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Theatrical release poster
|Distributed by||Magnet Releasing|
|Box office||$1.9 million|
Theatrical release poster
|Distributed by||Magnet Releasing|
|Box office||$1.9 million|
V/H/S is a 2012 American anthology horror film. It features a series of found-footage shorts written and directed by Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and the directing quartet known as Radio Silence.
The film debuted at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in January 2012, and released on demand on August 31, 2012. The film made its limited theatrical premiere in the United States on October 5, 2012 and in the UK on January 18, 2013.
The film is presented as an anthology of short horror films, built into a frame narrative which acts as its own short horror film. Each short film is linked together with the concept of found footage (each segment is from the VHS tapes found in the room).
A group of young criminals videotape their exploits, which range from destroying abandoned houses to assaulting women in parking garages, forcibly removing their tops and selling the resultant footage online as reality porn. Looking to "upgrade" their criminal enterprises, they eagerly take a job given to them by an anonymous third party who is willing to pay them a large sum of money to burglarize a house and steal a single VHS videotape.
Breaking into the house, the criminals find the sole occupant—an old man—dead in front of a bank of television sets playing white noise. Feeling free to roam the house, the criminals quickly discover hundreds of unmarked VHS tapes, and set about collecting them all to ensure that they retrieve the right one. Meanwhile, one of the criminals stays behind in the room with the old man's body to watch the VHS tape left in the VCR. The contents of the tape—and subsequent videos put into the player—comprise the bulk of the film, with the action cutting back to the criminals' efforts between each short.
As the frame narrative progresses, the criminals encounter a strange figure moving around the basement which appears to be the old man; glimpses of the TV room demonstrate that, unknown to the criminals, the man's body disappears at one point only to reappear in the exact position. Similarly, the criminals return to the TV room to find that the first viewer has disappeared, prompting another of the criminals to continue watching the tapes himself. At the climax of the segment, the leader of the criminals returns to the TV room to discover that he is the only person left and that the old man's body is gone.
Searching the rooms upstairs, he finds the decapitated remains of one of his men, and is subsequently attacked by the now zombified old man. The leader flees downstairs, where he falls and is killed by the other human figure seen walking around the basement, who seems to be a creature of sorts. The story ends with the camera left in the TV room picking up the sound of the VCR starting the final tape by itself.
Shane, Patrick, and Clint are three friends who have rented a motel room to fulfill Shane's intent of bringing women back for sex; Clint's glasses have been outfitted with a hidden camera that will allow them to turn their planned encounter into an amateur porn video. While the three men are bar-hopping, Clint encounters a mysterious young woman, Lily, who acts aloof and says little other than "I like you."
In addition to picking up Lily, the men also succeed in convincing another young woman, Lisa, to return to their motel with them. Lisa passes out as Shane attempts to initiate sex and Patrick, laughing, discourages him from continuing. Lily continues awkwardly coming on to Clint, but a dejected Shane comes on to Lily instead, oblivious to the scales visible on her feet as he undresses her. Lily appears responsive, pushing Shane onto his back and then beginning to undress Clint, seemingly beginning a threesome. Overwhelmed, Clint goes to the bathroom; Patrick disrobes and attempts to take Clint's place, but Lily has made it clear that she dislikes Patrick.
Moments later, Patrick bursts into the bathroom claiming Lily bit him. When they approach Shane, Lily sprouts fangs, attacks and kills him. Clint and Patrick hide in the bathroom until Patrick, still nude, rips out the shower curtain rod from the wall and returns to the room. Clint tries to wake Lisa and Patrick attempts to fight Lily but she subdues him, drinks his blood and emasculates him. Clint escapes, but ends up falling down a stairwell and breaks his wrist in the process. Lily catches up to Clint, but instead of attacking, she attempts fellatio. Finding Clint unaroused, she crawls over to a corner and cries softly, which gets louder, then turns into demonic growling. Clint flees, begging bystanders for help, but he is suddenly lifted into the sky by Lily, who is now a winged bat-like creature. The glasses fall from the sky and hit the ground before the video cuts out.
A married couple, Sam and Stephanie, go out to the West for their second honeymoon and rent a motel room. The couple visit a Wild West-themed attraction where Stephanie receives a prediction from a mechanical fortune teller that she will soon be reunited with a loved one. That evening (and off camera), a girl comes to Sam's and Stephanie's room and attempts to convince Sam to give her a ride the next day. In the middle of the night, someone breaks into the room and records caressing Stephanie's buttocks with a switchblade, removing $100 from Sam's wallet, and putting Sam's toothbrush in the toilet. The next day, Sam notices his money missing and accuses Stephanie of taking it while they are visiting The Grand Canyon in Arizona. That night, someone enters the room again and stabs Sam in the neck with the switchblade, filming him as he chokes on his own blood. The camera then captures Stephanie and the woman from before kissing passionately and then leaving the motel as Stephanie asks if the footage has been erased, revealing Stephanie was in a love relationship with the woman that broke into their motel and killed Sam.
Three friends—Joey, Spider, and Samantha—accompany their new friend, Wendy, on a camping trip. Joey films the group as Wendy leads them through the woods, occasionally mentioning 'accidents' that took the lives of her friends. Wendy then tells them that a murderer killed her friends during a camping trip here the previous year, but the group laughs it off as a joke. Spider and Samantha leave the group and are killed by a human-like figure with a red head obscured in tracking errors (identified in the credits as "The Glitch").
At the lake, Wendy tells Joey she lured all three of them to the grounds to use as bait so she can find and kill the mysterious force. Wendy reveals that she had been to this lake before where a killer had slaughtered all her friends and she was the only survivor. She notes that the police did not believe her when she said the killer could be in two places at once. The entity walks up behind Joey and slits his throat.
