Wednesday, January 30, 2013

REVIEW: V/H/S (2012)

Found footage movies are really something these days – pretty much, they’ve morphed into their own genre. With Blair Witch Project being a cultural phenomenon but in actuality a boring, dull movie, and its next-generation spawn Paranormal Activity being along the same lines, it’s surprising that the genre has produced such good works in other, less known capacities. First there was [REC], and then Grave Encounters, and now this, perhaps the best of them all. Ladies and gents, I am talking about V/H/S.

Directors: Various
Starring: Video tapes, static, annoying douchebag criminals, cameras

Aside from being annoying to type out because of those dashes in the title – WHITE PEOPLE PROBLEMS! – this is one of the best horror movies of recent times, with strong directing, strong writing and a hell of an intuition to scare its audience. V/H/S is just totally Satanic, gleeful fun, and while I could just espouse more words to tell you how awesome it is, it’d be more fun to just watch the thing again and take you all on a tour…OF HELL!

So we start off with some assholes…being assholes. They go around and lift up girls’ shirts and get paid for it on the Internet. What a bunch of wastes of air. They get hired to go into this house and steal a video tape, and they get mad when it’s not in the cupboard in the kitchen, which is obviously the first place to look for a video tape:

"I always keep video tapes in the cupboard! It's not weird!!!"

Then they come across a dead guy in a chair surrounded by video tapes, and they decide to sit down and watch the videos, because that’s a good idea. Don’t these morons get enough cash from their, ahem, titillating videos online that they wouldn’t need to do a job where a dead guy is sitting around? I guess not.

Anyway, we then get the first story, told rather brilliantly from a camera embedded in a pair of glasses. It’s about a bunch of idiots going out to pick up chicks at a bar. They’re driving along and they talk about how much they really want to talk to some girls tonight. That’s right – talk to them. Not have sex with them, or even make out with them…talk to them. Conversation, ohhhhh yeah…that’s some steamy stuff going on there!

They get kicked out eventually and go back to their hotel room with two girls, one of whom looks like Emma Stone and the other like an anorexic Helena Bonham Carter on meth. At least we can’t say they don’t try to get some variety…instead of just filming these girls for an Internet show, though, they try to have sex with them! Except one of them, the Emma Stone chick, just passes out. The other one turns into a vampire and devours them all! Always a mood killer when you’re trying to get laid.

Well, you can't deny, they got what they came for...and a whole lot more...

The main guy runs out and tries to get help, but gets mauled by the crazy vampire chick, who now looks like she spent waaaay too much time at a GWAR concert:

Then the guy tries to run outside after the girl starts weeping in the corner, and tries to get help. For some reason, nobody does. So he runs across the pavement and the vampire chick flies out and grabs him, presumably taking him off to have a nice, ahem, conversation somewhere…and that’s the end of the story.

And it was awesome. This story perfectly captured the feel of a loud, claustrophobic, intoxicated night, and the characters, silly and immature as they were, got what was coming to them for it. The acting was great and the snappy, aggressive pacing just went straight for the throat. How can any fan of horror argue with stuff like this? And, hell, this wasn’t even the best story V/H/S has to offer…let us continue our journey into the strange, depraved recesses that V/H/S wants to show us.

The second story is set in Arizona! We follow a likable young woman and her likable fiancé as they go on a road trip through Arizona, hitting all the tourist destinations like the Grand Canyon as well as the Old Wild West. Most of the story, though, is set in their motel room. Hmm, a horror story that builds atmosphere with likable, realistic characters and a slow pace? Why does that sound familiar…

That’s right, it’s a Ti West story. So expect lots of semi-cutesy romantic moments broken up with realistic couple bantering and lots of petty drama, before the eventual payoff of a great horror twist at the end. Fortunately…I really like this formula, and this might be my favorite Ti West directed film yet, actually. The setting is cool and the characters are really well done, being simple enough to work in a short film setting, but still with enough layers and hints of depth to make them interesting to watch. The pace is excellent, and shows Ti West is really getting a style down, with a hell of an attention to detail and atmosphere. The acting is also very well done.

The end of the story comes so fast you barely even see it coming – basically what happens is, the mysterious stranger who showed up at the couples’ door the previous night comes back and slits the guy’s throat. The girl, as it so happens, was conspiring with this mysterious stranger, who apparently she had a relationship with in the past. The story ends with her saying, frantic and rushed, “Did you get rid of [the video]?”

"Did you make sure to show the audience that shocking footage to explain everything? Good."

That is friggin’ cool, and a twist nobody would have seen coming. Hats off – this might be my favorite story in the compilation, but there are still more to come!

The next story is about some kids going out to a cabin in the woods to reenact a Friday the 13th film. How retro of them. The group consists of a kinda normal guy, a kinda normal girl, a slutty girl and a nerdy guy. Never seen that combination before, have you? Fortunately, like everything else in V/H/S this is actually done competently, with some really good actors who make the characters work. They’re not that likable or anything, but they’re realistic, and they pretty much get the job done.

