2012 Running time: 116 Certificate: 18 Rating: 4

Synopsis

Four thugs who make money putting their violent antics online are hired to steal a VHS tape from a spooky old house. But they find a dead pensioner and dozens of videos and shocks aplenty when they start watching them. The found footage genre gets a revitalising boost with this witty, gory and inventive collection of horror shorts, including segments from Glenn 'I Sell The Dead' McQuaid and Ti 'The Innkeepers' West.

Directors

  • David Bruckner

  • Glenn McQuaid

  • Joe Swanberg

  • Ti West

  • Radio Silence

  • Adam Wingard

Cast

  • Calvin Reeder

  • Kentucker Audley

  • Hannah Fierman

  • Joe Swanberg

  • Helen Rogers

  • Chad Villella

  • Tyler Gillett

Review

V/H/S here unofficially stands for Video Horror Shorts. Violence/Horror/Sex would also be apt.

And for the opening few minutes, in which the four housebreaking louts go on a noisy, boorish and tiresome rampage it could stand for Very Hard to Stomach.

Thankfully, once V/H/S gets into its first story, "Amateur Night", the tracking gets corrected and the film becomes huge fun.

A boys' night out tale with real bite, it repeats the effective trick seen in Cloverfield and Chronicle in which amateur shaky-cam filmmaking suddenly features extraordinary special FX imagery.

Ti West's slowburn instalment, "Second Honeymoon", has a couple being targeted by an odd drifter, with a touch of David Lynch's Lost Highway in creepy bedroom invasion scenes, but is ultimately throwaway.

Glenn McQuaid pays homage to 80s slasher flicks with "Tuesday the 17th", a teens-in-the-woods body count tale and a killer nicely obscured by video interference.

Arguably the best instalment is "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger", a ghost story from Hannah Takes the Stairs director Joe Swanberg.

In the Skyped ghost story, a girlfriend and boyfriend investigate her haunted apartment over webcam, boasting playful twists on overly familiar ghost tropes such as creepy kids and odd bangs behind closed doors.

Directing/acting collective Radio Silence bring the whole enterprise to a fun climax with the Halloween set "10/31/98".

Four guys go trick or treating and looking for mischief, but end up in the ultimate haunted house, allowing for fantastic moments of tension with corners of the screen and mirror reflections briefly revealing creepy apparitions.

V/H/S makes no claims to be original: it riffs on familiar horror themes - haunted houses, fantastical creatures, unstoppable killers, serial killers, demonic rituals, and found footage horror runs from Paranormal Activity to The Blair Witch Project and further back to Cannibal Holocaust.

And don't forget the horror anthology thing had a high point with Dead of Night, released in 1945. But, its use of web cams, spy cams, overly saturated video and harshly crisp digicam lend a consistently inventive and dynamic visual style and a playful take on genre bending and twisting.

It's violent, gory and Swanberg's instalment has at least two heart-in-the-mouth moments, but there are plenty of laughs to be had, not least in the recurring gag that men, when given affordable recording devices, will always want to try homemade porn.

A fantastic and fantastical example of how much life remains in the handy cam horror genre.