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 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.
Published Sept. 21, 2014
If you were spitballing names for the ideal cast for a new grown-up dramedy, you might dream up something closely resembling the roll call for "This Is Where I Leave You." It's an impressive gathering of talented, charismatic performers. Unfortunately, they've been assembled for a less than impressive movie, a trite and tonally bipolar dramedy that doesn't deserve the embarrassment of charming, comedic riches at its disposal.
Published Sept. 19, 2014
It's been a turbulent few years for Aaron Freeman, more commonly known as Gene Ween from the band Ween. After much self-repair, however, the musician is himself again - literally - recording and performing as the lead in his new band, fittingly titled Freeman. The band has a new album, along with a tour stopping at Turner Hall Ballroom. Before then, OnMilwaukee.com chatted with Freeman about the road to recovery, music and himself.
Published Sept. 18, 2014
Character actor David Eigenberg is likely best known for spending multiple seasons and two movies romancing Cynthia Nixon's Miranda Hobbes on the iconic HBO TV show "Sex and the City." Eigenberg's latest television project nowadays, however, is far from high fashion and high living in New York City. Instead of a fiery redhead, Eigenberg now co-stars with actual flames on NBC's "Chicago Fire."
Published Sept. 17, 2014
In 2010, Mark Clements arrived in Milwaukee and, in his first act as artistic director, brought something to the Milwaukee Rep's main stage that oddly it had never seen in its impressive history: a musical. Several years later, Clements has made it a bit of a tradition to feature a musical in the Rep's main house schedule. 2014 is no different and the Powerhouse opens up with "The Color Purple."
Published Sept. 15, 2014
The title of The War on Drugs' latest album is "Lost in the Dream," fitting for a record - and a moment in time - that utterly enveloped front man Adam Granduciel. The band is now taking the final product on the road, including a stop at The Pabst Theater on Sunday, Sept. 21. Before then, Granduciel chatted with OnMilwaukee.com about becoming a real band on the road, the process behind the album and the inner battles that went into it.
Published Sept. 14, 2014
It's hard to imagine there was much clamoring for a sequel to "Dolphin Tale." The first film was a modest early fall success back in 2011, but even then, the story of Winter the dolphin was already fairly thin dramatic material, serving as little more than a nice pleasant aside. Still, somebody thought it was a good idea to head back to the well, and surprisingly - judging from "Dolphin Tale 2" - that person wasn't wrong.
Published Sept. 12, 2014
The Brewers are desperately trying to pull themselves out of a devastating tailspin. Even when they win, they seem to lose - as evidenced by last night's Giancarlo Stanton debacle. Sounds like a good time to get baseball's favorite canine Hank the Dog back in the spotlight!
Published Sept. 10, 2014
The country-tinged rock duo of Phil Leavitt and Joie Calio worked together for years in the band Dada. 7Horse, however, marks a fairly new project for the guys. And there are certainly worse things to put on an early band's resume than being associated with an Oscar-nominated Scorsese film. OnMilwaukee.com got a chance to chat with Leavitt about the band's origins, its Milwaukee connection and getting the rare Scorsese Stamp of Approval.
Published Sept. 9, 2014
For fans of the late '90s, names like the Sugar Ray, "TRL," Surge and Chris Gaines will sound very familiar (OK, maybe not that last one). For local music fans around in the era, another name might sound a little familiar: The Buzzhorn.