V/H/S: Viral. 2014. Directors: Marcel Sarmiento, Gregg Bishop, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, and Nacho Vigalondo (the Blu ray release will include the segment “Gorgeous Vortex” directed by Todd Lincoln).
Starring Emmy Argo, Emilia Ares Zoryan, Justin Welborn, Amanda Baker, Gregg Bishop, Nick Blanco, Dan Caudill, Stephen Caudill.
Magnet Releasing.
Rated R. 82 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★

Click on the titles for my previous reviews on the Blu ray releases for V/H/S V/H/S/2.VHS-VIRAL_FINISH-27x40_halfsize-691x1024So apparently a few people, for some reason, can’t get why I’ve given this movie such a high rating. I’ll attempt to explain it even further than I already have just in case any anonymous people once again have problems reading my review.

This is probably the most misunderstood and maligned entry in the V/H/S series. I never judge a movie by its rating online, or anywhere for that matter, but IMDB for instance has this somewhere around a 4 out of 10 star rating (IMDB, unfortunately, is mostly only great for finding titles/actors/et cetera – the ratings are ridiculous on there). I think that is such a nonsense rating. This is a worthy entry in the series, and it’s also a good, innovative horror movie. People don’t see it right now.  I get that – or no, no – I don’t get it, actually. I really don’t understand because I think this is the film where the whole concept of the V/H/S series comes to life, full steam blowing ahead.
I think it’s misunderstood simply because I don’t know why people prefer the other V/H/S films over this one. I love them all, but this installment has the most unique segments, and it’s definitely the most exciting in terms of energy; I never felt any sort of lag in this movie.

But who am I?  Just a lowly cinephile in a horde of horror fans.

The wraparound segment in V/H/S: Viral is definitely an interesting one. I wasn’t sure on the first viewing if I really dug it or not; things felt very chaotic and I wasn’t sure if it worked. Then, once I went back and watched this once or twice more, I started to really get into the whole segment (its official name is “Vicious Circles”) because it sets up the whole viral angle from the title; not only the main character’s intentions of being “a part of something bigger” than himself, but also just in how the videos come to is, as if transmitting around through cell phones wireless by way of this strange ice cream truck that’s rampaging through the streets on the run from authorities. It felt weird on the first watch, but second time around I started to really pay attention more, and I thought it worked very well to setup the whole film’s theme.

There are some real brutal moments in this segment, as well. Particularly, I really loved the scene where one kid is being dragged along from the back of the ice cream truck – his feet are flailing around awhile until finally they start scraping wildly along the pavement, and the sound is just disgustingly great, becoming only flying flecks of blood and bone. It’s one of the few moments in any film where I’ve literally cringed because of how it made me feel. A painful-looking moment. Loved it.
Vhs-Viral-Dante-640x360The first short directed by Gregg Bishop is called “Dante the Great”.  It centers around a magician, Dante (Welborn), who came into possession of a mysterious cloak (one formerly owned – apparently – by the great Harry Houdini but got sold because it frightened him). The cloak allowed him to do crazy, normally unattainable feats. But soon, it’s obvious there is something sinister driving the cloak and behind all its magic. Eventually, Dante kills people in pursuit of being the ultimate magician. I won’t say any more – you need to see this for yourself!

