Friday, December 7, 2012

V/H/S (2012)

**This review contains spoilers**

Well at first I tried to include each storyline in one long explanation, but the end result was a massive clusterfuck, so I started over. V/H/S features five separate storylines, and “Tape 56” is the main story arc.

                                                                    Tape 56

A group of thieves are given a simple task by an unknown client: break into an old man’s house, and steal one VHS tape. When the thieves arrive, a TV is set up with a VCR and a VHS tape, and the old man is dead. The leader of the thieves dismisses the old man’s death as a minor problem, and he orders his crew to find the one tape. One member of the team begins viewing the tape in the VCR. Meanwhile, the leader and his crew go to the basement. Here, they find more tapes, but the frustrated leader still can‘t find Tape 56.

But when the thieves return to the television, the old man’s body is gone, and the original viewer for the first tape has disappeared. The leader and a few of his men try to find the missing team member, while one stays behind to watch the series of tapes. Each tape contains footage of shocking and bizarre murders, and one thing is clear, the thieves are not alone.

So as I said before, V/H/S is broken into five separate storylines. Instead of giving a long and jumbled explanation of each tape, I’m going to write the synopses, and give my thoughts after each one.

                                                           #1 Amateur Night

Shane (Mike Donlan), Patrick (Joe Sykes), and Clint (Drew Sawyer) are trying to pick up women. Shane and Patrick are the cocky alpha males, and Clint is the shy nerd. Shane and Patrick come up with the bright idea of making a sex tape, so they force Clint to wear glasses with a hidden camera. After a series of failed attempts, the guys finally pick up two women: Lily (Hannah Fierman) and Lisa (Jas Sams).

At the hotel room, Lisa passes out from too much alcohol, so Patrick and Shane focus on Lily. But Lily’s odd behavior starts to worry Clint. Determined to complete their conquest, Shane and Patrick move in on Lily, but Lily suddenly bites Patrick’s hand, and during intercourse, Lily kills Shane. Lily slowly transforms into a deadly demon or monster (it’s hard to tell). Patrick and Clint will have to fight their way out of the hotel room, and escape Lily’s deadly attacks.

My Thoughts:
This storyline provides a lot of brutal gore and bloody kills. I enjoyed the terror and suspense after Lily’s transformation, but the stupid characters annoyed me. First of all, something is obviously wrong with Lily. She looks like an anorexic junkie, and her behavior is noticeably awkward. Lily constantly whispers “I like you” to Clint, and he senses something strange, but Clint doesn't speak up until it‘s too late. Shane and Patrick notice the odd behavior, but they ignore Lily’s mannerisms, because hormones triumph over brains here. Seriously, Lily isn’t normal. She’s an oddball, and the guys STILL had a chance to get rid of Lily after she bit Patrick’s hand. I understand the “WE WANT TO GET LAID!” stuff, but come on, you have to draw the line somewhere.

                                                    #2 Second Honeymoon

Sam (Joe Swanberg)  and Stephanie (Sophie Takal) need a spark for their marriage, so they decide to go on a second honeymoon. A quiet and peaceful trip to a canyon range could jump start the marriage, but Sam and Stephanie receive an ominous warning from a fortune telling machine. One night, a stranger knocks on Sam and Stephanie’s door at the hotel. A strange woman asks for a favor, but Sam refuses. Later that night, a stranger sneaks into their hotel room, while Sam and Stephanie are sleeping. The stranger teases Stephanie with a switchblade, and he or she steals money from Sam’s wallet. Who is this stranger? And why do they want to harm Stephanie and Sam?

My thoughts: Boring. That is the one word I would use to describe this storyline. And it pains me to say this, because Ti West, one of my favorite directors from any genre, directed this storyline. There’s a nice surprise at the end, but everything before that almost put me to sleep.

                                      #3 Wendy & The Killer In The Woods

Wendy (Norma C. Quinones) invites three friends for a visit to her hometown. Joey (Drew Moerlein), Spider (Jason Yachanin), and Samantha (Jeannine Yoder) join Wendy on a simple camp out trip to a local forest. Here, Wendy tells the story of an urban legend. A killer, who hid within forest brutally murdered a group of teens. The teens were Wendy’s friends, but Wendy escaped the slaughter. When Wendy explained the killer’s supernatural powers to other people, nobody believed her. One by one, Wendy’s friends begin to disappear, and fear leads the remaining survivors to one question: has the killer returned to finish what he started?

