Unfortunately, the other four segments and the wrap-around all range from boring and mediocre to insultingly terrible. For an anthology film that has some very promising directors attached to it, this sadly shows none of their talent on screen.
The crew and "actors" are not even sufficiently pretentious to be able to demonstrate the slightest understanding of cinematography, plot development, direction... well, you see where I'm heading: straight to the toilet to throw up after the first ten minutes of this Californian offering.
There would be more entertainment value in watching someone wash out his or her soiled underpants. I wonder where all these "performers" will be in, say, ten years' time? Wasted with drugs? Begging on the streets? Making a speech in Parliament?
You will be better off spending 1.75 hours sleeping, believe me. This "film" is far, far beyond "Total Garbage" ~ that is its one distinction, and I do mean "stink".
The anthology angle adds to the attention keeping of this film with a good 5 or 6 stories being told of about 20 minutes each.
A warning. This film is very gory and not for the squeamish. Surprisingly good for a Sunday afternoon viewing.
One of the stories involves Skype like footage featuring some geek who looks menacingly like an ex UK Conservative Chancellor.
The film uses camcorder like footage like many other horror films recently.
Horror has long been a genre which has existed in popularity on the cult movie circuit, largely due to the fact that widespread cinematic releases are a rarity for the genre. However, the audience for anthology horror has existed as far back as The Twilight Zone (1959-1964). And V/H/S's gimmick of gathering six different filmmakers all working on a low budget to create horror shorts sounded like a good way to present that to contemporary audiences. Too many horror films rely on simplistic gimmicks that end up stretched to feature length, and this tends to go beyond a sensible running time. So in the setting of horror shorts, V/H/S sounded like a fully functioning film. However, the entire film plays out as a series of stories within a story which are contextualized within a found footage format.
A found footage gimmick can only last so long in a film, and in V/H/S viewers get to experience six stories which all occur in this format where we can expect every time that all the characters will end up dead. Though not every story comes to this exact conclusion, the path that the stories take to get there are essentially the same every time: the characters simply deny the presence of any threat until everything falls apart around them in a bloody climax just before the story cuts to a close. The many directors display a clear sense of how to build atmosphere along the way, but the affair feels tiring when it has such a repetitive feeling to it. I'm not a person who has experienced many anthology films before. To my recollection the last one I can remember is Damian Szifron's Wild Tales (2014). Yet while every story in Wild Tales had the recurring theme of black comedy, the narratives were all inherently different. V/H/S is so dedicated to being a genre picture that every story has to subscribe to similar genre criteria. It is frequently too similar for its own good, and ultimately this has a negative effect on the film as a whole.
However, finding the real value of V/H/S comes from the judgement of each individual story. The fact that someone attempted to give it a singular narrative to tie it all together makes little sense and adds no inherent narrative value to the film, and it's made all the more frustrating by the excess of shakycam and blurry edits that already comes with the rough resolution of the film. Still, the short films themselves offer some effective value.
V/H/S begins with a semi-decent start. It takes a while to adjust to the found footage format and occasionally rough cinematography of Amateur Night as well as the fact that the characters do little more than act like stereotypical frat boys for most of the story. But the way that the found-footage camera gimmick is written into the story proves intelligent, and by the end of it we are treated to a more appropriate horror experience. With a powerful use of blood, gore and even nudity tied into the mystery of a supernatural being, V/H/S delivers a thrilling conclusion which sets the standard for the rest of the film. The imagery from this scene is unforgettable, as is the performance of Hannah Fierman whose demonic nature is as unpredictably frightening as her nudity is enticing.
Unfortunately, the second story sucked. Second Honeymoon was about a couple who went out on a second honeymoon only for the husband to be murdered before audiences discover that the killer was the wife's lover. The story makes subtle hints that there is a greater mystery along the way, but ultimately the story ends at his murder and nothing more happens. I don't care if this spoils it for you, that story was pathetic and far below the standard of all the others in the film. Second Honeymoon is the low point of V/H/S.
The third story presents a step up for the film which is of far greater significance for the film. At first Tuesday the 17th seems like a knockoff of The Blair Witch Project (1999), but given that this is the formula for most found footage horror films it is forgivable. What's most notable about Tuesday the 17th is the way that it uses its found footage gimmick by implementing its technical features into the story. The villain is only seen through tracking errors captured by the lens of the camera, and the inability to completely see the villain removes any predictability from him and thus elicits a frightening mystery for the story. Style is played with very well in Tuesday the 17th, putting it at a higher technical standard than the other stories.
The fourth story elicits a somewhat mixed response. The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger has the most mystery of any story and spends a lot of time asking questions. It also finds a way to occur entirely over video chat in a sophisticated manner while using sporadic nudity for with appeal. The engaging performance of Helen Rogers also helps to keep things intense because she contributes a very vulnerable effort which grows more intensive as the film goes on. But with its specific camera format there is only so much imagery that viewers get to witness, and the film comes up short on the blood and gore in the process. Story number 4 in V/H/S is more narrative-driven than its counterparts, and this will be a refreshing change of pace for some just as it is too much of a detraction for others.
The final story is ultimately a letdown. Relying too heavily on the pre-established formula of every other story, 10/31/98 recycles gimmicks from every preceding story for the last time in the film. And by this point in V/H/S, the entire affair just feels all too tired. Even the use of paranormal elements doesn't innovate anything this time, it's just a clear sign that the film needs to come to an end.
V/H/S suffers from the predictable inconsistency of an anthology film, but while its certainly productive to see a variety of stories working around the found footage format in their own ways and doing it on such a low budget, a repetitive predictability sinks in all too fast which casts over all the stories and leaves only a modicum of thrills to exist in the final product.