I really loved this segment. It’s my second favourite of the lot. The story itself is just really innovative in terms of horror – there aren’t too many horror movies out there (though a couple of questionable quality do exist) dealing with magicians. Why is it innovative? First off, “innovation” is defined as being “something new or different introduced”. So for starters, I began with saying there aren’t too many magician-themed horror movies. A user on IMBD had a particular problem with my review, which is fine. However, he commented that nobody wants to see a horror movie about magic “because it sucks and no one wants to see that *beep*” – I guess if that’s considered an explanation, then sure. For some of us, “Dante the Great” was unique in that a horror story about a magician is rarely done & I don’t think we’ve ever seen a found footage film about magic – correct me if I’m wrong. If this is the first magic-themed found footage movie then that alone is fairly innovative. It didn’t suck for me in any way. In a sea of horror movies, there are so many fast-forward-worthy films; the ones you just want to skip over until they’re done. For me, V/H/S: Viral had none of those moments. If it did for you, that sucks.  “Dante the Great” in particular is one of the better offerings in this installment.
I really dig this one. Bishop really uses the camera in some interesting and fun ways. A lot of people seem to get their brain in a twist over “who has the camera” and such things – but by using a magician and a supernatural-type cloak as the center of the plot, Bishop is able to not worry about all those little things. Because it’s about the magic! Dante can do anything. He proves this time and time again. Some of the scenes involving the police, specifically when they cuff Dante and put him in the back of the car, are just absolute perfection. The plot is great enough, but just the visual effects and the camerawork alone are worth the price of admission here. Really impressed by Bishop here, and hope to see some more fresh work from him in the near future.
VHS-Viral-photo-01Right off the bat, I absolutely love Nacho Vigalondo’s filmmaking. He is a special voice in a sea of horror films. Of course he loves time travel, so it’s no surprise his segment “Parallel Monsters” draws on elements of time travel, alternate universes (et cetera) to help him craft an expertly creepy, odd, and at times weirdly funny horror short. This one is about a guy who has built some sort of machine which allows him to essentially open a door and look into an alternate universe; through the door, he sees himself. We begin here as the man decides to finally switch places with the alternate version of himself on the other side. They agree to meet back there and switch over once more at a certain time. However, things get very weird for the man when he discovers the alternate universe into which he’d been peering is not at all what it seems. On the surface, at first it seems a little sexy, but slowly it devolves into the man’s discovery of a terrifying universe where nothing is sexy – and everything, especially sex, is awfully scary.
Vigalondo really knocks it out of the park with this one. I don’t know where he came up with this, but that man’s brain is genius – when he passes away, hopefully at a very old age, we should take that brain and preserve it, let future filmmakers study it/him. I can’t get over this segment. I really love, and own a copy of, his film Timecrimes. He does such an amazing job with the concept of time travel, et cetera. I don’t know if it’s just something he’s always been interested in, or it’s a concept he got into because it lent itself to very interesting horror movies – whatever the reason, I’m glad he loves it. When we finally get a look at some of the ‘people’ in this alternate universe, after they appear in their true forms, it is some of the scariest shit I’ve ever seen. Honestly. I was horrified. Once again, apparently this makes me crazy. I’m 30-years old, I’ve seen over 4,000 films, but because I’m terribly creeped out by something another person finds subjectively unscary I must be 12. OH – I’m sorry – have you been to the alternate universe where people have glowing faces, women’s vaginas are huge claw-like traps, and dicks are dripping, hair werewolf arms? Well, I apologize. The rest of us were disturbed by this. We’ve not yet been granted the ability to cross over into other universes and experience what life is like for the people there. Guess I’ll have to book a trip before watching any of Vigalondo’s movies from now on.

This segment is the best one in this film. It’s also the best segment overall in any of the V/H/S movies so far (I hope they continue to make more) – without any doubt. Anybody who disagrees? That’s fine. I love when people have differing opinions. I just agree to disagree. Even if they make another great V/H/S movie I doubt I’ll have a new favourite. “Parallel Monsters” is just so creepy, and a lot of fun.
VHS-Viral-Trailer-600x337The next segment is “Bonestorm” directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead, of whom I’m a fan (they did the excellent modern horror Resolution and the fantastic Spring). I enjoyed this one mostly because of nostalgia – I spent a lot of my teen years beating around the streets in my town skateboarding with my friends although that was in the late 90s and we mainly just had actual cameras. I actually still have some of the snapshots I took of my buddies and I doing lame tricks. Loved that stuff. “Bonestorm” is basically just the story of some skateboard kids, one who of course has a gun (maybe a little gun commentary on America in there?  I don’t know but it works!), who end up going into Mexican cult territory just across the border where they encounter some very scary people. This ends up in an all out blood bath where the young skateboard kids, the two who aren’t immediately killed, fight for their lives against a creepy group of cult-like worshippers (whose blood boils and catches fire, et cetera). It’s pretty wild.