My thoughts: Ugh, I wanted to like this, but Wendy’s storyline slowly develops into this strange slasher version of The Blair Witch Project. Every time the killer shows up, the video camera suddenly malfunctions, and the killer appears through a series of glitches. Yeah, the malfunctioning/glitch trick is annoying, and to top it off, you can barely see the killer. Also, the twist is really fucking stupid.

Okay, so we’re nearing the end, and Wendy and Joey are the only remaining survivors. Joey is terrified, but Wendy explains her plan, as she records Joey’s final moments: Wendy planed to lure her friends into the forest, use them as bait, set up a series of traps to finally catch the killer, and Wendy could finally erase her reputation as the “crazy girl” in town.

Eh, so what if nobody believes you? You saw what happened, you actually escaped the killer’s wrath the first time around, and after all of that, you WILLINGLY return to the forest? Also, Wendy’s plan was beyond idiotic. You’re trying to catch the killer, and obviously you’re a scumbag, because you’re willing to risk your friend’s lives. I get that. But why did Wendy put herself in harm’s way? It doesn’t make any sense. You know what this guy can do, you know he’s unstoppable, so why would you throw yourself into the meat grinder? Oh, and of course, the killer brutally murders Wendy at the end.

I wanted to like this stroyline, but Wendy’s trip home is loaded with predictable slasher clich├ęs and stupid characters.

                                  #4 Emily & James’ Late Night Video Chats

Emily (Helen Rogers) believes her apartment is haunted. Emily shares a series of late night web chat sessions with her boyfriend, James (Daniel Kaufman). He doesn‘t believe in Emily‘s haunting stories at first, but James changes his mind after Emily’s paranormal encounters with dead children, and the sudden growth of a nasty infection on Emily’s arm.

My Thoughts: Emily’s storyline feels like a cheap rip-off of Paranormal Activity, but I still enjoyed it. A few good jump scares, a frightening conclusion, and there’s a nice diabolical twist at the end.

                                                   #5 The Halloween Party

It’s 1998, and on Halloween night, four friends prepare for a stranger’s Halloween party. Chad (Chad Villella), Matt (Matt Bettinelli-Oplin), Tyler (Tyler Gillett), and Paul (Paul Natonek) are looking forward to the party. But when they finally arrive at the house, the friends can’t find anyone. After searching the seemingly deserted house, the friends accidentally stumble across an exorcism. Unable to fully understand the situation, the friends fight off the people helping with the exorcism, and they “rescue” a victimized girl. Interrupting the exorcism proves to be a deadly mistake, because the evil demon will stop at nothing to repossess his victim.

My Thoughts:  Well I’ll just get the first set of stupid mistakes out of the way first.

1. Why would you go to a stranger’s Halloween party?

2. The house is empty at first, and you don’t see any signs of a party. Just leave.

3. At first, the friends thought the exorcism was a Halloween prank. Okay, that’s fine, but once you realize the exorcism is for real, GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. You’re going to fight off a room full of creepy guys and a demon? Seriously?

With all that said, The Halloween Party storyline is still entertaining. It’s intense and suspenseful, and the ending will leave you speechless.

                                                          Overall Thoughts

I compare V/H/S to Applebee’s or T.G.I Fridays. You’ll start out with some delicious mozzarella sticks or buffalo wings, but the main course probably won’t live up to expectations. Your piece of grilled chicken or fish will be dry and bland, you might get a burnt hamburger, and a flat glass of beer to top it off. But a dessert could make up for all of that. You know, one of those hot brownies with chocolate fudge, and a scoop of ice cream.

Inconsistency is the problem here. The storylines for V/H/S are hit and miss. Amateur Night raised my hopes, and it was a solid opener for this film. But The Honeymoon just bored the shit of me, and Wendy’s storyline turns into a poor attempt at making a short slasher movie. Things picked up again, when Emily’s storyline rolled around, and The Halloween Party was the perfect conclusion.

V/H/S gives any horror fan everything they could possibly ask for. Lots of blood, gruesome kills, a few good jump scares, and nudity. Overall, the acting is solid, and Hannah Fierman easily gives the best performance as Lily. I appreciate the effort to put a spin on the found-footage genre. The anthology style of storytelling provides a refreshing experience, but the stinkers (Wendy and The Honeymoon) destroy the momentum for V/H/S. 

Final Rating: 5/10

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