Review of VHS

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When a group of misfits is hired by an unknown third party to burglarize an abandoned house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for.
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Movie Review: "V/H/S"

-- Rating: R (for bloody violence, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, pervasive language, and some drug use)
Length: 116 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2012 (USA)
Directed by: Radio Silence/ Glenn McQuaid/ Ti West/ David Bruckner/ Adam Wingard/ Joe Swanberg
Genre: Horror, Thriller

A bunch of indie horror directors decided to make an anthology of horror films in the found-footage format. They come up with five totally unrelated short films bound together within an overarching main narrative incorporating gore, exorcisms, demonic rituals, torture, the occult, , and plenty of awe-inspiring twists. That's "V/H/S" for you.

One of the most appealing aspects of this movie is that there is something for everybody. "Tape 56," the overarching story by Adam Wingard, has a bunch of punks being put to death in the most painful manner possible for no particular reasons. This film is primarily for those who want to see justice being meted out to those who deserve no sympathy whatsoever. The film does little more than create a frame for the five short films.

"Amateur Night" by David Bruckner achieves the right mix of sex, gore, and horror. There is nothing subtle about the havoc wreaked by a succubus on boys just looking for some fun. This film takes on the trope of women willingly submitting to men in horror films. The boys meet a terribly painful end in the film, and a special treatment is reserved for the guy preferred by the femme fatale.

"Second Honeymoon" by Ti West shows a couple's attempt to reignite lost passion by going on a second honeymoon. A prediction by a fortune-telling machine hinting at trouble for one partner is ignored until it is too late. The twist in the end compels the viewer to rewind and search for hidden clues.

This short film leaves the audience wondering about the plot until the very end. West hides the secret in the open and creates a situation where viewers end up scaring themselves due to their assumptions about the couple's intentions. Some may feel that the film is too clever for its own good. However, its inclusion in the anthology adds to the variety on display.

"Tuesday The 17th" by Glenn McQuaid seems like a tribute to "The Blair Witch Project," the movie that made found-footage format popular all over again. A bunch of teens come together in a picturesque part of the forest only to be manipulated by one member of the group, who has a secret agenda.

The manipulator sacrifices all other individuals for a larger goal. However, a quest to capture an ordinary killer ends up as a battle of wits against a 'glitch' with supernatural powers. The found-footage format is particularly effective in this film, as there is a perfectly logical reason for the hand-held camera to be running in the first place. Of course, nothing works according to plan, and the film ends with a reminder that the evil force is still out there.

"The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger" by Joe Swanberg is more modern and more subtle compared to the gore, demonic rituals, and violence in the other short films. However, it is the scariest short in the collection. The oddity of a Skype conversation being recorded on VHS does not even register. The audience is too busy getting scared out of their wits by the combination of paranormal activity and evil kids. The film ends with a perfectly ordinary and logical explanation to the girl's sufferings, which only proves more terrifying. Good performances by the cast makes it even more enjoyable to watch.

"10/31/98" by Radio Silence competes with Swanberg's work, albeit with a more traditional approach to horror. This film is woven around a group of men cheated into entering a haunted house under the pretext of a Halloween party. Tacky attempts to scare them bring forth amused reactions until the group realizes that the horrors are real. Their well-intentioned and chivalrous efforts to save the damsel in distress contribute to the release of a demonic spirit that the villains were trying to control.

The film runs like a standard horror movie. The protagonists are transformed into believers and end up putting up a heroic stand to protect innocence and beauty from evil. However, there is an enormous twist at the end that compels the audience to admit that they too had it wrong from the very beginning.

"V/H/S" is not without its flaws. However, it offers remedies to all these flaws by offering five different horror films in a single movie. It is easy to conclude that the movie should have skipped one or even two of the short films. However, it is virtually impossible to arrive at a consensus as to which film ought to be cut.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars