Limited Edition VHS Format
V/H/S is a point of view, found-footage horror film from the perspective of America's top genre filmmakers. In V/H/S, a group of misfits are hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house in the countryside and acquire a rare tape. Upon searching the house, the guys are confronted with a dead body, a hub of old televisions and an endless supply of cryptic footage, each video stranger and more inexplicably terrifying than the last...
Few cinematic innovations have flamed out as rapidly as the found-footage horror film, with the genuine high points (The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, [REC]) quickly drowned out by scads of imitators mainly intent on cutting their budgets by ditching the tripods. Boasting an impressive assortment of low-budget creative talent, the unusually overt first-person compilation V/H/S avoids the majority of the genre's duplication errors, cannily utilizing the anthology format to quickly get to the good stuff. Director Adam Wingard (You're Next) gets things rolling with a framing device involving a home-invasion crew discovering a cache of mysterious videotapes, segueing into the five other vignettes. David Bruckner, one of the three filmmakers behind The Signal, brings a primo EC Comics feel to his segment, a cautionary hookup tale for the reality-TV generation. Next up is slow-burn specialist Ti West (House of the Devil), who contributes a romantic travelogue gone extremely wrong, with an ironic resolution that might have even jaded gorehounds wincing a bit. Glenn McQuaid, whose previous film I Sell the Dead sported a sly gallows humor, unfortunately follows with the only real dud of the bunch, a spoofy maniac-in-the-woods effort that boasts a cool monster, but little else that resonates. Thankfully, director Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs) gets things back on the good foot with his ingeniously low-tech segment, a haunted apartment saga told entirely via Skype. Effective as the majority of its parts are, though, V/H/S ultimately proves to be saving its best for last, via a writing/directing collective known as Radio Silence, who deliver a Halloween story that goes wonderfully for broke. Packing creaks and groans into its scant running time at a rate that shames most modern creature features, it serves as an outstanding example of both the high and low registers of the genre. While found footage may not be the future of horror as was once proclaimed, this combo pack shows that there's still some life in them bones. --Andrew Wright