Film4 Frightfest the 13th – Day 2

#6 – V/H/S

Rating: ★★★½☆

Easily one of the most hyped Frightfest films after a strong showing at Sundance, V/H/S aims to take the oft-rote found footage genre in a new direction by making of it an anthology film, with each of the five segments – plus one main story arc segment – being helmed by a different up-and-coming horror director. The story begins with a gang of sleazy guys heading to a house in order to steal a prized VHS tape from it, but of course, when scouring through the tapes, they find some disturbing material, which is presented herein. There are of course a bunch of logical problems with the film – such as why the kids would sit inside a creepy, remote house watching these tapes when they could take them home to check through – and it’s often difficult to believe that some of the short stories – particularly one filmed on Skype – would ever end up on VHS tape in the first place.

However, buying into V/H/S is more about buying into the experience, and as a whole, akin to the likes of Creepshow and Three…Extremes, it delivers absolute value for money. The stories, while hit-and-miss like any horror anthology, are for the most part genuinely unsettling, ranging from a night out gone wrong, to a Skype call that yields unsavoury results, and a Halloween haunted house scenario that has its share of surprises in store. One issue, though, is that twist ending are employed too frequently, with a surprise accomplice emerging from plain sight too often, such that by the end it becomes quite predictable how the final story – technically well-accomplished though it is – will end up.

Also, several of the stories would have served from more judicious editing; Ti West’s segment in particular drags on well beyond any reasonable length, and with 2 or 3 minutes chopped from each story, the film would have run in at a more amenable 100 minutes, rather than the slightly excessive 115. All that said, V/H/S is a meaty, full-fat horror anthology and like all of them, brings with its frequent terror plenty of flaws.