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.