In "Amateur Night," three friends pick up a strange woman at a bar and bring her to a hotel room, hoping to secretly make a sex tape, but it turns out they're the ones in for the surprise. In "Second Honeymoon," a young couple take a road trip through the Southwest and find themselves stalked by a mysterious figure. In "Tuesday the 17th," a quartet of friends head to a lake for a getaway, unaware that one of them has ulterior motives. In "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger," a woman web chatting with her boyfriend comes to believe her apartment is haunted. In "10/31/98," a group of friends on their way to a Halloween party stumble upon something more sinister.
The End Result
Most notably, the script feels like a work in progress that glosses over details and shows little concern for logic. The whole wraparound story feels slapped together in a thin excuse to show the five tales, with no indication as to why random people's home videos would be on VHS tapes in some old guy's house in the first place. "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger," meanwhile, takes viewers down one path and then abruptly switches streams at the climax with no explanation of why. And "Second Honeymoon" is unnecessarily drawn out with a whimper of a payoff. Despite the veneer of uniqueness that the low-tech, VHS-themed style displays, the stories aren't terribly original and largely represent rehashed horror anthology plots: the standard revenge, backstabbing, comeuppance and cautionary tales.
It's hard to judge direction on found-footage fare, given the intentionally unpolished format, but even for this type of film, the camerawork is particularly shaky and the picture quality is particularly grainy/blurry/pixelated -- so some viewers' patience and aesthetic sensibilities will no doubt be tested.
That said, there is good reason for some of the hype regarding V/H/S. There are genuine scares to be found -- especially in the final two tales, which utilize the realism of the found-footage style to play with the universal fear of something lurking in the shadows out of the corner of your eye. Although the acting is less realistic, it's good enough to sell the material. And despite the low-tech approach to whole project, the special effects -- a blend of CGI and real-world makeup/stunts -- are amazingly effective (granted, the sketchy picture quality no doubt covers up some deficiencies).
- Acting: C (Underwhelming but good enough.)
- Direction: C+ (Overly disorienting but effective at creating scares and tension.)
- Script: C- (Plots are relatively standard anthology stuff, told with a visual and narrative vagueness to create mystery.)
- Gore/Effects: B (Ample gore and surprisingly effective CGI.)
- Overall: C+ (As long as you don't try to make sense of it, it's an enjoyable horror anthology for the YouTube generation.)
V/H/S is directed by various and is rated R by the MPAA for bloody violence, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, pervasive language and some drug use. Release date: October 5, 2012 (on demand August 31).