The found footage genre has become stale, like, bread-in-the-dumpster-behind-the-bakery stale, man.
The Paranormal Activity franchise keeps lazily offering its annual outing, scaring teenagers with oscillating fans and various household appliances. Project X was a hellish cesspool of highschoolers getting hella wasted while dubstep reverberated in the background, destroying the souls of America's youth. And The Devil Inside, the leading candidate for the worst film of the year, took the gimmick and flipped the bird to the entire moviegoing public with an ending that preyed upon our stupidity.
Then along comes V/H/S, a found footage movie about found footage movies that takes the stagnant genre and makes it snort a line of bath salts as big as the Mason-Dixon.
With nine directors and 10 writers, V/H/S is an anthology film that makes Creepshow seem like a G-rated matinee to take your kids to. It's intensely violent. It's genuinely freaky. It has boobs AND wieners. It's the closest thing to being a mainstream snuff film and it doesn't even have distasteful torture porn!
Is it cliché and lazy of me to call this "a game-changer?" Because that's what it is. It's the evolution of found footage movies that pays homage to horror movies of decade's past, capitalizes on CGI lucidity of present and the crazy shit that can't even be intelligibly described yet, of the future. It's destined to become a cult classic that people WILL seek out because people WILL be talking about it after they see it. I've already told three-fourths of my friends about it (four people).
The introductory and linear narrative of V/H/S is about a bunch of gonzo-filmmakers that seem like they're pretty cool because of their ironic facial hair and unkempt appearance. We see that they make their money by going up to a couple in a parking garage, subduing the man and exposing the woman's breasts to the camera. Someone is paying for this footage and assumingly, there is some underground market for tapes like this, perhaps weird old men who've never heard of porn, the Internet or Internet porn.
One of their friends proposes a bigger score; break into a house and steal a VHS tape for an anonymous source. Seems simple enough, right? LOL! As they scour the house, looking for a VHS tape that's only described as "you'll know it when you see it," they come across a room with a dead man in a recliner. In front of him is several TV's with dead air, a VCR and VHS tapes that one of the guys begins to watch.
- Three drunk dudes who take home a very strange girl
- A couple vacationing in Arizona that gets their fortune told
- Four 20-somethings who venture to the woods
- A webcam conversation between a troubled girl and her boyfriend
- Bros going to a Halloween party in 1998
Although some of the vignettes are uneven and lull compared to its predecessors (I still don't know WTF was going on during that video chat), I liked these tight and concise pieces more than any exorcist/supernatural/paranormal/satanic -fueled movies in the genre. In 15 minutes, these filmmakers accomplish -- artistically and in moments of terror and intensity -- what most found footage movies can't in an hour and a half. They all play with varying levels of horror and violence and in some strange-but-fantastic-smelling potpourri; it's executed impressively.
My favorite segment was director Ti West's Second Honeymoon. West, who has been on fire with The House of the Devil and The Inkeepers, has a keen sense for meticulously and strategically building tension before the big reveal. The running commentary in my head was "OK.. OK... Arizona looks beautiful... OK... That's cute... HOLY SHIT, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?" followed by me staring blankly trying to emotionally recuperate. His characters, a seemingly normal and totally in-love couple doing touristy things, are so pure and unadulterated. It feels all too real and voyeuristic -- from the way they call each other "babe," to the coaxing of sex to the inside joke-like couplespeak. Are there Oscars for shorts in anthology horror movies? Someone get on that.
If this was 15 years ago, V/H/S would be one of those movies I'd discover through my dial-up Internet connection. I'd carefully order it on pay-per-view in the middle of the night and when my mom got the bill later that month; I'd play dumb saying "Mom, I was sleeping! I couldn't have ordered that movie!" I'd tell all my friends how radical a movie this movie was and how there was lots of boobs and blood and how they should craft a similar master plan to seek this movie out. I'd tell them that it didn't scare me to seem cool.
Later than night, I'd wake up screaming, imagining a succubus demon was eating my insides.
Actually, that scenario will still probably happen, except now, I'm the one footing the bill.
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