As some of you may recall, the last movie I wrote up was V/H/S Viral, the third in a trilogy of films… of which I had previously seen exactly zero installments. I wasn’t too kind with my review, though, I enjoyed the anthology format, which allowed the filmmakers to be inventive and didn’t ask much from the viewers… other than 15 – 20 minutes of their time per segment. Someone who read my write-up said that I need to watch the first two installments of the franchise and that while the first movie was better than the second, it contained the best segment of the three. I agree with this statement, though, I have a bit of a caveat: while the first movie in the series is technically better than the other (i.e. the production value and the structuring of the plots are stronger), there is an element of the first movie that kept dragging my viewing experience a bit down (more on this shortly), which, in the end made me enjoy the sequel much more than the first installment…
It’s been nearly a month since I say down and watched these movies, therefore this write-up will probably be a bit shorter and somewhat less specific than usual. Also, I want to start by discussing what I recall from my viewing and then I will go back to my notes to fill things out. The time I took off provides me with a rare chance to discuss the staying power of the film.
After raking my brain, I can only recall two of the five installments. Though, I do remember the element I alluded to before. Let’s start there… so, the framing structure of the film involves a group of criminals who agree to break into a house to steal a V/H/S. All-in-all, not a bad way to set up the film. However, before we get there we are “treated” to brief clips of these deviants’ exploits. I’m guessing part of the reason behind this was to establish that these guys are not worth rooting for and perhaps even creating an element of sick pleasure once they start to get killed off. That all fine and good, however, I found one act particularly upsetting and it sensitized me to everything that came afterwards. I won’t go into detail, but it involves an element of sexual assault… it is not particularly graphic or violence, but it is still upsetting (at least to me). I realize this is a piece of fiction, and I don’t have any issue with including this in the film. That being said, there are two things that affected my watching of this film. First, the filmmakers choose to keep going back to this shot… especially during the closing credits, which made it feel more exploitative than plot-driven. Second, as I alluded to earlier, it affected my viewing of the remainder of the segments. Again, I can’t recall the specifics of all five elements (I’ll be going back to my notes shortly, for a reminder)… however, I do remember that four out of the five segments involved evil women (or evil female creatures) in some manner or another and the fifth involves a pretty horrific (though, effective) victimization of a woman. Again, this is nothing uncommon for the genre… it’s just after the opening, it felt like the various filmmakers were going back to the same (or at least similar well) again and again… frankly, I was burnt out before the final segment even started.
I won’t spend too much time breaking down each segment. However, I can say that the two most effective, at least to me, were Second Honeymoon (which, involves… a second honeymoon) and The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger (which, involves a boyfriend and girlfriend speaking over a series of video-chats). Both of these segments are creative, believable, ramp up the suspense, and have genuine scares. They also benefit from their short running time, since they don’t need to drag on in order to reach a feature-length running time. Now, after going back over my notes, the other three segments, which, I found less effective (Amateur Night (a guys’ night out gone wrong), Tuesday the 13th (a hiking trip gone wrong), and 10/31/98 (a trip to a Halloween party gone wrong)), all suffered from the same issues: they weren’t particularly scary, the characters felt unbelievable and unlikable, and there wasn’t much in the way of suspense.
In the end, the opening scene really affected my viewing of the remainder of the film, so, while, for the most part, the segments are well structured and interesting, I just couldn’t settle into the film as a whole. Interestingly, tomorrow’s write-up of the sequel will probably be similar (as of right now I can only remember two of the segments) but because the framing element wasn’t problematic I’m guessing I’ll be much more kind with my conclusions.