V/H/S Breathes New Life into Found Footage

Utter the words “found footage” around most moviegoers and you’re liable to elicit rolled eyes, followed by “Found footage… again?” Filmmakers have gone back to that well so many times at least since The Blair Witch Project that there’s little that can be said or done with the format. Or so it seemed, until an army of indie horror heroes took on found footage to create V/H/S.

V/H/S revolves around a gang of foul, misogynistic knuckleheads who break into a home to retrieve a VHS tape they’ve been hired to find. While searching for the tape, they unearth several VHS tapes, each possessing its own grisly tale. In other words, it’s an anthology horror, a throwback to British classics and even the American upsurge in the 1980s. Amongst the directors of the individual vignettes: Ti West (House of the Devil; The Innkeepers); David Bruckner (The Signal); Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead); and Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die). It’s a who’s who of talented young horror directors.

What they created is a buffet of horror, with a little something for everyone. It features revenge, monsters, ghosts, haunted houses, gore, suspense, mystery, and even a healthy dollop of humor. Like all horror anthologies, the beauty is that if you don’t like a segment, stick around for a few minutes because there’s a good chance you’ll like the next.

V/H/S separates itself from the found footage pack in a variety of ways. To my knowledge, there’s never been an anthology of found footage. And they found an interesting, unique wraparound to tie everything up- the thieves. Admittedly, the wraparound is the weakest of the vignettes, but that’s standard in an anthology. Many of the filmmakers for the individual vignettes worked hard to find new ways to present found footage. One features a Skype-style video chat, another uses a nanny cam, and still another employs “some spy shit”- a camera inside a pair of glasses. It enabled them to explore the format in a way that made it seem fresh.

Most importantly, the individual segments have fun playing with horror conventions. There are so many times where your history with horror will tell you to expect something, and the filmmakers hit you with something else altogether (keep an eye out for a fun-filled toothbrush). One of the vignettes is even called “Tuesday the 17th” and winks at the fact that audiences fall for the slasher genre, and its tropes, again and again. For all of the gore, there was really only one time where I felt it crossed a line, in “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger”. And while the misogyny throughout is sure to turn some people off, I assure you there is plenty of comeuppance.

Essentially, V/H/S is an anthology where a lot of very talented filmmakers got together, put their love of the horror genre on display, and twisted it just a little bit to give it a fresh take. It’s a horror lover’s horror film, one that illustrates a bright future for the genre thanks to some very creative minds.

12 Comments

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12 responses to “V/H/S Breathes New Life into Found Footage

  1. I wasn’t really interested in this, but after reading your post I’ll definitely give it a shot. Great article.

  2. aleksa

    The anthology thing can be dicey, but it worked with Trick R Treat, so I’ll check it out.

  3. Victor De Leon

    I’ve had this one lined up to watch. After the last 3 Found Footage movies I reviewed on my blog, I need to see a decent entry if I ever want to watch movies of this (sub)genre again. Thanks for the review!

    • Now I’m curious- what were your last three? I hope I didn’t lead you astray here. I see it’s getting somewhat mixed reviews, although the first wave from the festivals were very positive.

      • Victor De Leon

        VHS looks promising I must say. But the last 3 that I did, The Lost Coast Tapes, The Dinosaur Project and A Night in the Woods left a bad taste in mouth.

        • Hmmm, I haven’t heard of those. I’m not sure if I’m intrigued or not.

          If you’re on Twitter, I’ve found a handful of sources that have never led me astray- Peter S. Hall, Scott Weinberg, and Eric Snider come to mind. Snider is less genre-specific than the other two but he definitely gets his horror recs in from time to time. Weinberg writes for Fear.net and Hall started Horror’s Not Dead. He’s since moved on, with only marginal involvement in HND, but he never forgets his roots.

          And of course, Goregirl’s Dungeon is a total treasure trove. You won’t find another writer who loves horror as much.

          http://goregirl.wordpress.com/

          • Victor De Leon

            Oh wow! Cool. Yes, I am on Twitter. I’ll look them up for sure. I write Sci Fi reviews for HorrorNews.net myself. http://horrornews.net/author/victor-de-leon/
            Thanks for the info, bro!

            • This is great. I’ve been to that site quite a few times trolling for good movies to watch. I had no idea.

              Do I follow you and not know it? Because I’ll be totally embarrassed by that fact. And if not, what’s your handle?

              I also find the younger directors and actors to be great follows if only because you’ll catch white noise from what they’re talking about regarding their projects. AJ Bowen, Ti West, etc…

              • Victor De Leon

                my handle is @vicjd1 and my blog’s Twitter page is @vicjd67 I agree about following younger movie makers and actors. They always have some cool things to divulge about projects, pitch meetings and such. I follow Duncan Jones, Ti West and some others. Gotta look up AJ. Also Gareth Edwards who is attached to the new Godzilla film. Thanks again.

  4. Pingback: Glenn McQuaid talks about V/H/S and making a new style of slasher [INTERVIEW] | The Wolfman Cometh

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