Movie Review

'V/H/S' isn't as scary as it thinks it is

CorrespondentOctober 18, 2012 

A still from "V/H/S."

COURTESY OF BLOODY DISGUSTING

  • V/H/S B- Cast: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Adam Wingard, Hannah Rose Fierman Director: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg and Radio Silence Website: www.magnetreleasing.com/vhs/ Length: 1 hour, 56 minutes Rating: R (bloody violence, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, pervasive language and some drug use)

It seems that every time a new horror movie comes out, the preview trailer rolls out the same breathless critical hype.

You know – “one of the scariest horror movies we’ve seen in years” and “the scariest, rawest horror movie of the year” and “truly the stuff of nightmares.” Those quotes are from reviews of “V/H/S,” an indie horror anthology.

For the first hour of this nearly two-hour flick, you really want to believe. There’s a great sense of humor that runs through “V/H/S” (when was the last time a killer in a movie dipped the potential victim’s toothbrush in the toilet?) and the directors understand the art of building suspense, rather than giving us a cheap shock every minute.

The premise of the film (six stories with “found”-looking footage shot on cheap handheld cameras by six filmmaking teams) is that a small group of petty thugs has been hired to steal a mysterious tape from an old man who lives in the middle of nowhere.

The tapes they find are horrifying. Each contains a murder or a mutilation, and most have an unexplained supernatural element. (And if you think these guys are going to ride off safe and sound with these tapes in hand, well, you don’t know horror movies very well, do you?)

Right away, we’re given reason to hate these punks. In the opening segment, they attack a couple walking through an icy parking deck in the winter, just so they can bare the screaming female victim’s breasts for the camera and sell the footage to a “reality” porn site for 50 bucks.

Ugh. That scene notwithstanding, one of the refreshing and fun things about “V/H/S” is how many times women have the upper bloody hand.

The first (and best) “found” segment is “Amateur Night,” directed by David Bruckner.

In Bruckner’s segment, a group of male college dorks put camera-loaded “spy glasses” on the nerdiest guy in their crew so they can trick some drunk girls into participating in homemade porn at a cheap motel.

One of the young ladies they meet at a sleazy hookup bar is a big-eyed doe of a thing (Hannah Fierman) who seems too drunk to say much of anything more than “I like you.”

Our instincts tell us “Run!” But those dumb boys are too drunk to have instincts – and back at the motel, the gory fun ensues.

Unfortunately, “V/H/S” doesn’t quite maintain at that level, although director Joe Swanberg’s “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger,” shot entirely on Skype, is some disturbing stuff (in a good, if not entirely scary way).

One problem is that, at nearly two hours, it just feels too long, and the “payoffs” are too similar from segment to segment.

So when Wendy (Norma C. Quinones) in Glenn McQuaid’s “Tuesday the 17th” tells her friends at the lake, “You’re all gonna die up here” with a mischievous look on her face, you may feel like yelling, “Yeah, no kidding!” at the screen while checking your cellphone for the time.

It’s just not all that scary. But hey, tell that to the enthusiastic audience for the film’s premiere. In a promo video for V/H/S,” producer Brad Miska recalls how “we had a guy pass out.” Then, he adds, with a laugh: “I’d like to believe we just scared him so much.”

Awww – some people are just big babies.

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