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Film Two Stars
V/H/S has a clever premise at its core that brings together the anthology horror concept well according to the blurb from the Edinburgh International Film Festival catalogue and since it had been receiving some interesting reviews at other festivals I decided to push it up my list to watch. I'm always eager to find a new horror film that raises my excitement levels, and according to what I read this could be one of them.

However there were some negatives that had me on the fence leading up to the screening, the film was all handheld footage, many of the names involved were unknown, and anthologies don't tend to be the best in the genre. Fingers crossed then and let's see how it turned out.

Plot.pngVHS.jpgV/H/S tells the story of a group of petty criminals who go around filming themselves being general scumbags and causing trouble however this isn't enough for them and they want to up the stakes so they step up and take a job to steal something for a decent amount of cash. The job is to break into a house and steal a single videotape, a seemingly simple task so they head off on the job with their usual cameras powered on and recording. When they arrive though they find that there's a pile of videotapes not just one and so they begin searching through to find the tape they need, and on the way there are some startling surprises.

TheFilm.pngV/H/S starts off not too badly, it sets up the core storyline well and tries to explain why the group would be carrying around cameras and it does work to begin with. I let myself accept the set-up and went with it and the rise of the troublemakers to criminals seems to make sense. What works well is the idea behind the core of the story, the job to find the single videotape amongst the surprise cache of tapes. This gives the binding story of the film some weight, unlike many other anthologies, and sets the story off on a good path.

However it doesn't last for the entirety. The main story falters and some of the anthology stories are pretty poor, but let's stay with the positive for now.

There are two stories that stand out more than the rest and look really rather good. The first sequence has quite a bit of promise as we see a great idea to explain the constant filming and why anyone would continue to film. For the first time in a long time I believed the constant camera use. Still, the story is rather transparent especially if you've seen the trailer as you know exactly what's going to happen. That said it plays out well and the horror is portrayed with just enough to get you on edge and drive a bit of panic through from the characters to the audience. Not just is there a good lead-up to the story but it delivers well and has a nice ending to it, one that makes use of the camera right to the end.

The other strong piece is the closing story which is perhaps the best and visually most impressive. Once again it utilises a strong reason why the camera is used throughout the story and someone would not stop filming. It's one of the common factors between the two most enjoyable stories, the believability of the character actions, although to be fair there is a moment where you wonder why the characters are making their decision to make a total u-turn against type without any real reasoning. Other than that this is the most stylish and enjoyable with a pretty relentless pace that piles the pressure on the audience and doesn't use so many horror clichés. The latter half has some very effective visual effects that help ramp up the pace and excitement as well as looking genuinely scary. Overall it's like this story is in a different class to the rest.

Apart from these two segments though the film is filled with obnoxious characters you don't really care for, clichés galore and the old problem of the believability of holding a camera on your point of view throughout. Some of the clichés are pushing it and you almost feel a giggle coming, in fact in some cases the audience were laughing out loud and not with any scripted humour. That's exactly what happened with the story of the group going off into the woods for an afternoon of, well the usual thing with the typical stereotypes and story lines, it all seemed like a surreal joke on the idea of the clichéd horror film, but the sad thing is it isn't and ends up being just that although with a rather unique killer.

You see it's like that a lot in the sequences some of them have an interesting take on an aspect of the standard horror story they are telling, but these moments are too thin on the ground for each sequence on its own and looking back you just wish that they had cherry picked all these strong ideas and made one good story out of them exploiting all the interesting facets to produce one much stronger film.

At various times we return to the central story that ties these short films together and it doesn't improve with a confusing story that seems filled with contradictions - Large handheld recorders mixed with mobiles and hidden miniature cameras, and in the end everything recorded onto VHS tapes. It's all seems a little muddled. It doesn't stop with the filming equipment of the characters but encroaches heavily into the story, you'll find yourself wondering what the hell the man in the chair was all about and what the basement section was for, oh yes they do go wondering around the house one by one and especially into the darkened basement.

Overall.pngV/H/S does show some promise and there are two stories within the anthology that do stand out with one that feels particularly strong and could perhaps stand on its own. However the other stories including the main thread are cliché ridden and all too predictable. It does feel like there were enough good ideas in here for perhaps one or two films rather than the rather lacklustre anthology we get.

One does wonder if the main story had been stronger then perhaps the whole piece would have improved, but as it is the first and last segments are the highlights while the remaining stories struggle to stay with you once the credits have finished.

All in all this was a rather disappointing film and I had hoped it was going to be much more than it turned out to be. Still, it's nice enough entertainment but it doesn't set the heart racing until the final story and then it doesn't last long enough.

More on Edinburgh International Film Festival 2012 on Filmstalker
More on other Festivals on Filmstalker
Edinburgh International Film Festival Official Site
UK IMDB Film Details



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