MacGuffin Film Review – V/H/S

Film Review – V/H/S

V/H/S Movie PosterV/H/S is a “found footage” anthology film: there are five vignettes and one section that wraps around the others to tie them together. (Each section has a different director.) In this interstitial segment, a group of guys videotape themselves doing awesome things. And by awesome, I mean, stupid, criminal, and bad. Not only do they go around smashing up abandoned houses, they like to run up to women, grab them and forcibly reveal their breasts to the camera. Which is a form of sexual assault, and is not in the movie to show the audience how bad these guys are—that’s pretty obvious—but is there just to show boob. I just want to make this perfectly clear, sexual assault is not a way to incorporate nudity into a film. If you want to show a woman’s breasts, just do it; nudity is not a pleasurable side effect of violence. Ugh. Remember this scene, because it is going to come up later and piss me off even more.

Anyway, our protagonists like to videotape themselves doing stupid stuff because they obviously like to watch themselves being “hilarious” and they have no concept of “evidence.” After several minutes of their awesome hijinks, one of the guys presents a business opportunity to his friends; all they need to do is go out to this old dude’s house and steal a very rare videotape to sell to this other dude. This seems like a great idea, and is made even greater when they discover that the owner of the house is dead, and they can rifle through his tapes at will. As things happen, they each end up alone with the corpse watching random tapes—which contain unbelievable stories of horror. This wrap-around story is the weakest part of the film, and, aside from being repellant, is just kind of lame. Also, two guys are filming and the viewpoint switches between them, so at some later point someone must have found their account so riveting they edited the two pieces together. I doubt it.

So, the first three stories are pretty uninteresting. Every single character (male and female) is a variation on the douchebag, and there are no scares to be had, so I am going to fast-forward to the last two stories. The fourth story, “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger,” has the movie’s only inspired moment, where I was so shocked I laughed out loud. It is a video chat between sweethearts Emily and James (not sure why this is recorded on videotape) who are separated while he is at medical school. As time goes on, creepier and creepier things happen in Emily’s apartment, and she tries to capture them with her computer camera to show James. The reveal is maybe not as revealing as it could be, but all in all, it’s pretty effective.

V/H/S 1

The last story, “10/31/98,” is the strongest, and it’s the only segment where the guys do not come off as potential rapists. Four costumed friends arrive at a Halloween party where no one else is in attendance. They figure the owners have set the place up as a haunted house and have an awesome time until they don’t. (I don’t want to say much more.) It’s not scary (none of the stories are) but it is interesting, made sense, and had a nice creepy tone.

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So, it is not a crime for a horror movie not to be scary—a lot of them aren’t—but this film is really nasty in a not very good way. For the most part, every time a character dies, it is a mercy killing for the audience because we do not have to see that person again. It’s also a good example of where passing the Bechdel test doesn’t always mean much. There are two kinds of women in this film: victim boobs and killer boobs, and sometimes one kind of boob becomes the other. Sure, it’s offensive, but I would be even more pissed if I were a guy. Every man in this movie (except in the fifth story) is a creeper of the highest order. If you want to make sure your teenage daughter never ever has sex, (which is weird and I do not recommend it), show her this movie, because the men here are gross and predatory and get off on violence and shame.

I don’t usually talk about the credits of a movie, but I’ll make a special exception here. During the end credits, the filmmakers replay video from the wrap-around story. And when they get to the scenes where the assholes forcibly reveal the woman’s breast, they replay it. Over and over again. Because it must be funny and hey—it’s boob!  So now, not only are the characters repellent, so are the people who made that editing choice. It’s foul and pointless, and completely destroyed any goodwill I had towards this movie. (Which, admittedly, was not much.)

Final Grade: D-

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