V/H/S: Viral Review
I have been a massive fan of "V/H/S" and "V/H/S/2," I tell everybody who will listen about it. These two horror films are thrilling, intense, and utterly bone-chilling. I love that this is a franchise that took found-footage (a gimmick becoming excessively annoying onscreen) and mixed it with anthology (something that has never really worked onscreen) and turned into something vibrant, something fresh and something horrifying. Each film pretty much works in the same format; a group of people end up in an abandon house full of televisions and videotapes, and the group searches through the video tapes, this wrap-around story as well as the videotapes make up the movies. It never sounds like something that should work, but the first two films work incredibly well. As I sat down to watch this third entry, I was ready and awaiting.
Before I get to much further in this review, let me just say that I totally get this movie. Some of you may mistake me for what I am about to say, but I totally get the movie. Fans of this series might find this entry odd due to the film not featuring televisions, VCR's and videotapes. The title of the film itself, "V/H/S: Viral" seems quite redundant. But basically, this third entry is a comment on our social media and videotaping culture. Nowadays, it seems people are putting everything in record. It seems more people are willing to video tape something terrible happening instead of lending a helping hand, something that has been painfully present in our culture since the 1990's. "V/H/S: Viral" plays on that culture in big ways.
"V/H/S: Viral" has one of the best wrap-around stories in the entire series. I also liked that for the first time, it seems the wrap-around story and the miniature videos throughout the film, are all connected in some way. The entire film, wrap-around and all, take place in Los Angeles. As the film begins we see a boy taking several recordings of his girlfriend, and they have become close on camera. The boy wants to be the next big video sensation, and he is finally about to tape something that will put him on the map. A ice cream truck is speeding through Los Angeles, driving all throughout the city. Its not until the boy's girlfriend gets mysteriously kidnapped that he finally senses danger. Not only that, but some kind of countdown is going on with his phone and it shows the girlfriend. It is happening on several other cell phones across the city, which causes hemorrhaging to the viewers. The boy heads on by bike to find his girlfriend, while in pursuit, the mini-movies begin.
This is when the film starts to really fly off the rails. The first segment called "Dante the Great." follows a magician (Justin Welborn) who finds a mysterious cloak that gives him real magic powers. The only catch is that the magician has to give the cloak a sacrifice every once in awhile. I thought the segment was incredibly stupid and pointless. This was the fakest looking segment of the entire franchise. I couldn't help but notice that Welborn completely overacts the entire movie, making his character look like a giant cartoon. This segment, along with the other segments in the movie, are way too slick looking to be recorded by a handheld device. Plus, the climax of "Dante the Great" takes the segment into action territory, which was a huge mistake I thought.
The other segments, as well as "Dante the Great" tread the line between horror and comedy, which I downright hated in this movie. What made the first two films in the franchise great where that they were scary, very scary. There were moments in those films where I literally had to look away. With "V/H/S: Viral," I looked the whole time, and nothing forced me to look away. They went too comedic and too action-oriented instead of scary this time out, and it hurt the film in the long run.
The only good segment, I thought was "Bonestorm," a segment where skaters are trying to record big skateboarding moves, who end up on the Mexican boarder and right into the hands of a Mexican cult. The idea of being in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of creepy-looking occultists was enough to get under my skin. They could have made something effective with that set-up, but instead they go full video game action with the segment, and ruin it completely.
So yes, I get it. People always want to record everything they see, and an evil force is punishing them for it. It is a wonderful concept for a horror movie, and this time "V/H/S" got it all wrong in a disappointing offering to an otherwise awesome franchise. I really can't believe how bitter this one tasted. Everything about this film feels off, and I was sad how nothing about this entry was scary. There are some memorable images, but not much else.
FINAL GRADE: C-