By Tom Carbone
Advertised as True/False Film Festival’s only non-documentary, festival goers might be a bit confused as to why V/H/S, a gory, sex-fueled horror movie, was included here in the first place. David Wilson, co-founder of the Fest, told the audience on opening night that V/H/S was part of the nonfiction film conversation and that it definitely belonged at True/False. However, some True/Falsers might not have agreed, as evidenced by about 20 attendees leaving during the screening Thursday night.
The film follows a group of thrill-seeking trouble makers who break into an eerie, run-down home with explicit instructions to steal a single VHS tape that is worth a large sum of money. They bring their video cameras along to film the mischief and are surprised to find a dead man inside a room full of static televisions during their exploration of the house.
Surrounding the man are countless other videos and VCRs, which of course led the intruders to pop in the tapes to see what they contained. These tapes held the majority of the film and were filled with sex-crazed hotel adventures, a road trip and a haunted apartment, among other scenes and vignettes.
Broken up into five segments on five separate VHS tapes, each vignette told a short story, which usually involved sex and a gory killing. In typical horror film fashion, killings were brutal and exaggerated, but where an audience typically screams in a horror film, this crowd at Ragtag filled the room with laughter.
It was almost like clockwork. At every “peak” of a particular scene, where a gruesome killing occurred or something equally disturbing happened, the audience responded with laughs instead of fearful screams. In one particular scene, a group of four friends take a trip to a wooded area where one of the girls proceeds to tell the group that there has been a string of killings in the area lately. The combination of poor acting and painfully predictable murders left the crowd laughing in their seats instead of startled or scared.
Looking only at the concept of the film and the way it was executed, V/H/S certainly succeeds in creating something both interesting and original. A combination of found footage from home videos and Skype sessions, V/H/S did a good job creating a shaky and disturbing environment, à la Blair Witch Project. But this is also where the film seemed a bit trite. It was as if the filmmakers took their favorite recent horror movies like The Ring, Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, put them in a blender and created V/H/S. Some characters and scenes mirrored these films almost exactly and felt a little unoriginal at times.
V/H/S is one of the festival’s most talked-about films. After a strong showing at Sundance, where it was reported that people in the audience fainted, it seemed as though we had the next great horror film of our time. The lack of a cohesive structure or anything tying scenes together left the audience wanting more.
Vox Rating: VVV