Still of Calvin Reeder in V-H-S
Sundance Film Festival
Directors: David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Ti West & Adam Wingard
It’s strange, but the majority of viewers of this recent edition to the found footage horror genre will be unaware of the VHS format—I’m getting old. While most found footage films (The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity) use the genre to generate a cheap, shoddy production with little creativity to produce high box office revenues, these six filmmakers have combined their grotesque passion for gore, violence, dark humor and terror and essentially created a “Tales from the Darkside” found footage film. A group of pranksters who document their lives are hired via email to break into a home and steal a much desired VHS tape. Not ones to shy away from filming their illegal antics, the crew bring the audience along to witness the crime. However, upon arrival, a scattered collection of tapes are found, so, in order to locate the correct item, the criminals (and the members of the audience) must watch one horrifying tape after another. From demonic monsters and disturbing voyeurs to possessed Skype videos and active haunted houses, the see-saw of entertainment sways both ways as only half of the directors are capable of spawning true horror, while the others follow in the footsteps on their uninspired predecessors (but that doesn’t mean they won’t make millions in the process). Even with the less convincing portions of the film, this new spin has developed a whole new perspective on the found footage model and renewed my hope for future cheaply made projects.