How do you scare Generation Y? Jaded by graphic Internet videos and with an attention span ruined by social media, how do you make a movie to frighten them? You scare this media-savvy audience by making a horror anthology of found footage.
In V/H/S, the screen comes to life like a 1980s videotape and we’re plunged into a sordid and horrifying collection of short films. A group of violent misfits are hired to burglarize a desolate house in the countryside and acquire a rare tape. Upon searching the house, the guys are confronted with a dead body, a hub of old televisions and a stack of VHS cassettes. The burglars, of course, sit down to watch the tapes, each video stranger and more inexplicable than the last.
Six of America’s top fright filmmakers have tales to tell in this anthology of horror. Each film is from the perspective of the participants, as if you were holding the camcorder and shooting the action yourself. Or had stumbled upon the video on some forbidden web site.
Our first entry in this horror anthology plays out like amateur porn, as a group of guys outfitted with a hidden camera seek to take advantage of girls at a club. These manboys think they are in charge until a bloody and horrifying encounter in a cheap motel room. Other short films in this anthology explore subgenres of horror familiar to fans – teen terror at the lake, road trip trouble, a very convincing haunted house – but with plenty of graphic violence and sex, like a bloodier version of The Blair Witch Project.
And with cameras even shakier and more uncertain. A good amount of the terror in V/H/S comes from not knowing what’s going on outside the frame. We watch this movie from the perspective of the victim, in dark rooms or running for our lives, pursued by monsters we cannot comprehend.
One of the more creative shorts is by Joe Swanberg, with perhaps the first Skype horror story ever created. It’s an interesting perspective, where we see a guy talking to his girlfriend via webcam, as things steadily go wrong for her. Applying horror to the mundane details of a long-distance relationship is a great twist.
Swanberg said that V/H/S is an attempt to revive the great horror anthologies of the 1980s like Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt. “The strength of the anthology is to see a lot of different directors, to see six different visions of horror.” And the short films of V/H/S are perfect for the YouTube generation, which likes its entertainment in bite-sized pieces.
V/H/S opens in limited release October 5. Visit www.magnetreleasing.com/vhs for a list of theatres screening the film.