Although VHS might be dead V/H/S is still going strong it seems with part 3 premiering at FrightFest 2014 this year putting together another crazy, gory and gruesome group of short films with a warped wrap around proving this is a concept that just keeps going.
First up after seeing the film at FrightFest I have subsequently found out a section involving a serial killer tracked by a secret organization was cut from the version screened so sadly this review is a bit incomplete. That said my musings on the other four segments of the film should give you enough idea of what to expect and if it’s the film for you.
The wrap around story that opens V/H/S: Viral Vicious Circles sets the pace for the rest of the film offering up a confusing kaleidoscope of images, noise and action that only barely hangs together as a video camera obsessed boy has his girlfriend kidnapped by a maniac in an ice cream van which is causing chaos in a massive police chase.
What this section which we return to throughout the film right up till the end, where the movie’s title suddenly makes a whole lot more sense, is a non-stop barrage of gore and violence and this is V/H/S: Viral’s greatest strength and its biggest weakness.
Vicious Circles like the later skater short Bonestorm where a gang of skateboard kids head for Tijuana and end up brutally battling a bunch of skull faced cult members intent on raising their overlord both intensely and intentionally put you inside the blood splattering action thanks to the Go-Pro camera and found footage format.
This makes for maximum impact as far as visuals, great effects and heart pounding horror but minimum storytelling and character depth at best making you feel like you’re on a flesh splitting roller coaster ride and at worst detaching you totally like watching someone else play a survival horror game.
Luckily there are some more story based sections with Dance of the Dead director Gregg Bishop offering up Dante the Great, a story about a magician with a real life magic cloak that just happens to feed on people for its power.
Although abandoning the found footage format for a more documentary style set up with interviews and a couple of sections that look like a straight up traditional movie the effects are awesome especially towards the end when Dante turns his powers on the SWAT police trying to take him down.
Best of all in V/H/S: Viral comes from the extremely inventive Nacho Vigalondo with his sick and twisted Parallel Monsters. Already proving himself as a talented and creative director with low budget odd ball comedy sci-fi Extraterrestrial and the excellent slasher Open Windows both premiering at FrightFest this year and both great Parallel Monsters tells the tale of an inventor who opens a door to an alternate world and swaps places with himself for 15 minutes, a short amount of time but given what is happening in his doubles world enough to bring death and disturbing revelations down upon him.
Truly shocking and horrifying it is by far the most original and all round effective short in V/H/S: Viral and well worth watching the film for even if you can’t get onboard the more visceral shorts and their lacking plot lines.
Regardless of whether you feel that some parts lack storytelling and coherence the extreme mini movies that firmly place you inside the action like found footage should do prove that V/H/S: Viral’s portmanteau horror still has potential and I for one can’t wait till they move to DVD!