I grew up on Freddy, Jason, Pinhead, Puppet Master (remember those guys?), and matured with a healthy dose of Murnau, Wise, Castle, Lewis, Carpenter, Hooper, Argento, Bava, Miike, Romero, Coscarelli, et al. The list of great horror films/directors goes on and on.
Enter V/H/S – A horror anthology of all found footage.
From the get go, this film feels both new and familiar. New, that it’s the first real entry of horror films that are undoubtedly going to come from the generation raised on YouTube and the proliferation of cheap VFX. The feeling of youthful energy and exuberance shows in every frame. Which in a sense, makes perfect sense that it would be also a throwback to VHS tapes, something the filmmakers grew up with. It’s like watching a progression of media soaked youth grow with the technology that enabled them to make the film itself.
It’s familiar in the sense that the filmmakers have taken traditional horror tropes, ie, taking stupid, brash, horny, young adults to a secluded location, then murdering them in creative ways, and expanded on them. The entire film feels almost like the next step in horror. It takes what you know and expect from a horror film, and pushes it just a little bit further. In a sense, it’s a breath of fresh air on a genre that has always been about frantically devouring every new idea it can find, leaving behind an empty corpse of a concept. Once all the flesh has been torn from the body, the idea usually lays dead. That is until someone comes along with a new take on a familiar concept, as if they’re saying, “Hey, I found some more meat on this bone.” This film has out-Blair-Witched The Blair Witch Project.
From monster pics, to slasher flicks, to torture porn, and now found footage, the darkness in horror seems to be getting closer and closer each time. Now the horror is more intimate than ever. You’re not just watching some actor running from a monster. These people are just regular people going about relatively normal activities. You become part of the scene, trapped within the reality the characters are experiencing in real time, with an immediacy you know well from time spent on YouTube. These are the strengths of the found footage genre, and the film overall.
An observation on some of the content itself:
From the destructive videos of trashing an abandoned house, to molesting an unsuspecting female passerby-er, to the unexpected and oddly unnecessary constant female nudity, to the overall lecherous nature of damn near every male character, the film is a 17 year old male mind running rampant. Pent up sexual frustration, simultaneous female idolization mixed with fear and degradation, violence, brash behavior, drugs, alcohol… it all feels like a high school kid trying to get out his energy by swinging his fists in the dark, uncaring of what he hits, if anything. Each story has a disconnect between men and women, as if the conflict between desire for the female form and the fear of it has driven the filmmakers to create these otherwise disparate stories. Which, does go back to the idea that this is a sort of coming of age film. Not for the characters, but for the filmmakers. It’s an orgy of youth and youthful ways (not joyful or naive or pure, as youth can so often imply, but rather the fear and violence that exists in the young male psyche) as they flail wildly in their attempt to enter an adult world. With this in mind, it makes it even more interesting that the house the characters in the overall story are searching through is inhabited by a “dead old man.” Freud would have an absolute field day with this film.
All in all, I would recommend this to any horror fan who wants to see something they haven’t seen before. It’s not life changing, but it will sit with you after you walk away. Some of the stories are better than others. Some drag on a bit too long, but some are downright brilliant.
It’s a punk rock horror film. A middle finger to the standard way of telling scary stories.
Kudos to the filmmakers.