A group of criminals are hired to steal a videotape from a derelict
house, where they discover a treasure trove of nightmares on video.
Directed by Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West,
Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Chad Villella, Tyler Gillett,
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Justin Martinez
Written by Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, David Bruckner, Nicholas Tecosky, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Chad Villella,
Tyler Gillett, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Justin Martinez
Starring Hannah Fierman, Mike Donlan, Joe Sykes, Drew Sawyer, Jasper Sams, Joe Swanberg, Sophia Takal, Norma C. Quinones, Drew Moerlin, Jeannine Elizabeth Yoder, Jason Yachanin,
Helen Rogers, Daniel Kaufman, Chad Villella, Tyler Gillett,
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Nicole Erb, Calvin Reeder,
Lane Hughes, Kentucker Audley, Adam Wingard
Anthology films are usually pretty hit or miss, with one or two of the collected stories being worth-watching amidst a gaggle of garbage. But the first two V/H/S films were something special. Adam Wingard and his band of plucky horror fans knew how to tap into legit fears using outlandish scenarios, like a demonic succubus or an alien incubation. But more than that, this film is wildly entertaining, with every story having something that draws you in.
The frame story, "Tape 56," is the film's only weak link. A bunch of assholes are hired by an anonymous benefactor to steal a specific tape from an old guy's house. We never learn who or why, and it only exists to get us to the tapes. The first story, "Amateur Night," starts this thing off with a bang (literally). A group of dudes looking to score end up picking up a girl who turns into some sort of demon and rips them apart. Great start. That's followed by "Second Honeymoon," which was so creepy because it was too real. A couple on a trip are stalked by a creepy would-be killer. There's a bit where the camera turns on and films both of them sleeping, and you know the psycho is holding the camera. So terrifying.
Then we get "Tuesday the 17th," which I felt was a little rushed. An obvious Friday the 13th homage, four friends go camping in the woods where some grisly murders happened, and you learn one of the friends lured the others there as bait so she can take the killer down. The killer is some weird glitch in the Matrix. Wish we'd gotten more on that one. Then it's "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger." This one is told through webcam chats. Emily thinks her house is haunted, and her boyfriend adamantly says it's nonsense. As we go on, we learn that the supposed ghosts are actually aliens, and the boyfriend is working with them to secretly impregnate her with hybrid fetuses. Okay, sure. Again, would've liked a bit more with this one. We end with "10/31/98," a run-of-the-mill demonic possession story starring three frat guys who fuck up an exorcism and get a lot of people killed, including themselves.
V/H/S isn't perfect, but it's got a lot more hits than misses in its collection of creepy, disturbing short stories. I think the sequel surpasses it, but that's for another time. A better frame story and a bit more lingering on some of the middle stories, and this thing's score would skyrocket. But as it stands, the film is a pretty good movie anyway.