Theatrical release poster
|Distributed by||Magnet Releasing|
|Box office||$1.9 million|
V/H/S is a 2012 American anthology horror film created by Brad Miska and Bloody Disgusting. 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.
In an interview with Indiewire, producer Brad Miska revealed the process in which they developed V/H/S, which included a "trust-fall" style of filmmaking. All of the relationships came through the long history of Bloody Disgusting.
"For “V/H/S,” we went to people that I have a relationship with via Bloody Disgusting -- a group of trusted filmmakers who we thought would want to take part in this. They pitched us their ideas, then came to us with treatments and scripts. It was like, “If you like this, go do your thing.”
In terms of the movie itself getting green lit -- the storyline that runs through the whole movie was something that we had originally discussed. So we just went with the decided upon streamlined story and just let the filmmakers go do their thing. Which is kind of a reverse of how you’re supposed to do a movie like this. You’re supposed to do that last. It became a ‘fill-in-the-hole' type project. What can we put here? What can we put there? You know, what would amp it up here? So it was a living project. A living film if you will."
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).
Tape 56/frame narrative
- Directed by Adam Wingard
The frame narrative focuses on a criminal gang who film their exploits, which include smashing the walls and windows of an abandoned house and sexually assaulting a woman in a parking lot. An anonymous source offers them a large sum of money to break into a house and steal a single VHS videotape. The gang is eager to expand their criminal enterprises, and accept the task.
Entering the house, the criminals find an old man sitting dead in front of several television sets playing white noise. Feeling free to roam the house, they discover hundreds of unmarked VHS tapes, and set about collecting them all to ensure that they retrieve the right one. One of the criminals stays behind in the TV room with the dead body to watch the "Amateur Night" tape left in the VCR. The contents of this tape and the four subsequent ones comprise the bulk of the film, with the action cutting back to the criminals' efforts between each short. As the frame narrative progresses, the gang encounters 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. After the "The Sick Thing that happened to Emily when she was Younger" segment ends, the gang's leader 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 the criminals, and is subsequently attacked by the old man, who is now a zombie. The leader flees downstairs, where he falls and is killed by the other figure seen walking around the basement, which seems to be a monster. The frame narrative ends with the camera left in the TV room picking up the sound of the VCR starting the "10/31/98" tape by itself.
- Directed by David Bruckner
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, arms himself with a shower curtain rod and returns to the room. Clint tries to wake Lisa and Patrick attempts to fight Lily but she subdues him, drinks his blood and rips off his genitals. 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 a horrific growl. Clint flees, begging bystanders for help, but he is suddenly lifted into the sky by Lily, who has transformed into a winged creature. This reveals that she's a siren, who was on the hunt. The glasses fall off Clint's face and hit the ground before the video cuts out.
- Directed by Ti West
A married couple, Sam and Stephanie, travel to Arizona for their second honeymoon. They visit a Wild West-themed attraction where Stephanie receives a prediction from a mechanical fortune teller, which claims that she will soon be reunited with a loved one. That evening (off camera), a woman comes to Sam and Stephanie's motel room and awkwardly tries to convince Sam to give her a ride the next day. In the middle of the night, while the couple are asleep, someone breaks into the room, turns on the camcorder and films touching Stephanie's buttocks with a switchblade. The intruder then steals $100 from Sam's wallet and dips his toothbrush in the toilet. The next day, on their way to visit the Grand Canyon, Sam notices the missing money and accuses Stephanie of taking it, but she assumes he is joking. That night, someone enters the room again and stabs Sam in the neck with their switchblade, filming him as he chokes on his own blood and dies. The camera then shows the killer, the woman from earlier, cleaning the blade while she and Stephanie kiss passionately. The recording cuts to Stephanie asking her lover if she has erased the footage.
Tuesday the 17th
- Directed by Glenn McQuaid
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. When scanning certain areas, images of mutilated bodies appear in the film. 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.
The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger
- Directed by Joe Swanberg
This segment is shown through computer video chats. Emily talks to her boyfriend James, a trainee doctor, about a strange bump on her arm and how it reminds her of an accident she had when she was younger. After witnessing a small, childlike entity rush into her room and slam the door shut, Emily believes her apartment is haunted. Her landlord claims that no children have ever lived in the apartment, but Emily is unconvinced. During her next video chat with James, an increasingly frantic Emily digs into her arm with a scalpel to find out what the bump is, but James urges her to stop before the wound becomes infected.
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's torso. Aliens are using Emily as an incubator for alien/human hybrids, and James has been working for them and removing the fetuses for some time. The aliens erase Emily's memory, and James mentions that the arm bump is a tracking device. In their next chat, a badly injured Emily believes she sustained her injuries after wandering into traffic in a fugue state. She reveals that the doctor James recommended has diagnosed her as schizoaffective, and tearfully says that James deserves a better, more normal girlfriend. He assures Emily that she is the only person he wants to be with, but once their chat ends he begins a new chat with a different woman who has the same bump on her arm and also believes James is her boyfriend, showing that the aliens are using more than one person as an incubator.
- Written and directed by Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez & Chad Villella)
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.
- Tape 56
- Amateur Night
- Hannah Fierman as Lily
- Mike Donlan as Shane
- Joe Sykes as Patrick
- Drew Sawyer as Clint
- Jas Sams as Lisa
- Cuthbert Wallace as Toothbrush
- Second Honeymoon
- Tuesday the 17th
- Norma C. Quinones as Wendy
- Drew Moerlein as Joey Brenner
- Jeannine Yoder as Samantha
- Jason Yachanin as Spider
- Bryce Burke as The Glitch
- The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger
- Helen Rogers (actress) as Emily
- Daniel Kaufman as James
- Liz Harvey as The New Girl
- Corrie Fitzpatrick as Girl Alien
- Isaiah Hillman as Boy Alien
- Taliyah Hillman as Little Girl Alien
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.
The film currently holds a 55% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 93 reviews. The consensus reads, "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 was among the critics who felt the film was overlong giving the film one star out of four and saying that "None of the segments is particularly compelling. Strung together, it's way too much of a muchness."
Sequels and spin-off
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 equally as financially successful as its predecessor, and received more critical praise.
A third entry in the series, titled V/H/S: Viral, was released on Video on Demand on October 23, 2014, and in theatres on November 21 of the same year. 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.
A spin-off based on the segment Amateur Night entitled SiREN was announced in 2015, with Hannah Fierman returning. Unlike the original, however, the spin-off will not use the found footage format.
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