The VHS films are on a short list of horror films in recent years that have developed a strong following. The first film was a raw and gritty flick that held on to a certain amount of realism (as much as the genre will allow) that made you feel dirty. The follow-up, VHS-2, upped the ante with a more coherent plot that delved into the VHS mythos enough to get the fans hungry enough for a third installment. This writer was one of those fans who was waiting with fork in hand (Yes, I travel with a fork in hand…. I’m bigged boned dammit!!) ready to dig into whatever gory mayhem this series had to serve up.
VHS: Viral is the first film in the series that Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett (You’re Next and The Guest) not involved with the production. Their departure is quickly noticeable (Viral has a slicker feel to it. Barrett and Wingard are all about that grimy feel), but VHS: Viral is able to find its rhythm with the audience and I was quickly sucked back into the world of over the top shorts that drive people insane. So let’s go short by short here:
Directed by Marcell Sarmiento
Vicious Cycles is Viral’s wrap around segment that would normally connect all the tales together. Sadly, Cycles does not even come close to achieving this goal. VHS-2 left off hinting at a larger conspiracy that Viral should have been all over. Sarmiento seems to have completely ignore this and decided to dive head first into crazy town. Not really sure what is going on in this segment, but I do know that a twenty something male is chasing after a renegade ice cream truck that has (for reasons never explained) abducted his girlfriend. This is all being broadcasted over the news (the renegade ice cream truck. No one cares about this dope’s screw toy) for again, unexplained reasons (It’s an ice cream truck doing 45 in a 40 lane! Better throw down the road spikes!!!). All the while people are receiving videos on their smart phones in the wake of the ice cream truck that turn them into violent, killing machines. Because why not.
My major gripe with this wrap around segment is it in no way connects the other short films and I imagine that is why we call it a “wrap around” segment. Not only does it fail to do its sole purpose, it also fails to contain a single V/H/S tape. Seemed off to watch a movie titles V/H/S and not see a single tape. Even with all these complaints Vicious Cycle is a break neck speed short, filled with enough insanity that it’s easy to forget that it’s suppose to be the connective tissue of the film. I totally picked up on the social commentary and understand that we are all a soft shove away from being brainless zombies thanks to smart phones and twitter. I just really am bored of hearing and would prefer to update my Twitter on my smart phone.
Dante the Great
Directed by Gregg Bishopp
Shot like a T.V. documentary Dante the Great tells the story of…well…Dante the Great a magician who makes all other magicians look like… I don’t know enough about magicians to finish that analogy, but just know that Dante the Great is the best. Mostly thanks to a mysterious cape that lets him pull of the craziest illusions. In order for the cape to work Dante must feed it and this cape is hungry for human flesh.
This segment is the weakest of the lot which is weird because it definitely feels the biggest. Perhaps too big and it didn’t really feel like it belonged in the world of VHS. It’s heavy on the CGI effects and that’s to be expected. It is a short about a magic cape that gives the person who wears it special powers and eats people, so CGI is almost mandatory. And to be fair they are some pretty kick ass effects, it’s just feels out-of-place in the world of V/H/S.
Directed by Nacho Vigalando
In this segment a scientist is working on a machine that allows him to open a door way to parallel dimensions. When he finally gets it to work he is greeted by what appears to be his exact duplicate from a dimension that seems to mirror his own. They both agree to swap places and “explore” the others world for 15 minutes. At first it appears to be just a mirror of each others world. Slowly our hero learns that mirror opposites is more what they have stumbled on to.
Parrell Monsters is the most fucked up segment in the history of V/H/S and with this lost that is a title they should wear with honor. I would love to go into more depth about the who, what and why’s of it, but that would really dampening the blow. Trust me when I say there is no way for you to even guess at what is instore and even when you think it’s over Vigalando goes straight for the jugular. Literally.
Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead
If there is one thing I hate more than teenage skater punks it’s Tijuana death cults. Seriously ask any one that knows me and they will say, “If Bub isn’t babbling on about how much he hates skater punks, then he’s filling someone’s ear with anti-Tijuana death cult propaganda. My personal politics aside, Bonestorm starts out like a blooper reel for a skate board video and quickly delves into an episode of Bum Fights on crack. Our slightly obnoxious hero head to Tijuana to finishing filming a skate board video and soon stop using their boards for kick flips and start using them fend off becoming human sacrifices for cult trying to bring on the end of the world.
Benson and Moorehead give it their all to dethrone Save Haven as king of the “Holy fuck! What did I just watch!” segment. I doubt these two set out to do that (hard to tell with these loose cannons), but its hard not to notice the similarities between the two segments. While they do come close they lack the overall intensity of what Gareth Evans brought to the table with Safe Haven. Don’t let that take anything away from what Bonestorm is: a badass 15 minute short, that is action packed with over the top brutality.
Overall V/H/S: Viral is a fun watch and much like the previous installments the segments are hit or miss. I do feel that the new direction they have taken was confusing and inconsistent with the rest of the movies. Which is shame because it felt like that was a real interesting path to travel down. Oh yeah there is one more thing: HOW THE HELL DO YOU HAVE A MOVIE CALLED V/H/S AND NOT HAVE A SINGLE V/H/S!