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If the online buzz didn’t
confirm the hype, then the sold-out crowd at the Toronto After Dark Summer
Screenings certainly did. The packed house was full of anticipation for a film
whose intense trailer and anthology angle has made it an official Big Deal in
the horror scene. The movie has a reputation for being both terrifying and original,
so I guess what we all want to know from the Canadian premiere is: Was it really?
V/H/S is a found footage anthology
featuring the work of six different directors, Ti West (THE INNKEEPERS), Glenn
McQuaid (I SELL THE DEAD), Adam Wingard (A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE), David Bruckner (THE SIGNAL), Joe Swanberg
(SILVER BULLETS) and film collective Radio Silence.
The story that the vignettes hinge on is a
tale of sleazy videographers, breaking into a house to steal a videotape with
some lurid footage on it that promises to sell for a lot more than the scum
they’ve been producing. Sorting through what they find, the criminals stumble
across shocking and inexplicable footage on five tapes, each the vision of one
of the directors.
What I love about the format, is that each
segment is a really cool idea that somebody might have tried to extend into a feature,
but because it’s all trimmed down to be a vignette, the fat is cut. We get in
and get the good stuff right away. Characters are developed only so long as
necessary and there is no stopping the bus so the tour guide can explain the
sights; you get dropped right into it. This allows you to really do a lot of
your own thinking about what the hell is going on in the individual segments
and in the film’s overarching plot. I like this approach – V/H/S is all killer
and no filler.
But is it terrifying?
While there was no threat of me voiding my
bowels due to The Fear, what I got were some really good scares, and concepts
introduced in the tales that have lingered with me and get more frightening the
more I consider them, and the more I let my own mind fill in the blanks. The
high may not be like the first time, but V/H/S is still a top quality shot of
black tar smack for your bloodstream.
So am I really going to call a found
footage film anthology “original”?
Yes I am, as a matter of fact. Neither
concept is anything new under the sun, but what elevates V/H/S is not only that
it combines the two concepts fairly seamlessly, it takes everyone back to
school on how found footage should look and feel. Everything has an authentic
and urgent feel of actual people recording events in their lives. I don’t
recall ever wondering, "who the hell records this stuff?"
The vignettes themselves are all quite
unique in concept and execution, and although some stand out more than others,
each is a little conceptual experiment in its own right. I was really impressed
with the creativity that went into each segment. I don’t want to get into the
specifics of each, because I think one of the joys of the movie is letting each
piece’s individual logic unfold before you, but suffice to say this is a
showcase of some serious creative muscle and the future of horror is in
Scares and technical quality aside, V/H/S
is wickedly fun to watch and brought down a lot of laughs from the crowd. I get
that it might undermine the “scariest movie of the year” hype, but the movie is
consistently hilarious and has this grim comedic timing; plus, the touches of how
every guy who gets his hands on a camera in the movie is asking some girl to
take off her shirt, are funny and ring true to my ear.
There’s one leap we get asked to make, that
is a bit tricky; the mystery of why/how some of this stuff is even on VHS tapes
to begin with. But personally, I enjoyed making my own
contributions to the film in this way. I feel more engaged with it, I feel I’ve
taken a step towards the artist instead of just waiting for them to reach me.
Horror fans need to see this movie at their
earliest possible opportunity, because it’s a contender for best of the year. I’d
love to sit in with a mainstream Friday night multiplex crowd watching this.
V/H/S would blow the minds of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY set into a fine pink mist
and some poor Cineplex kid making minimum wage would have to mop the audience
out of there.
Bloody Blogs -
Long Live the New Flesh
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