I liked this segment, but it wasn’t all perfect. Though a lot of the young kids’ dialogue worked because they were young, some of it felt so forced and awkward. I wasn’t totally put off. Some of what they said was awesome, especially once the big fight starts going down. I loved how one kid went and switched on their music – says so much about our culture nowadays, and more so the younger kid – can’t even murder a bunch of weird skeleton people without putting on some tunes.
On the surface, “Bonestorm” sort of looks to be a real big excuse for blood and guts without much to it, but it’s more than that. First, we get a natural reason for the cameras, which sometimes is often an aspect fumbled in found footage; with the kids being skateboarders, especially in modern day, it’s only normal at least one of them has a GoPro or some type of recording equipment. I mean, one of them has a gun – not hard to believe they’d also have access to cameras. Second, I found it to be a good subversion of what we often see in horror – the monsters, or the villains (whatever they happen to be), don’t just rise up and obliterate everything, or at least not in total dominance. Instead of turning and running, the skateboard kids fight back. One even switches on their music, so they’ll have something to fight to – a soundtrack. Benson and Moorehead could’ve simply stuck with the kids running away, trying to escape all this scary stuff going on. Instead, they turn and fight. One of them sort of goes mental, which was hilarious. But it’s the end that caps it all off.
I thought the end of this segment was really awesome. Some people think it ripped off “Safe Haven” from the previous film, however, I think it went well with the whole cult vibe going on, and maybe it was more so meant as an homage. I don’t think, other than one part of the end, this resembled Gareth Evans & Timo Tjahjanto’s short from V/H/S/2. It fit well here for me because just as the two skateboarders think they’ve really kicked some ass and driven all those skeletal cult members into the ground, this (I don’t want to ruin anything so I’m keeping it vague) “thing” appears. Very cool.
Screen-Shot-2014-09-18-at-12.49.48-PM-620x400This is absolutely my favourite of the three V/H/S films. I can say that in absolute confidence. Not only are the ideas big, they are well-executed. I don’t know why I’ve seen some of the complains about this entry into the series that I have, granted some of that is mostly banter I see around the internet. I think all three of the shorts are great. The wraparound segment is pretty good, but there are also some parts I didn’t like a whole lot. I wasn’t a big fan of the moment in “Vicious Circles” where we land with the Latino gangsters – not that I have anything against the Latino gangsters, I just felt it sort of went too stereotypical, and also made them look really bad (misogynistic and very trash all around). It just didn’t flow with the rest of the wraparound. They should have tried to include less switching from camera to camera stuff, which is why they put this portion in, but it just comes off as too much; trying to cram all these bits into one. They might as well have just went ahead and included Todd Lincoln’s segment anyways, and cut some of the fat off those spots.

Regardless, I think V/H/S: Viral is easily the best in all aspects of the three films, so far, in this horror anthology series. I know I’m in the small minority, but usually I am when it comes to underrated films, or at least films I see as underrated. I think the ideas in the shorts themselves, mainly “Parallel Monsters” and “Dante the Great”, are so unique. That’s what a series like V/H/S needs if they want it to continue to have any sort of longevity. Otherwise, people will really bore with the whole concept. To me, it seems like a lot already are tired by it, but I think this is going to see better life on Blu ray, et cetera. Once people give the three films more time to sink in (it feels to me like they were almost rushed out in succession though I really love the series anyways), I really believe it’s going to hit people differently. I already love them. However, sometimes you have to give the general public awhile to digest certain movies. Maybe this will be one of them.
Right now, I suggest you watch it. I hope you’ll enjoy it. And either way, hit me up – we’ll discuss. Don’t just talk shit on the message boards. Don’t just say “the movie sucks” & half-quote what I’ve said trying to make your case. If you think it’s bad, share your thoughts – tell me! I know I’m in the minority, but that being said don’t expect me to give your opinions any type of equal weight in consideration if you can’t sensibly and sociably discuss a film. That’s what movies are all about.

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I'm a B.A.H. graduate & a Master's student with a concentration in pre-19th century literature. Although I've studied everything from Medieval literature onward, spent an extensive time studying post-modern works. I completed my Honours thesis on John Milton's Paradise Lost and the communal aspects of its conception, writing, as well as its later printing and publication. I'm starting my Master's program doing a Creative Thesis option aside from the coursework. This Thesis will eventually become my debut novel. I get to work with Newfoundland author Lisa Moore, one of the writers in residence at MUN. I am also a writer and a freelance editor. My stories "Funeral" and "Sight of a Lost Shore" are available in The Cuffer Anthologies Vol. VI & VII. Stories to be printed soon are "Night and Fog", and "The Book of the Black Moon" from Centum Press (both printed in 2016) and "Skin" from Science Fiction Reader. Another Centum Press anthology will contain my story "In the Eye of the Storm" to be printed in 2017. Newfoundland author Earl B. Pilgrim's latest novel The Adventures of Ernest Doane Volume I was edited by me, too. Aside from that I have a short screenplay titled "New Woman" that's going into production during 2017. Meanwhile, I'm writing more screenplays, working on editing a couple novels I've finished, and running this website/writing all of its content. I also write for Film Inquiry frequently. Please contact me at u39cjhn@mun.ca or hit me up on Twitter (@fathergore) if you want to chat, collaborate, or have any questions for me. I'm also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fathersonholygore. Cheers!

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