This week in movies you missed: A slew of young horror directors bring us a found-footage anthology. But is it scary?
What You Missed
A group of twentysomething douchebags (sorry, the word fits) like to get unwilling or unwitting women naked on camera, then sell the footage online. While robbing a deserted house, they discover a corpse sitting in an armchair with a bunch of staticking TVs and stacks of videotapes. Rather than getting the hell out of there, they watch the tapes, each of which turns out to be a mini-horror flick:
In “Amateur Night,” directed by David Bruckner (The Signal), a group of partying frat bro types bring home a girl who turns out to be more voracious than they bargained for.
In “Second Honeymoon,” from Ti West (The House of the Devil), things go very wrong on a couple’s road trip through the Southwest.
“Tuesday the 17th,” from Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead) is a standard cabin-in-the-woods plot with a video-related twist.
Mumblecore director Joe Swanberg brings us “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger,” in which the title character Skypes with her distant boyfriend from an apartment she fears is haunted.
In “10/31/98,” from the collective Radio Silence, we learn why it’s best to avoid spooky houses on Halloween, even if there’s supposedly a party inside.
Why You Missed It
V/H/S made the rounds of festivals but only reached 19 theaters. This is most definitely not PG-13 horror.
Should You Keep Missing It?
If you’re a horror fan, you’ll probably want to check this out, and if you’re not, you almost certainly won’t. But for the record, here’s one horror fan’s reaction.
The segments that genuinely scared me were “Amateur Night,” “Second Honeymoon” and “The Sick Thing...” The first takes a long, long time to get creepy, and the other two have misguided twist endings that don’t make a ton of sense, but they all have their oh-shit moments.
I gather, however, that the internet fan consensus finds West’s segment too slow (it is pretty Blair Witch) and favors “10/31/98” for its creative, cheap effects. For me, that one was a little too hokey to be scary.
By far the worst segment is “Tuesday the 17th,” due to laughably wooden acting. Camp may have a place in slasher flicks, but not in found-footage horror.
I found V/H/S overall a seamy, seedy, almost dirty-feeling experience. That’s largely because the theme of guys trying to get girls to undress in front of the camera recurs in virtually every segment, usually leading to gratuitous nudity. Plus, every segment has white, entitled, twentysomething protagonists who seem to be almost begging for a comeuppance from the universe.
Were the filmmakers trying for some kind of commentary on sexual exploitation in horror, or is that aspect of the shorts just ... fan service? Perhaps some of both. But the creepy aura of voyeurism certainly fits the found-footage theme.
Verdict: When you give young male horror directors their way, they’re gonna put lots of boobs and blood on the screen. And, yes, some scares.
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Each week in "Movies You Missed," I review a brand-new DVD release picked for me by Seth Jarvis, buyer for Burlington's Waterfront Video, where you can obtain these fine films. (In central Vermont, try Downstairs Video.)