V/H/S – a film that I would never have guessed would get a sequel, let alone a third instalment.

However, Frightfest 2014 rolled around and when the line up was announced V/H/S Viral was there in all its found footage glory.

I felt I had to see just one more instalment to double check I’m not missing out on the one that finally brings all the ingredients together to make the perfect found footage film that the first two fall short of – third time lucky I guess?

But, alas, I’m afraid to say – I’m painfully aware that this is not the horror fans’ popular opinion – this franchise has gone from average to awful in three short films.

That’s not to say I didn’t, in some parts, enjoy the first two. I like the found footage genre and V/H/S initially served up something different to the running around in the dark implied terror a la Blair Witch Project. Although, the hit and miss of this franchise comes from the multitude of mini films – if there’s nothing tying them neatly together it feels disjointed and quickly becomes boring.

V/H/S Viral, is directed by Justin Benson, Gregg Bishop, Todd Lincoln, Aaron Moorhead, Marcel Sarmiento and Nacho Vigalondo. The original plot thread of the house with the video tapes is gone and in its place is a found footage movie about a guy chasing an ice cream van that has seemingly kidnapped his girlfriend via various means – he apparently likes to film everything in case he becomes part of something ‘bigger’. It features some obnoxious and headache inducing editing, I can only presume to reinforce the idea that these are old, personally shot movies, as if the scratchy screen and overlapped images are an attempt to evoke nostalgia for VHS tapes, instead they just make the story even harder to follow than it already is due to its vague plot and makes me happy for camera phones.

Although, speaking of camera phones, much of this instalment seems to lack the old school video vibe – the loss of the house full of weird old tapes means that the franchise has lost its selling point. It felt confused and bizarre shifting from camera phones to GoPro cameras on skaters’ heads to a documentary style that used CCTV extracts. It basically lost all of its ‘found footage’ appeal.

The found footage style goes out of the window with director Gregg Bishop’s ‘Dante the Great’ section. The episode itself is pretty well shot and is a reasonably entertaining story. The segment centres around a magician who rises to fame after gaining access to a cloak that can perform genuine magic – and he ends up feeding said cloak with his magical assistants in order to preserve the power it holds.However, it feels like a short horror movie that would be used to pitch for a bigger blockbuster. The way its shot, the dialogue, the lighting – everything is so un- V/H/S it’s almost like someone has accidentally added in a trailer amongst the chaos of the running ‘ice cream van’ scene.

The same goes for Nacho Vigalando’s wonderfully weird mirror world horror. A Spanish inventor creates a portal to a parallel universe where everything is exactly the same as his own life – apart from a few monstrous oddities. The section is funny, tense and gruesome and could probably work, like Dante the Great, as a feature film.

The final segment of V/H/S: Viral is utter drivel. A couple of skaters are trying to create a super-rad skate video of all their heaviest tricks… and they end up beating to death a group of voodoo worshipers in Tijuana who may or may not be of the undead. Stupid, not scary and erratically filmed on a GoPro attached to the skateboarders and their boards. It was like a teenage boy living out his videogame fantasy – skating and getting into a gnarly with some totally creepy dudes, man. Not scary and rather annoying.

Whilst these excerpts are hit and miss to varying degrees, they are watchable and seem to have some direction. The ultimate let down of V/H/S Viral is the main vein stories which it flicks back to in-between the three mini films. It’s incoherent, nonsensical and not scary. I think it may be, vaguely, an attempt at social commentary about how tech-obsessed the Youtube / Snapchat et al generation are – although this is simply an assumption from the incredibly strange sequence. Whilst that seems like a ridiculous attempt at making a horror film high-brow and relevant it still could work as a concept. Sadly this one falls short.

Of course not all films, particularly horror films, need reasoning or sense but there is a line between creating something that will scare your audience, making them question the outcome for days and creating something so distastefully ‘different’ that it makes no sense, and your audience couldn’t care less either way.


VERDICT: [rating=2]

About The Author

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.