V/H/S. 2012. Dir. David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, Mat Bettinelli-Olpin, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Chad Villella, Ti West, and Adam Wingard.
Starring Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Kentucker Audley, Adam Wingard, Hannah Fierman, Sarah Byrne, Simon Barrett. 18A. Magnet Releasing/eOne. 116 mins.
★★1/2 (Blu ray release)
A film I highly anticipated when it was originally released, V/H/S on Blu-ray comes with a little extra for your viewing pleasure. The film itself looks great. Although most of it is shot with the intention of looking lower quality, as if on second or third generation VHS tapes, probably recorded over more than once, it looks even better here than on the big screen. You can see everything much clearer, even with the intentionally grainy look the filmmakers tried to inject. It’s wonderful.The film’s stories are also a lot of fun. The only particular piece I didn’t enjoy was Joe Swanberg’s short. Not because I don’t like him – I’m actually a real big fan. I recently saw his film Silver Bullets, and thought it was excellent. I just didn’t like this one. I thought it was almost too much jammed into one story. Things felt forced. Other than that, I really love the rest of the shorts. My favourite is Ti West’s segment, “Second Honeymoon”; funny enough, one of the actors in this short is Swanberg, who plays his character well (I almost like him more as an actor than director). There’s something really eery underlying everything throughout. West builds up the feeling of dread throughout, and the end is a quick, shocking conclusion that really got to me. The wraparound story of the whole film is fun.
The filmmakers did a really good job of making things sort of plausible, as to why there were these tapes, what they were, why they’re even being shown. That’s one challenge of the entire sub-genre of found footage: how do the tapes even show up in a natural way? I thought V/H/S had a good story to go with this idea.Next up are the special features on the Blu-ray. They have some generic stuff on here. Such as a small collection of clips and 10-second interviews with a few of the directors and writers. Most of the features are like this: fairly lame. Nothing to get too excited over here. Most of the extras involving each short, not all though, are fairly silly little bits.
There’s a little piece about 5-minutes long, if that, about the segment called “Amateur Night”, and it shows the filmmakers testing helium balloons with a compartment attached holding their camera (why will become obvious once you’ve actually seen the short itself). This part I enjoyed because they basically dissected the final shot of that segment, including some of the VFX/green screen stuff, and I thought it was well done. I never considered how they may have done those shots. But it was really neat to see it played out in front of me.
Other than this 5-minute section, the special features are a bore honestly. I mean, some of the interviews are okay, but with a high concept found footage film like this I would’ve liked to see more stuff sort of like the little section on “Amateur Night”. I bet some of the directors could show off some neat little tricks they used to achieve some of the effects. On the other hand, maybe a magician shouldn’t reveal all his or her tricks.
The film itself I give a 4 out of 5 stars. The Blu-ray is a 2.5 out of 5 honestly. I would definitely suggest picking it up, but don’t do so on the pretense you’re getting a good release full of some worthwhile special features. It’s worth the purchase to have the film in a great print of high quality. Aside from the film itself the Blu-ray is nothing special.
Maybe a few years down the road once the V/H/S series has peaked (I think they should keep going; I loved the latest instalment called V/H/S: Viral) they’ll re-release the whole thing on Blu-ray as a boxset and throw in a load of unused footage to treat us all. Until then we’ll have to do with this. It’s decent. I just hoped for a little more.Nonetheless, the film is great. A fresh, unique movie with some thrills, chills, and a nice showing of gory bits – enough to satisfy me, anyway.