V/H/S…O/M/G!

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Like most movie-goers, I enjoy watching trailers for upcoming films. How else can you make a two-minute decision on whether a movie is worthy of a trip to the theater, a wait for home video, or an all around SKIP? Yes, movie previews/trailers can be a mixed blessing. Like the ones that don’t just feel the need to tell us what a movie is about, but also feel the need to give away key scenes and plot points (which I promise I won’t do in this review).

Then there are those rare movie campaigns that, ever since the dawn of the Internet, manage to generate lots of interest minus much of a trailer at all. I remember the fervor revolving around CLOVERFIELD which had us giant monster fans going wild over a single image of a trashed Statue of Liberty; inspiring visions of a new Godzilla franchise to dance in our fanboy heads. Or  SNAKES ON A PLANE which lit the Internet up with scenes of Samuel L. Jackson at his cocky-best dealing with…uh..snakes on a plane. Okay, not much mystery for that one but the buzz still had unlikely viewers anticipating a cheesy, yet humorous rendition of what they could otherwise watch for free on the Scy Fy Channel.

Now we have V/H/S, another film that garnered a lot of early interest on the social media circuit. At a glance, it appeared to be just another Point of View film (like the aforementioned CLOVERFIELD) which I have personally grown weary of. Regardless, V/H/S had plenty to offer.

This film takes the POV genre and cleverly ties it in with one of horror’s rarest features; the anthology film. It opens with a group of punks who enjoy getting together and videotaping themselves vandalizing property and assaulting women. Though revealed that their nasty footage ends up anonymously online, their main objective is just to have some raucous/illegal fun. Somehow, despite their anonymity,  they are hired by someone who admires their work to break into an old man’s house and steal a VHS tape. Given no description, they are simply told that they’ll “know it’s the right one when they see it.”

Their illegal entry gains them access to an old, dark house and its (apparently) dead owner. The old man is seated lifeless in front of a slew of TV monitors and an old VHS player. While the group splits up (which horror fans know is always the best thing to do in such circumstances) searching the house, each takes his turn checking the tape already sitting in the player a.k.a. America’s most Frightening Home Videos!

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Five gruesome tales are revealed, each completely unique. The first short, “Amateur Night” deals with three friends who purchase a pair of “spy” glasses intent on recording their escapades with women. They head to a local club and pick a pair of random gals – one of which stares wide-eyes and mutters barely intelligible sentences. No matter, it wasn’t her conversation the boys were looking for anyway, as she joins them for a private party in their hotel room. Unfortunately, things don’t end up quite the way they anticipated and she is much more than what she appears. This tale, right off the bat, takes the POV genre to new graphic heights (or lows depending on your own POV) with plenty of blood and nudity; not something most films in this category show.

Second Honeymoon” is also the second story, depicting a happy vacationing couple that find themselves at the peril of an unwanted motel visitor. This one sort of reminded me of THE STRANGERS but with an even more diabolical twist! One theme all of these shorts seem to share is that things (and people) are not always what they appear to be.

Tuesday the 17th” features a group of young people heading over to the woods for a good time. It’s far from the ideal choice for recreation as this locale has some bad history and an even darker secret. I give this short a lot of props for taking a familiar and worn out horror theme and giving it a fresh twist.

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Skyping was bound to turn sinister and the fourth short in this picture, “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger,” does it with panache.  Emily is having a rough time in her new apartment with strange sightings she can only interpret as ghosts and an unusual physical ailments. Thankfully, she has her dutiful pre-med boyfriend to chat with online and help her make sense of things!

The final story, “10/31/98,” shows a group of young guys headed to a Halloween party. They arrive at a seemingly empty house while assuming that some of the unusual happenings that immediately take place are all part of festivities. They soon discover that this place is anything but a fun house as they desperately try and escape.

While this film isn’t for everyone, I did enjoy it. This despite the fact that I’m really sick of POV films (sorry folks, there will be no upcoming review of the new PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 as I’d rather drink bleach than go see it).  Movies depicting “found footage” usually have abrupt endings which don’t always sit well with folks once, let alone six times, but that’s the nature of the beast. As with most entries in this genre, viewers who suffer from motion sickness will absolutely be wise to take their Dramamine before buying their ticket. Aside from that, this one does a great job of taking a tired film technique and giving a fresh coat of blood, red paint.

Dave Fuentes~

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