A thoroughly nasty series of handheld horror vignettes
Using ‘found footage’ as its central theme, V/H/S delivers six different stories for the price of one. In the overarching narrative ‘Tape 56’, a group of thugs raid a seemingly empty house in search of a specific video cassette, filming their actions as they go. While scanning through each tape they come across, they discover a series of (often supernatural) snuff stories: ‘Amateur Night’, in which a group of frat boys hook up with women to surreptitiously film them having sex; ‘Second Honeymoon’, where a young couple document a romantic vacation; ‘Tuesday the 17th’, in which four twenty-somethings go camping in the woods; ‘The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She was Younger’, in which a couple communicate via webcam; and ‘10/31/98’, in which a group of lads visit a haunted house on Hallowe’en.
As with any anthology, some of the stories are more effective than others. Remarkably though, each chapter has at least one stand out feature, particularly the terrifying monster at the heart of ‘Amateur Night’, and the demonic special effects in ‘10/31/98’. The supposed medium also adds tension: the rule that what can’t be seen is often far scarier than what can is invoked by tracking issues, bursts of static and, in the case of ‘Emily’, glitchy, pixelated footage caused by a dodgy connection.
The found footage format requires some pretty strenuous suspension of disbelief at times – why are the thugs filming themselves? Why would webcam footage be transferred to videotape? – but overall, this collection of video nasties will ensure you’ll want to sleep with the light on, and be glad you converted to DVD.
Showing at Edinburgh International Film Festival on Thu 28 Jun and Sat 30 Jun.