Movie Review: V/H/S (2012)


V/H/S might be the most buzzed about horror film of the year. The trailer’s a scream. It sickened people at Sundance. It brings together the directors of The Signal, House of the Devil, I Sell the Dead and You’re Next in an orgy of over-the-top sex, violence, and obscenity, all the while pushing the found-footage format (Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, etc.) to nauseating extremes. And when the credits roll – while your life won’t be changed – there’s a good chance you’ll feel like you’ve been dropkicked from one side of the room to the other.

The film begins with a group of the most disgusting people you’ll ever meet. Gary, Zak and Rock are the kinds of douchebags whose idea of a good time is tracking a girl in a parking lot and videotaping her while they run by and rip her shirt off. Their sleaze practically drips off the screen. So of course, they don’t hesitate when a guy calls with a breaking-and-entering job where they have to steal an unmarked videotape. They fire up their videocameras and go theftin’ – only to find a dilapidated, near empty house full of tapes, VCR’s, and TV’s. As they try to figure out which VHS tape they’re supposed to be ganking, you can only squirm at the shit they see.

 V/H/S is an anthology film, so you watch every film the crew watches in full – whether it’s the story of drunken frat boys ending up on the wrong side of a mystery woman they meet at the bar, or the tale of a haunted house told via Skype (they beat you to it, Paranormal Activity 4!) Not giving too much away is essential, as you never know exactly what kind of horror show you’re in for until halfway through the short. And while most of them aren’t perfect, rest assured they all deliver on some gory level or another.  These are the stories of people who register somewhere between “asshole” and “human abomination,” but the goods come in seeing them get what they deserve (at least, most of the time.)

What makes the film such a blast to watch, though, is how much energy it’s shot with. Now, if you’re not a fan of the handheld filmmaking, stay the fuck away from V/H/S. With its low-budget, high “realism” aesthetic, the footage often shakes like the filming is occurring during a goddamn earthquake. But that’s typically because characters are fleeing from something awful, and you feel their fear as they run like hell. Only in two shorts – a road trip to Hell from Innkeepers director Ti West and the haunted Skype story by indie-favorite Joe Swanberg – does the pace die down enough for a creeping slow-burn. Typically, V/H/S is a loud, brash, in-your-face house of horrors.


That said, don’t go in expecting the film to change the face of the genre. In all of the hype for the film, some critics have built it up to be the second coming of horror. In reality, the narratives in these short films don’t add up to a whole lot (some of them border on incoherent); one or two conclusions can leave you feeling a little blue-balled; and the third short – “Tuesday the 17th” – features some of the worst acting you’ll see all year (as well as a second half that flat-out turns into Predator.) And if you watch a lot of the truly hardcore shit, nothing here will faze you. Instead, watch it for its sheer visceral kick.

If you want something a little sicker, a little weirder, and a whole helluva lot more intense, check out V/H/S. It’s an ugly film, and it might be the craziest fucking ride the horror genre offers up all year.

(V/H/S is now playing on OnDemand. It opens in limited theaters in October.)

Rating: 4/5 ★★★★☆ 


About Josh_C

Josh has studied film at the Universities of Missouri and Florida, and he is currently studying horror film and popular culture in the Communication and Culture program at Indiana University. He has previously worked with the True/False Documentary Film Festival and the Ragtag Theatre in Columbia, Missouri, and he served as short-term production assistant on This Film Is Not Yet Rated. He is currently working on a dissertation on independent horror, horror film festivals, and horror fandom; feel free to contact him to discuss any of the above! He is also studying Dark Carnival Film Festival (

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