SUNDANCE: V/H/S — Holy Gruesome Horror

by Chris

V/H/S

I will admit, found footage films have been a major point a frustration for me over the past decade. Post-Blair Witch, the film style grew to be formulaic and at times impossible to watch. V/H/S arrives at Sundance just in time, thirteen years after the initial run of The Blair Witch Project.

V/H/S centers around a group of petty criminals who are sent to an old man’s house to steal a single vhs tape. They are told nothing other than that they will know which tape to take when they see it. After entering the house they find hundreds of tapes and a dead man upstairs, making a quick and easy score much more complicated. Watching the tapes in search of “the one” affords the film the opportunity to show five different short films, each shot by a different director.

The narrative of the short films are not connected in any way, but they do share similar themes of murder, betrayal and/or creepy supernatural circumstances. I won’t describe any of the shorts in detail because I feel it might take away from the horror that I experienced during the film.

All five shorts stand out in their own way. The “slasher” sequence directed by Glenn McQuaid – featuring a jock, his nerdy friend and a cheerleader — had a slightly confusing plotline, but amazing special effects turned the otherwise simplistic short into a pretty terrifying ten minute sequence.

One of the last shorts in the film centers around Emily (Helen Rogers) who communicates with her boyfriend over Skype. Emily believes her apartment is haunted, and frequently hears voices outside her door. The entire short was filmed using only the built-in laptop cameras, but Rogers fantastic performance kept me captivated enough not to be distracted by the slightly lower quality of the video.

It has been too long since I have been truly scared while watching a movie, and I am not ashamed to admit that after watching V/H/S, I didn’t want to turn my lights off when I went to bed later that night. I hope that V/H/S is a turning point in the found-footage horror genre. The film is gruesome throughout, full of blood and gore to be expected of any horror film, but I never felt that the gore or violence was used just to be disgusting. V/H/S wildly exceeded my expectations, and I can’t wait for a second screening to see all that I missed while covering my eyes the first time around.