V/H/S | Movie review
Gimmicks suffocate this omnibus horror film.
If, as a general rule, comedies benefit from speed, then horror movies benefit from the exact opposite—the slower and more lingering, the juicier. Conceived by a bunch of rising young Turks including Ti West (The House of the Devil) and David Bruckner (The Signal), V/H/S breaks up its two-hour running time into five short films, “discovered” on static-laced videocassettes by a Jackass-ian gang of housebreakers. None of the segments has enough air to breathe; unless you’re Rod Serling, this brief format is extremely hard to do. In one bit, apartment-crashing ghosts make their presence known too obtrusively. Elsewhere, a friends-by-the-lake slasher tale takes several shortcuts into boring Friday the 13th–sequel territory.
But as in George Romero’s grand exception to the rule, Creepshow (1982), sometimes laughs carry the day. Bruckner’s lead-off contribution, “Amateur Night,” rides hard on the boorish behavior of a trio of hard-partying frat boys who pick up a pair of comely barflies, one of whom turns out to have a thirst that’s harder to quench than theirs. The vibe is panicky and brutal, ending with an amazing brainteaser of a shot. It’s too bad V/H/S starts off on such a high note. Mainly, the omnibus film feels undercooked, even on the grounds of its video-pegged setup. Didn’t anyone think to play around with the nightmarish scenarios of wobbly tape tracking or jammed top-loading decks? Now those were scary.