Reviewed by Andy
Anthology films are pretty rare these days – the last that springs to mind being Trick R Treat – but on the other hand found footage films are three a penny. So what happens when you put the two together? In the case of V/H/S, it seems you put your weaker foot forward first, as the opening of the film seems to focus on the most criticised elements of found footage in unlikeable characters and lots of shaky cameras.
Ostensibly the wrapper is that a group of young robbers are being paid to break into a house in search of a VHS tape, but they don’t know the contents other than they must be blackmailable. This is roughly where the format links end, as the rest of the stories are set in times past the usage of VHS in camera formats, mainly focussing on digital technologies. But of course anything can be recorded onto VHS tape… while the digital formats are played with effectively in several of the segments, there’s a bit of a missed opportunity in the “quirks” of VHS not being used at all – 90 minutes of movie and not one skipping pause or need to adjust tracking!
However, if you can get past the first 20 minutes or so, things start picking up towards the end of the first segment when events take what was developing into a rather uncomfortable date rape tale into something really unexpected! Though there’s some variation in the other segments, there are some really strong stories that raise the film as a whole – particular favourites being a slasher-esque tale set in some woods with some clever work done involving the killer, the Skype tale and the final story. By the time the credits roll its been a mixed bag, but the balance has tipped well into the watchable. Given how many focus on their ending, maybe there’s some value in trimming found footage films to the length to fit anthologies – watch this space for V/H/S 2? Or maybe that should be called D/V/D? ***