V/H/S is a horror anthology that has been themed around the handheld camera / found footage style of filmmaking. It comprises of five independent segments and a framing story.
The framing story called ‘Tape 56’ follows a group of sadistic misfits committing petty crimes and generally causing havoc wherever they can find it; think a poor man’s clockwork orange. The group break into a supposedly empty house where they discover a collection of VHS tapes. Unfortunately it’s this framing story that is the major shortcoming for V/H/S. The characters are unlikable and dull, and some of the production choices are questionable. It’s structure is very loose and makes less sense as it progresses towards it under developed and drab ending. but don’t let this put you off the whole anthology, that’s why we have the fast forward button.
So, how do the individual segments stand? We start with ‘Amateur Night’, directed by David Bruckner who brought us the brilliantly quirky and charming ‘The Signal’ in 2007. Bruckner has done a great job here with a fantastic short following the antics of three guys trying to pick up girls on a night out. Fun, creepy and unsettling, Amateur night is arguably the strongest segment of the collection. Ti West continues the anthology with “Second Honeymoon” which is a well built short, but less than expected after West’s last two successful films The Innkeepers and House of the Devil.
The third segment is a slasher style short called “Tuesday the 17th” which feels a a bit tepid and messy, and poorly performed. It is followed by the curiously titled “The Sick Thing that Happened to Emily when She was Young,” which is a solid addition, with easily the best camera work and some genuinely scary moments. The story has a surprising twist and leaves the viewer uneasy and wanting to know more.
Finally, the anthology finishes off with “10/31/98″ where 70s occult horror meets classic haunted house. It’s a reasonable segment, if not a little unimaginative, with some good effects.
V/H/S is a bit of a mixed bag. They’ve been quite creative with the found footage theme, applying some interesting ideas and providing authentic scares, but a substandard framing story, some tinny acting and poor execution really drags it down.