They go out in the woods and do the things that dumb kids always do in movies like this – they jump in the water naked and smoke pot for about two seconds. In true 80s fashion, the one nerdy guy even goes on a whole anti-drug rant that’s frankly pretty hilarious. But the odd thing is that the one normal girl, who drove them all there, keeps stopping them to look at places where she says her friends got hurt. And at one point, while everyone else is walking ahead, she turns around and actually says, “You’re all gonna fuckin’ die out here!”

Pretty odd thing to say…especially if she’s trying to make sure they DON’T get suspicious. And who wouldn’t, when in the forest lies a red-faced man who is invisible except through the glitches in a video camera?!

When you see'll see it...

That’s a frigging AWESOME concept. And the movie does well by it, as we see everyone get killed off bloodily and in true slasher horror fashion, probably the best slasher stuff since Hatchet, easily. Gleefully, bloodily evil and lewd. The one surviving girl sets up traps for him, and it appears she catches him…

…but then we get backhanded by one of the most cold, brutal endings in a horror film lately. Just chilling.

Oh, the next story is really something…this one is about a couple who live far away from each other and chat via webcam all the time. The guy looks bored all the time and the girl is, well…a complete idiot, for reasons you’re about to see. It’s revealed that there’s a weird bruise on the girl’s arm, and that she sometimes hears ghosts in her apartment. The guy reacts to this with a perfect monotone expression:

"Hmm...round, symmetrical and proportionate. Your boobs get an 8.5/10."

Amazing how invested he is!

We find out that apparently, rather than going to a hospital, this girl responds to a weird bruise on her arm by cutting into her arm with a knife:

Isn’t that just perfectly sane? No, really. I’m convinced now – this chick is just nuts. She clearly needs to be admitted to a mental hospital. That vacant, bright eyed look in her eyes while she’s holding up the knife is just scary more than anything; even scarier than the ghost in this story! God damn, is this nuts. And, what, her plan is to close her eyes, carry her laptop around and have the boyfriend tell her if he sees a ghost, so SHE can talk to it and “find out if it wants her to find its body or something,” as she puts it? That’s so stupid you could see it from space. I love that bit about finding out if the ghost wants her to find its body. That’s just a great mental picture, isn’t it? “The adventure of the crazy knife-wielding webcam girl to find the ghost’s body! Starring Lindsay Lohan.”

OK, OK, so she goes and hunts some ghosts until one of them shines a bright Men in Black-esque light in her face, and then she passes out. It’s revealed that apparently, the boyfriend was in the same building the whole time, as he comes down and cuts a strange fetus-like alien out of her – what a nice guy!

So, what, these two NEVER ran into one another outside, if he really lived that close? I don’t buy that. There was never any instance in their conversation where it seemed implausible or unlikely that the boyfriend was far away? Boy, the levels of total implausibility are just stunning me!

And, what, that stupid ghost is like, his sidekick or something? That’s hilarious. The magical abortion doctor, who travels the world with his ghost buddies and his trusty webcam, ready to save the women of the world from demonic babies AAAAAAAAND getting to see their tits as a bonus!

"Now now, move your arm or I won't be able to judge for the boob judging contest! Because I'm a creep-o!"

That’s right. He’s just a pervert this whole time. That’s the big plot twist with this story – the guy has more than one girl he’s doing this to. Well, we should praise this individual for standing up for our right to…to have abortions? No. Definitely not going there. Next story!

The last story is about a bunch of guys on Halloween, and with costumes like this:

…you know it’s gonna be good!

They go to some haunted house party and find that they truly know how to pick ‘em when the whole house is totally empty and vacant of anyone at all. They wander around for a bit and goof off, and it’s all pretty well and good, until they find a cult in the basement trying to sacrifice some poor girl tied between two poles, like King Kong replicated in a suburban basement. Only instead of a giant ape, these guys are trying to appease a house full of angry ghosts!

The Attack of the Killer month on SyFy!

They escape, taking the girl with them, only she turns out to be a bad omen when she lures the angry spirits right to them! They stop on some train tracks and, even though the guy driving tries his best, they end up stuck and a train runs them over. And the other guys in the car all die thinking that their buddy driving was actually a murderous asshole trying to kill them all by not moving out of the way of a moving train.

"Can I take a moment of your time to talk about Our Lord and Savior?"


So that’s V/H/S, and boy, is it awesome – this has got to be the best horror movie of 2012, and maybe of 2011 as well. I especially love how creative this is in delivering its stories. Far from just giving us pandering jump scare moments, this invents clever new ways to shoe in a camera to tell the story every time. The first story had that kid with the camera in his glasses, the second was a couple taking a vacation and filming it, in the third, you could only see the killer if you had a camera, the fourth had webcams and the fifth had a camera built into the guy’s Halloween costume.

Those are all really good, inventive ways to tell a horror story, and after all, we do live in the age where horror is about firsthand experience, about imagining the fear literally through another person’s eyes rather than a detached view like the classic stories. There have been bumps on the road, but with fierce conviction, excellent acting and creative storytelling, V/H/S has delivered a bloody, screaming good time of a horror movie. Go see it.

Images used here are not mine, they are copyright of their original owners.