I guess it was only a matter of time before the found footage horror craze did the horror anthology thing, and the thought of that did sort of have me doing the happy dance. While the found footage (aka shaky cam) format is getting to be a bit overdone, I’ve always sort of been a fan of it. That is, when those kinds of movies are done well. The same can be said for great horror anthology movies, like Creepshow, and horrible horror anthologies, such as the dreadful Creepshow 3. Then there is the VHS angle this film teased with its title. As a child of the ’80s, I grew up on a steady diet of horror flicks rented from my local mom and pop video store. Those were great times to be a young horrorhead and this movie seemed to be waving the nostalgia flag high. So yeah, this flick seemed tailor made for me, and because of that, I was worried. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I went in to a movie with my hopes up and left with those same hopes dashed to bits. Was this going to be one of those times?
Well a little bit yes, but thankfully more of no. And by that I mean most of the short films in this anthology made it over the good enough bar, but there were a few that fell way short. So while V/H/S is an uneven collection, it was a mostly entertaining one. But enough with the generalities, let’s get to the specifics.
Anthologies like this usually have a wraparound story that binds all the other stories together and the one for V/H/S is “Tape 56” staring a group of total douchebags who get their ya-yas off by videotaping themselves committing vandalism, assaults on women, breaking and entering, and other crimes. Yep, these are our heroes, ladies and gentlemen. Well these idiots are hired by some unknown person to break into a house and steal a VHS tape that they’ll “know when they see it.” Unfortunately when they get to the house they find dozens of VHS tapes, so they start watching them to find the right one. And that’s our thread that binds all these stories together. As its own story, it’s a bit threadbare and populated with the most insufferable jackasses you’ve ever seen, but it does the job of ushering in each story well enough.
The first real short is “Amateur Night” and it is easily the best of the bunch here. Unfortunately it too stars complete and utter douchebags (dear lord I hope this is not a trend). The hook behind this story is three guys look to make their own secret porno movie with the help of a spy camera that looks like a pair of glasses and some unknowing girls they pick up at a bar. Despite the three guys that just ooze slime (so I guess in that respect the actors do their job well) this is a great bloody bit of fun with a satisfying and sound ending.
Sadly the same cannot be said for the next movie, “Second Honeymoon.” While the characters here, a man and wife videotaping their vacation through the American southwest, are not total scumbags, this movie was dull as dishwater and just about as scary. It also has more than a few parts in it that make no sense and will have you saying, “Now why did they just do that?” This one is a tie for the worst of the bunch award, so let’s move on quickly…
…to the other worst on the bunch candidate. Yes, two stinkers back to back. It was at this point that I gave some serious thought to turning this movie off, but I persevered and pushed through this stinkfest. Yep, that’s why I’m a professional. Anyway, this one is called “Tuesday the 17th” (Ha, get it?) and with that title you could guess what it’s all about. Sadly it’s as flat as week old root beer and just about as enjoyable. Oh and it also has a return of the completely reprehensible and totally unlikable characters. Yay. Furthermore these characters may be the most annoying of the entire unbearable lot. Double yay! The real sad part is that the story isn’t all that bad. It’s about as basic as they come, but it’s really doesn’t make too many missteps and it has a kernel of a good idea at its core. But oh dear lord, the characters that they have in here … every second they’re on screen I wanted to hit them all in the face with a brick. Blah, just remembering this segment is putting a bad taste in my mouth, so let’s quickly move on.
Thankfully with “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” the quality picks up markedly in both overall story and by actually having characters that you don’t outright despise. The one nagging bit about this short is that it all takes place as a video chat over computers, so you’ve really got to wonder just how the hell something like that ended up on a VHS tape. I mean, did someone hook up their modern webcam equipped PC to an old VCR, and if so, why? Still, I guess that can be said about other shorts in this movie, like the one that was shot with spy glasses. But whatever, if that’s the worst thing I can say about this creepy movie about a young woman wanting video evidence of the strange and ghostly things that are happening to her, that should tell you of its overall quality.
The last short is called simply “10/31/98” and as you can tell by that date, it takes place on Halloween. In this one a group of guys go to a haunted house party, but due to a mix up of addresses they go to a real haunted house. The story is as simple as that, and while some of the special effects can get a bit iffy, this one was just a whole lot of spooky fun.
As for the extras on this new Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment, there is a cast and crew audio commentary with 10 people involved in the movie, so yeah, I’m not going to list them all here. With that many people all trying to talk at once, it can be a bit confusing at times. There are a lot of laughs and dirty, off color humor in it as guys will be guys, so it’s sort of fun to listen, but it’s really not all the informative. In addition to the commentary, there’s a nice collection of extras to be found on this disc. There’s an alternate ending for the short, “10/31/98” that is far weaker than the one they ended up using. There is about two and a half minutes of behind the scenes and extra footage for the “Tuesday the 17th” episode. However, as I really didn’t like that one at all, I did not care to watch any more of it than I had to. There’s a three minute extra about people playing with balloons for the aforementioned best of the bunch segment, “Amateur Night.” There is a pair of webcam interviews with one of the makers of the movie and one of the actors, both of whom are involved with the segment, “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger.” There are also non webcam interviews with 11 of the cast and crew of the movie. There’s a five minute “Look at V/H/S” promo video. There are two photo galleries here, one is behind the scenes and the other is on conceptual design. A trailer wraps up all the extras in a big old bow.
V/H/S is a very uneven movie with far too many characters in it that I outright didn’t like watching or listening to. Two out of the six shorts were out and out bad, but the rest were varying shades of good, with two being very good. So there is enough good stuff in this new horror anthology to warrant a recommendation, but not a strong one.