Friday, 29 January 2016

v/h/s viral

i'll be honest, i wasn't hugely impressed with the first two v/h/s movies. i reviewed the first one here and i intended to review the sequel, but i liked it even less than the first and decided not to bother. i think it's partly that an anthology found footage movie is such a great idea and the talent involved is so promising that they should be better films than they are. i hadn't heard great things about the third film in the series to begin with, so i had some reservations going in.

like the previous films there's a framing story (vicious circles directed by marcel sarmiento), this time about a guy in pursuit of an ice cream van after it seemingly kidnaps his girlfriend, although here the framing story doesn't really tie in to the other episodes. the other stories concern a stage magician who can perform real magic (dante the great by gregg bishop), a scientist who opens a doorway to another dimension (parallel monsters by nacho vigalondo), and a group of skater kids who travel to mexico to film a video and get into a fight with some local zombies (bonestorm by justin benson and aaron scott moorhead).

the first thing to note about v/h/s viral is that it makes a very half-hearted attempt to conform to the constraints of the medium. most of the time it's barely a found footage film at all. in vicious circles and particularly dante the great there are often moments where it's impossible to work out who's filming the action and why there's even a camera there. parallel monsters is shot pretty much on two cameras and remains consistent, but to be honest the fact that it's shot like that isn't integral to the telling of the story at all. the only one that really makes use of the medium is bonestorm because it uses the fact that skateboarders making a video will obviously film absolutely everything, and their zombie battle is edited in the same kinetic style as their skate videos. if the lack of adherence to the 'rules' of found footage cinema bothers you, it's a tough thing to get past. if you don't care about that then there is actually some really great stuff here.

dante the great, the story of a magician who finds a magic cloak that allows him to do real magic (with some conditions), is actually a pretty cool story. it feels like a classic twilight zone episode and features some really impressive effects. at the end there's even a kind of magic duel that reminded me of the ending of that roger corman movie, the raven, where karloff and vincent price are firing spells at each other.

but the real highlight for me was the nacho vigalondo story, parallel monsters. back when i first started this blog i reviewed vigalondo's film time crimes, and i was impressed with the inventiveness and originality vigalondo displayed in that movie. here, he's on top form again. parallel monsters is kind of like an episode of that tv series from the 90s, sliders, where the characters would explore a different parallel dimension each week. part of the fun with that show was trying to work out what particular quirk made each new dimension different and it's the same here, except the quirk in parallel monsters is completely insane in the best possible way. i don't want to spoil it, but there are creature effects and it is very, very strange.

like most portmanteau movies, v/h/s viral is a bit of a mixed bag but while the framing story lets it down the most the three individual stories are actually pretty innovative and entertaining, even if the found footage angle isn't used to its full potential. for that reason i think it's actually the strongest of the v/h/s trilogy and quite an entertaining watch.

the found footage blogathon will run from 27th january to 3rd february, in which time i plan to review as many films as possible and maybe throw in a few extras as well. if you'd like to be involved and post your own content, send me a link via twitter with the tag #foundfootageblogathon. i'll retweet your link and will include it in a summary post next week. you can find a full list of the films i'll be reviewing here.


  1. Nice review, Paz. I don't totally agree as I still like the first one best and I really didn't care for the framing story, but you're right about the other stories--especially Parallel Monsters. Also, great point about the nonconformity to the found footage genre. Plus, I completely agree with your assertion that the v/h/s series should be much better given the talent attached.
    PS: loving #foundfootageblogathon so far!

    1. thanks for the comment! glad you agree. i just showed a bunch of friends parallel monsters on its own, just to see the looks on their faces at the end!