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 Oct. 1, 2014
The Milwaukee Rep's latest production, the drama "after all the terrible things that I do," deals with some of today's most difficult and challenging modern conversations, ones as a society people are still parsing through - or maybe trying to avoid. Yet that's not what scares the show's lead actors, Mark Junek and Sophia Skiles, going into the show's opening.
Published Sept. 30, 2014
Almost all of the animals in the animal kingdom have the people's care, appreciation and respect ... except bugs. They are annoyances, they are pests and we have no problem brutally murdering them for trespassing on our territory. We have vegetarians and vegans, but very few coming to defend the rights and dignity of little multi-legged critters. Consider writer-director Eric Gerber, the writer-director behind "Pester," one of those very few.
Published Sept. 29, 2014
No matter how much you try to dodge or avoid or fend it off, age comes for us all. But what if it ... didn't? That's the obvious yet unanswerable essential question driving Bill Andrews and Aubrey de Gray, the two scientists at the center of "The Immortalists," the thoroughly compelling new doc currently showing at the Milwaukee Film Festival.
Published Sept. 29, 2014
After working in cheap reality TV for years - including an MTV show called "That '70s House," essentially "Big Brother" or "The Real World" clad in hippie garb - Marquez decided he needed a break from reality TV and wanted to dip his toes into something completely different: actual reality. A decade later, the result is "Psychopath."
Published Sept. 27, 2014
Before his keynote state of cinema lecture at the Colectivo on Prospect today at noon, OnMilwaukee.com got a chance to chat with Wesley Morris - Pulitzer Prize winning film critic and 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival tribute - and pick his brain about his movie memories and - what else - the state of cinema.
Published Sept. 26, 2014
There's something charmingly retro about the tools of the thieving trade on display in "1971," Johanna Hamilton's new documentary that opened the Milwaukee Film Festival last night. However, those tools, plus maybe a few pairs of oversized glasses and some playful period protest cheekiness, are the only things that feel dated about the thrilling, all too timely story "1971" comes to tell.
Published Sept. 26, 2014
Before "Winter's Bone," Jennifer Lawrence was an aspiring actress with a couple of little-seen indie credits and a running TV gig on "The Bill Engvall Show." After "Winter's Bone," she was one of the hottest names in the business. Of course, much of that is because Lawrence is a talented actress, but on some level, she has writer-director Debra Granik to thank.
Published Sept. 24, 2014
A story about concerned citizens stealing FBI info gathered in ethically dubious ways sounds ripped from today's headlines. This particular story, however, doesn't take place now but over 40 years ago, and instead of Edward Snowden's name in middle of the debate, it was a small group of activists called the Citizens' Commission. This all too relevant moment takes center stage in "1971," the Milwaukee Film Festival's opening night selection.
Published Sept. 23, 2014
"The Maze Runner" is a fairly impressive feat: It feels fresh, edgy and exciting - despite the fact that, as the 47th YA adaptation in the last month (a rough estimate), it absolutely shouldn't.
Published Sept. 22, 2014
Cory Chisel currently calls Nashville home, but the folk country Americana rock band leader certainly hasn't cut ties with Wisconsin, the state that he called home for many years before hitting the road and making it big.