I haven’t actually seen any of the “V/H/S” entries previous to this newly released entry “V/H/S: Viral”. Since however this isn’t a continuing storyline I decided to take my first venture into the “V/H/S” universe. The first two were pretty well received and I hope they were excellent, this entry however is a disappointing venture. The film’s shorts are very poorly made and directed, with devoid lack of scares; any potential storylines that could have been good sadly don’t go anywhere and is further proof of the decline of the found footage genre.
“V/H/S: Viral” follows a series of different VHS tapes with a really bizarre nature to them. Broken apart to different segments (but still interlocking) , the tapes found in this ice cream truck gone crazy each show something terrifying to them, that includes a deranged magician, a parallel world, and demonic creatures.
The premise of “V/H/S” is intriguing, a group of interlocking found footage short films that add to an overall larger story while each segment being directed by someone new. That premise alone feels fresh and rather original that can bring together a creative effort from the several different directors. Perhaps that’s what the first two ended up being (but I don’t to make assumptions for something I haven’t viewed yet) but it’s amazing how uncreative this venture is.
To start with the very premise barely holds together here. Somehow all these digital formats found their way to the old analog VHS’s, but beside that many of these forgot to establish why someone is filming something. This is supposed to be found footage and I don’t see why certain things were getting filmed. Then when there is a reason, for the most part it doesn’t work because the camera work is so disorienting and enough to make you nauseous.
For instance during the segment where these skateboarders are fighting demonic creatures, the cameras are attached to their helmets so there are only really 2 different angles you can get. When they go to attack the demons, the camera moves where the head moves, so in a violent struggle the camera gets so shaky that you can hardly ever get a fixed view of what they are attacking instead it looks like four monkeys are grabbing all ends of the camera and tugging really hard.
Most of the segments don’t actually find anything interesting thing to do or say. The “driving in circles” segment gets tedious and the “twist” is beyond implausible. “Dante the great” had an interesting take with its documentary style but lacks any good scares. The “Parallel Universe” storyline reminded me of a sick twisted version of “The Twilight Zone”. This one was the most interesting (even though it doesn’t make logical sense that someone would have found that footage but I’ll let it slide), it’s not scary but it’s just interesting and decently written.
I’ve alluded to this nearly the entire review but this movie is not scary. If fact it’s quite the opposite, it’s boring, I found myself falling asleep a few times throughout the movie. Only occasionally it can be unsettling but mostly disgusting. For some that is enough for a horror film to be effective but I don’t find disgusting scary, disgusting is disgusting. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is an example of a film that is so unsettling that it’s terrifying but holds back on the overtly disgusting parts. There is always room for some disgusting but it has be balanced out with other elements, “Viral” did not accomplish this.
Yet something here is oddly appealing. The anthology storyline, the different styles used, and different writers, there is something extremely fun and interesting that can be done with a premise like this. If anything perhaps it can be compared to the found footage equivalent of “The Twilight Zone”. I may have not been a fan of this film but I’m actually excited to take a look at some of the previous films in the series. Watching this film got me thinking about the possibilities and potential this type of idea can have. Hopefully that potential was met but I also do want to see more sequels to this series. There is plenty of creative goodness to be had.