Wendy runs away, luring the figure into two easily escaped booby traps and is cut by it in the second one. She films the entity close up, but it continues to be obscured by the tracking error. Wendy continues to run through the woods, she finds Joey in his death throes. After he dies, the figure approaches Wendy and a final trap impales it. Wendy gloats at it and walks away but when she turns around, it is gone; it reappears in a tree and jumps down, beats her with the camera, then kills her, subsequently eviscerating her, then inhabiting her body.
Emily and her doctor-to-be boyfriend James video chat about the strange bump on her arm and how it reminds her of an accident she had when she was younger. Strange things happen in her apartment like a small, childlike figure running into her room and spooking her. Emily believes her apartment is haunted but finds out from her landlord no children have ever lived there. She also begins digging in her arm with a scalpel to find out what the bump is, but James tells her to stop.
Later, Emily attempts to contact the being, but it knocks her out. James quickly appears in her apartment and surgically removes an alien fetus from Emily. He asks the aliens how much longer they will continue using Emily as an incubator for alien/human hybrids, revealing James has been removing the fetuses for some time. The aliens wipe Emily's memory, and James also says that the arm bump is a tracking device and may be harmful. James then chats once more with Emily, who believes that she sustained her injuries after wandering into traffic in a fugue state. She tells James that the doctor he recommended to her diagnosed her as schizoaffective before tearfully saying that he could find a better, more normal girlfriend than her. James assures her he loves her before switching chats to speak to another woman on whom aliens are also doing experiments.
It's Halloween 1998. Chad, Matt, Tyler, and Paul (dressed in Halloween costumes as the Unabomber, a pirate, a teddy bear implanted with a nanny cam, and a Marine, respectively) head out to a Halloween party at a friend's house, only to end up at the wrong place. Sneaking inside, they begin to experience paranormal phenomena and decide they are at a haunted house and have fun with it. In the attic they find several men gathered around a young woman whom they've suspended from the rafters, apparently performing an exorcism. The men are chanting "cast you down", and the boys exuberantly join in, "cast him down". One of the men reacts angrily to their presence and physically assaults the young woman. More violent, overtly threatening paranormal phenomena then begin to occur and the boys initially flee before realizing they should try to rescue the girl. Returning to the attic, the boys work to untie her and get her to safety, as the house itself comes to life with poltergeist phenomena and ghostly hands coming out of the walls and floors to claim the lives of the woman's captors.
Exiting through the basement, the boys pile into their car with the girl and drive away. The car abruptly stops and the girl disappears, reappearing in the street before them and walking away amid a flock of birds before they realize that they've stopped on train tracks. The boys attempt to get out of the car as a train approaches, but the doors are locked. The screen starts to flicker with static and the train smashes into the car off-camera, presumably killing all inside.
During the end credits, clips from Tape 56 are shown.
Trevor Groth, a programmer of midnight movies at the Sundance Film Festival, said, "I give this all the credit in the world because conceptually it shouldn't have worked for me. ... Personally, I'm bored by found-footage horror films, which this is. And omnibus attempts rarely work. But this one does. It's terrifying, and very well executed." Horror-Movies.ca reported that two people fainted during the premiere at Sundance.
At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Magnolia Pictures purchased the North American rights to the film for slightly over $1 million. Limited theatrical release began October 5, 2012 in the United States and November 1, 2012 in Argentina. The film was released onto DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download on December 4, 2012. It was released on the titular format of VHS on February 5, 2013.
Reviews for the film have been mixed. The film currently holds a 55% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 93 reviews, with the consensus, "An uneven collection of found-footage horror films, V/H/S has some inventive scares but its execution is hit-and-miss." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film holds an average score of 55, based on reviews from 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."
Most reviewers said that they felt the film was too long. Variety noted that "the segments vary in quality and the whole overstays its welcome at nearly two hours. Some trimming (perhaps relegating a weaker episode to a DVD extra) would increase theatrical chances."
Empire gave the film four stars out of five, saying that "the biggest twist is its consistently high quality... anything goes, and all of it works". The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a mildly positive review, stating "Refreshingly, V/H/S promises no more than it delivers, always a plus with genre fare." Fangoria praised the film while remarking that "the mystery of why/how some of this stuff is even on VHS tapes to begin with" was a bit of a leap.
Sean O'Connell of The Washington Post gave the film a scathing review, saying that although "on paper, it’s a clever conceit" and "probably sounded great in the pitch meeting", it "loses all luster through some shoddy execution". He went on to criticise the "unwatchable shaky-cam technique" and "rough and amateurish" acting, though he did identify Swanberg's segment as the best. Likewise, Roger Ebert gave the film one star out of four and said that "None of the segments is particularly compelling. Strung together, it's way too much of a muchness."
A sequel, titled V/H/S/2, was rushed into production as early as October 2012, and debuted at Park City's Library Center Theatre on Saturday, January 19 as part of Sundance 2013, much like its predecessor. The sequel involves a largely different group of directors: Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun), Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption), Timo Tjahjanto (Macabre), Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale (The Blair Witch Project), and franchise returnees Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard (respectively, writer and director of 2010's A Horrible Way to Die and the You're Next). It was not as financially successful as its predecessor, but received more critical praise.
A third entry in the series, titled V/H/S: Viral, has been announced and is currently slated for a Fall 2014 release. The film's wraparound story involves a group of fame-obsessed teens who unwittingly become stars of the next internet sensation. The group of directors involved in V/H/S: Viral include Aaron Scott Moorhead, Nacho Vigalondo, Marcel Sarmiento, Gregg Bishop, and Justin Benson.