weekend was likely a little rough for Italian crooner Patrizio Buanne. This upcoming weekend, however, is shaping up much more nicely with two headlining performances set for Festa Italiana.
Published July 15, 2014
Today marked the kickoff of the Greater Together Challenge, a competition launched to create awareness, hope and ideas to dismantle segregation, as well as address racial and economic inequality in greater Milwaukee.
Published July 15, 2014
Even though it's not even 30 years old, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical retelling of "The Phantom of the Opera" has turned into a truly iconic story, one whose elements are ingrained in the memory even if you haven't seen it. So to tinker around with the show is a bold idea. But that's exactly the case with the upcoming production of the show coming to the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
Published July 15, 2014
Milwaukee music fans - and fans of good music just in general - have been waiting since 2012 for news of a new record from Field Report and frontman Chris Porterfield. Well, wait no longer. Last month, Porterfield and company announced the name ("Marigolden") and release date for a sophomore album, and the good news keeps coming, as yesterday the band unveiled "Wings," the first track off the anticipated record.
Published July 12, 2014
It only makes sense that, after seven years and a few projects reaching no further past his home country's shores, John Carney would want to see if the magic of "Once" could happen twice with "Begin Again." His attempt at an encore comes cleaned up of the original's homemade, lo-fi authenticity and complete with a new starry sheen. The heart and charm are still there, though.
Published July 9, 2014
Some families are all redheads or wear glasses. Some are all athletes or outdoors folk. Some pass down their noses, ears, eye color or a particular laugh. In the case of the Wayans family, a flair for the showbiz spotlight is their special trait that seems to be the dominant gene.