Horror anthologies in the 21st century have, for the most part, been a strange and mean disappointment. With a few key exceptions--well, Trick 'r Treat--it just seems like whenever (usually) young filmmakers of this age tackle the short story format, we as an audience end up with something far from scary and entertaining and close to mean and for whatever reason, oddly misogynist.
I am nothing if not a multitasker.
Quick Plot(s): Story by story, here we go:
Our wraparound, Vicious Circles, is helmed by Deadgirl co-director Marcel Sarmiento. It follows a slacker named Kevin who, hold onto your butts, REALLY LIKES VIDEOTAPING STUFF. Most of that “stuff” includes his girlfriend Iris. One night, a high-speed police chase involving a wayward ice cream truck flashes by his own window, prompting Kevin to grab his camera and get in on the action. Iris is somehow abducted by the speeding truck, but she manages to send Kevin video phone messages helping him track her. Meanwhile, other bystanders who witness the chase circling them seem to fall into fits of violent madness.
I’ll say this about Vicious Circles: it’s gallons better than any of the wraparounds in the other two V/H/S films. Unfortunately, that’s kind of like saying having your cavity filled is gallons better than experiencing a root canal, or that the characters on The Walking Dead are more consistent than Fear the Walking Dead. For whatever reason, the framing segments in this series just can’t seem to click into place in a way that works. As a huge fan of the underrated Deadgirl, Vicious Circle is a letdown but hey...it could have been worse.
The first full segment is Dante the Great, written and directed by Gregg Bishop of the surprisingly delightful zombie comedy Dance of the Dead. Dante is a wildly successful magician whose tricks baffle and excite the world. His success, however, is actually due to the possession of a powerful and evil cloak that craves fresh bodies.
I’ve yet to see the well-received Timecrimes, in part because I’m still trying to get to the point where I don’t remember the details of what’s known to be the very similar in nature and details Triangle. Like the first segment, Parallel Monsters is good, if not great. I enjoyed how it never had to come out and explain its alternate devil (or something) worshiping religion. It drops enough clues to know something is very, very wrong, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s a solid short story, which is what I like to see in anthologies.
The final segment is titled Bonestorm and is directed by the promising team behind Resolution and Spring, Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead. In the typical V/H/S tradition, Bonestorm is about a group of awful teenage boys. Thankfully, it’s much better than most of the previous shaky cam dudefests found in the other films.
The youths in this case are a group of skateboarding brats who head across the Mexican border to get some video footage of extreme moves. As they flip around an abandoned skate park with some ominous ritual symbols, one of them sheds some blood and accidentally summons a cult of undead skeleton zombie killer things. Shot primarily via Go Pro cameras, it certainly has the expected “what am I actually seeing?” effect, but the chaos is handled well enough that the almost video game-esque feel keeps the material watchable.
I don't particularly want to see more V/H/S entries, but if considering they're on a (rather slow) upward track, I guess I won't complain. It's encouraging to see newer genre filmmakers taking some chances. Let's just hope they stay somewhat interesting.
Sigh. The usual. If you have boobs, a V/H/S camera will ogle them. If you have a vagina, you won't be allowed to do anything behind the camera. If you have motion sickness, a V/H/S camera will jam its fingers down your throat and vomit you. You get it.
V/H/S: Viral might be the odd case of a film that works better when viewed on a cell phone than a larger television screen, where the shaky cam effect can be overwhelming
My expectations were pretty darn low for V/H/S: Viral, so a mild endorsement might be worthy of video box art. That being said, I found this one more...tolerable than the first two. The stories all bring something mildly new to the format, and none overstay their welcome in terms of length. It's on Instant Watch and at just 80 minutes, it won't hurt your brain to watch. It won't do much to improve it, but things could be worse.