V/H/S is a found footage horror anthology (it was bound to happen) featuring 5 short segments united by “framing” segment known as “Tape 56.” The premise, the weakest part of the film, features a band of hooligans videotaping their illegal hijinks (which include sexual assault). One of the hooligans proclaims out of nowhere that an unknown “fan” is willing to pay them to steal a videotape from a house. Upon investigating the house, they discover the owner of the house is dead in a room with several TVs and VCRs. Unperturbed they set about investigating the house to find the mysterious tape. While the others investigate the house, one of them stays in the room with the body and plays a tape he finds to pass the time. Each segment is a different tape played by various members of the group left in the room with the body at different points.
The five segments that follow are, in order: Amateur Night, Second Honeymoon, Tuesday the 17th, The Sick Thing that Happened to Emily When She was Younger, and 10/31/98. The segments vary in their success from the bloody, sexy Amateur Night to the easily dismissed Tuesday the 17th. The advantage of an anthology such as this is that the segments are short so even if one falls flat, it’s over relatively quickly. For the successful shorts, the time frame means there is no time for unnecessary padding so you don’t have to wait very long the scares to kick in.
Even though each short was written and directed by a different person(s), the movie was packed with bros. (If you are unfamiliar with the term bro, the urban dictionary
captures it perfectly and succinctly as “An alpha male idiot.”) Now, I don’t mind a bro or two in a horror film. It’s almost a requirement these days for a slasher flick to have at least one for the sheer joy of watching him get axe murdered, but there were bros in almost every segment and not just one but several. It was a veritable marathon of toxic masculinity, which honestly so grated on my nerves that by the end of it I wanted to go have a cup of tea in a rose scented bathtub while reading a Jane Austen novel just to purge myself of the bro influence…and I don’t even LIKE Jane Austen novels.
Because of the high bro factor, obviously the language and certainly the content are extremely adult. For example, the premise of Amateur Night is three bros, one of whom has glasses kitted out with a camera, go out on the town in order to find women to bring back to their hotel and film them, unknowingly, having sex. The sex on camera trope was a, not surprisingly, common trope in many of the shorts. There is at least as much nudity as there is gore in this film, often at the same time. There is also no shortage of talking about or being involved in overtly sexual situations. In other words, this movie certainly earned it’s “R” rating.
Briefly I’ll just address each segment:
Tape 56: Directed by Adam Wingard (Home Sick and A Horrible Way to Die), this framing segment was convoluted and poorly written. It would have taken only a bit of effort to shore up at the least the premise of this short. For example, how much is being offered for this tape? Why does the one hooligan announce this offer from a “fan” our of nowhere? Why does someone have to stay with a dead body? This segment begins the Bro-fest.
Amateur Night: Directed by David Bruckner (The Signal). The bro-fest continues in this short about 3 men looking to get some women back to their hotel room to unwittingly film them having sex. This short is sexy and gory if not particularly surprising. The special effects as well as Hannah Fierman’s performance as Lily were just stunning.
Second Honeymoon: Directed by Ti West (The Roost, House of the Devil, and The Innkeepers). A short film about a young couple on their second honeymoon who encounters a strange hitchhiker. This quick, but effective short was a bro-less anodyne to the first two segments.Interestingly, the husband Sam, is played by Joe Swanberg who directed another segment in this movie.
Tuesday the 17th: Directed by Glenn McQuiad. Back with bros, I’m doubly disappointed in this short. Partially because McQuiad is the man behind of of my favorite horror comedies I Sell the Dead, but also because this short features Jason Yachanin from Poultrygeist. For both reasons, I really wanted to like this short and yet it totally and utterly failed.
The Sick Thing that Happened to Emily When She was Younger: Directed by Joe Swanberg (Silver Bullets). This segment left me confused. There were some genuine scares, but the climax was unclear and therefore unsatisfying.
10/31/98: Directed by Radio Silence. A quick and effective short about a bunch of bros (AGAIN) in search of a Halloween party who stumble into what appears to be a strangely empty house. While well done, I would have appreciated this short more if I wasn’t suffering from bro exhaustion at that point. As it was, I just wanted the segment to end so I wouldn’t have to listen to them talk about hot chicks and beer anymore. Admittedly the guy in the teddy bear costume with the video camera hidden in his bear head going to the party dressed as “Nannycam” is totally hilarious.
Overall, V/H/S is enjoyable. A gory sexy start to a whole month full of Halloween horror.