V/H/S (2012)

I finally got around to seeing V/H/S – I knew I wouldn’t get through it in the theater, for the Toronto After Dark Summer Screenings. I don’t deal so well with shakey cam on the big screen.

And now, having seen it, I’m also glad I didn’t stay for it, I would’ve walked out of the theater nauseated and disappointed.

I quite liked the trailer when I first saw it, I like a good anthology series, especially if done right, Tales From The Darkside, Trick’r Treat – I enjoyed both of those a lot.

The film is a collection of five stories and a wrap-around, letting a number of directors take the reins and tell, what one hope would be rather scary tales.

However, thanks to the use of shakey cam, you only get glimpses, more often than not, of something that may be spooky or creepy, but you only get a glance, and because everyone in the movie is freaking out and screaming and running for their lives, the viewer is expected to get caught up in this momentum and think “Ooohh, this is scary!”

But for me it just doesn’t work.

There was no one in these stories, barring the last one, that you care for, or even like. You’re strictly an observer, and being made to be an observer, and nothing more, you don’t have an emotional connection with any of the transitory characters that pass through these stories.

If you’re not connected to them, how can you be worried for them, or scared by things that happen to them…

The wrap-around tale features a group of goofs, who run around vandalizing buildings, and chasing down girls to pull their tops up to film them. Yeah, charmers.

They get an offer for some serious coin to break into a house and steal a videotape.

Inside the house, they find that its occupant is dead, sprawled in an arm chair in front of a bank of televisions and VCRs (that’s a video cassette recorder for those of you unfamiliar with history).

The group, as they do in these movies, decide to split up and seek out the tape, while checking the ones they do find. Its these tapes that compose the anthology part of the film.

The first story features a camera inside a pair of glasses being worn by one of a trio of guys out to record their conquests for the evening. When they learn that one of the lovely ladies they get back to the hotel room is more than just a little odd, things get bloody…

Then there’s the roadtrip that goes south, the only really cool thing in this one, is the fortune teller’s card the girl gets… because it all comes true. Though the more you think about it, the more holes appear in the story… like how long of a game is being played before the roadtrip even takes place?

The lake trip/slasher story is interesting for the fact that even when the killer is on camera, you can’t see him, apparently he emits some kind of electrical interference that blurs his image on camera, and maybe in reality, but you can always tell when he’s around, because the camera starts to go wonky. It’s like Predator but without the story, awesome score and sense of fun.

The last two stories were the ones I was looking forward to most, the webcam story, in which a young woman is sure that her apartment is haunted, and that there is something physically wrong with her – there’s an odd lump in her arm. Her medical student boyfriend offers advice, and support from a distance. She starts waking him in the middle of the night, carting her laptop about her apartmenr, and uses a flashlight, or the flash from her camera to illuminate her rooms. A fun and interesting idea, but when it expands to introduce its mythology, I wanted more, and I wasn’t given any, so it became an exercise in frustration and annoyance for me.

The final story follows a group of guys, on Halloween, so in this case the camera is part of the costume, he’s a Nanny Cam. They’re off to a house party, but on arrival, all they find is an empty house. That right there would be a clue to me that they’re in the wrong place, however, that doesn’t stop these blookes from wandering in and having a look around.

Strange things start to happen, but they think it’s just a Halloween funhouse. You know the kind with no one there at all. There are glimpses of figures, doors open by themselves, grasping hands… And then they realize that oh, maybe it’s not a fun Halloween haunted house, but just your actual haunted house.

This story could have been the best, but once again what with all the shakey-cam and all the ‘techincal difficulties’ caused by the tape, it was another exercise in frustration and disappointment.

I personally hope that we are coming in on the end of the ‘found footage’ ‘shakey-cam’ chapter of horror films, it works occasionally in one-offs, Blair Witch for example, but I didn’t need the deluge of titles that came along.

It’s been overdone, and I’m ready to actually see a horror movie that’s scary again, not from the technical side of things, but from the story side…

What do you hink of the found footage genre? What film would you recommend?

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