Horror anthologies have long been a favorite of horror fans. Dead of Night in the 40s to Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath in the 60s to Tales from the Crypt and Trilogy of Terror in the 70s to Creepshow and Cats Eye in the 80s and even up to Trick R Treat in 2007. They have always been a part of the horror culture and they seem to be picking up steam once again.
A group of popular indie horror filmmakers pooled their talents to combine the horror anthology genre with the now hugely popular found footage genre. The wrap around story in V/H/S is called Tape 56, directed by Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die). A group of criminals looking to make a quick buck break into a house to find a VHS tape that could make them a lot of money if found. They discover a large stash of tapes and proceed to watch a few to find the elusive tape they are looking for. This leads us to our 5 stories within. The stories range from drunken date nights gone wrong in a hotel room with a very strange girl, a second honeymoon at the Grand Canyon with some late night motel goings on, a weekend trip with an uninvited guest, a webcam plea from a girlfriend to a long distance boyfriend over a possible haunting, and a Halloween party that is definitely at the wrong house. The directors for the stories vary from the group Radio Silence, who are mainly known for internet shorts, David Bruckner (The Signal), Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), Joe Swanberg, also known for shorts, and Ti West (House of the Devil, The Innkeepers).
For the most part, V/H/S is full of great ideas, but unfortunately they didn’t seem to gel together very well. There are some strange things about the movie that didn’t work, such as ending the wraparound story before the last segment, which is odd. There were 2 stories I quite liked, 2 that were okay, and 2 that I didn’t care for. The whole premise of the stories being on vhs didn’t really work for me since all the stories take place well after vhs was gone. Why anyone would have taken all these newer home movies and found footage and put them on a vhs tape is beyond me. I think it would have worked better had all the stories been retro and taken place during the age of vhs use. I had read that Wingard just told the other filmmakers to make something, but gave little direction, then he pieced them together into this film. If this is true, perhaps it should have been a more collaborative effort to make the film more cohesive. Still, there are some great ideas in here and some fun to be had; I just don’t think it lives up to the hype it gained from the festival circuit. Definitely worth checking out for the horror fans, but I don’t think it will have a lasting following.