Like most short film anthologies V/H/S is something of a mixed bag. Structured around a story of a group of criminals hired to retrieve a videotape from what they believe is an empty house, the group of thieves stumble upon the owner’s dead body and an insane collection of videotapes each with a different found-footage-style horror tale captured on film.
As the robbers search and plunder the house for what they’ve been sent to find, along with anything else of value they can steal, one member of the group starts browsing through five of the tapes giving us our five separate horror shorts.
In “Amateur Night” a group of frat boys attempting to make their own amateur sex tape get far more than they expected when one of the women (Hannah Fierman) they pick has a violent episode as the camera starts to roll. Although the set-up is far too long, the payoff works well and Fierman is certainly capable as coming off as creepy as hell on-screen when called upon.
I enjoyed the premise and set-up of “Second Honeymoon” more than watching it play out. The second story involves a couple (Sophia Takal, Joe Swanberg) on the road staying in hotels and masked girl (Kate Lyn Sheil) who follows them from stop to stop watching them in their sleep and preparing to strike. The reveal and resolution are more than a little anticlimactic.
Also somewhat disappointing is “Tuesday the 17th” which gives us a classic horror set-up with a group on way to a cabin (Norma C. Quinones, Jeannine Yoder, Drew Moerlein, Jason Yachanin), but the murders caught on a glitchy camera are neither scary nor interesting.
Although the payoff for “The Sick Thing that Happened to Emily When she was Younger” feels somewhat forced given the short’s late twist, this story of a girl’s (Helen Rogers) web chat her boyfriend (Daniel Kaufman) about mysterious noises and odd occurrences around her apartment late at night works pretty well.
The final story“10/31/98,” features a group of twentysomethings (Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Paul Natonek) dressed for a Halloween who show up to an empty house for a fun “haunted house” experience. Although they enjoy the early part of the evening things take a dark turn when they discover a torture/sacrifice involving a girl (Nicole Erb) and a cult and come to see all the initial scary bits of the house in an entirely new light.
V/H/S isn’t a great anthology and without a signature piece or any recognizable stars it’s not likely to have any crossover appeal. However, there might be just enough here that die-hard fans of found-footage horror flicks to seek it out, at least as a one-time rental.
[Magnolia Home Video, Blu-ray $29.98 / DVD $26.98]