Home Video Review: The Third Installment in the V/H/S Series Can't Match the Scares of the First TwoWritten by Bob Grimm
Horror-film lovers have been eating up a little franchise called V/H/S these last couple of years. V/H/S: Viral, the third offering in this anthology series featuring up-and-coming horror directors each helming segments, is now available.
V/H/S (2012) and V/H/S/2 (2013) were “found footage” films that proved to be the exception to the rule: I usually hate the whole “found footage” novelty, yet it’s worked rather well within this franchise. When these directors were given a chance to experiment with the played-out gimmick, they managed to take the enterprise to terrifying levels.
V/H/S: Viral jettisons the whole idea of viewing deranged videotapes found in a strange place in favor of a confounding, interconnecting plot involving a kidnapped girl, an ice-cream truck and some sort of Internet craze. I confess that the wraparound segments in this movie not only bored me, but confused me. It’s some sort of pointless, poorly written effort to make a statement on the state of media and the quest for fame. Whatever … it’s poorly done.
The film as a whole does come to life a bit in some of the short horror-film segments. Nothing approaches the sheer terror of the contorted vampire segment in V/H/S, or the zombie short in V/H/S/2, but there are a couple of winners.
“Bonestorm” is a clever take on the typical skate video involving a crew of teens with helmet-mounted cameras doing stunts. When some kids get tired in their surroundings, they decide a road trip is in order, and head for a skate pit in Tijuana that they’ve heard about. The basic lesson here is that kids shouldn’t go skating in a pit marked with a huge pentagram and flanked by strange-looking vagrants with blank stares. Horror unfolds as the skateboarders are forced to battle the undead, with the action mostly visible through their helmet cameras. The segment offers up some good scares and gore—and some laughs, too, because the kids never really break out of their skater-dude modes as they fight for their lives.
“Parallel Monsters” is the film’s sickest offering, involving a man who creates a portal to a parallel/mirror universe in his basement. After having a brief conversation with his mirror self, the two versions of the same guy cross into each other’s worlds to check things out. Unfortunately for the inventor, the mirror universe features devil-worshippers with fiery faces and monster genitals. By monster genitals, I’m not referring to size—these genitals are actually toothy creatures that bite people’s heads off.
“Vicious Circles” is the film’s weakest entry. It follows a guy trying to track down his girlfriend after she is kidnapped by an ice cream truck. The segment serves as the confusing, interconnecting story as well as the film’s finale. It’s not scary, and it’s not clever.
As a fan of the series, I’m hoping producers find a way to return to the old format in future chapters. The new gimmick involving the Internet, security cameras and ice-cream trucks doesn’t really work. V/H/S Viral isn’t a total loss, but is easily the weakest entry in the franchise. I never thought I would be an advocate of “found footage” films, but when it comes to the V/H/S series, found footage is the best kind of footage.
V/H/S Viral is available via video on demand and online sources, including iTunes and Amazon.com.