Sunday, October 11, 2015

Spooky Shangrila 2015 - A V/H/S Vivisection

The season of fear is here, and all this month, I'll be putting up some spine-tingling Halloween-themed posts to set the stage for the 31st...

The "V/H/S" series merges two time-honored strains of horror cinema - the anthology movie, and the found footage genre. Like all anthologies, though, the quality of individual segments varies wildly. For those who are short on time, here's a "Mulliga edit" of the stories in each film, so you can skip to the good ones...


Frame Story (SKIP) - A group of thugs is hired to break into a house and steal a videotape - spooky stuff happens within. These segments, like the movie in general, run too long.

Amateur Night (SEE) - Three friends want to film their sexual exploits with a couple of women, but they get more than they bargained for. A fun mix of skin, gore, and nausea-inducing shaky-cam.

Second Honeymoon (SKIP) - A couple goes to the Grand Canyon for a second honeymoon. Honestly, I thought this one was pretty forgettable.

Tuesday the 17th (SKIP) - Campers are stalked in the woods by a mysterious killer. This short is really only notable because of the cool "VHS tracking error" visual effects.

The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger (SEE) - A girl's videochats with her boyfriend reveal a disturbing infection. This is sort of the precursor to modern "social media" films like "Unfriended" and "Open Windows." It's worth a watch.

10/31/98 (SKIP) - Friends stumble onto a haunted house on Halloween. Competently done, but lacks the intensity you might expect from a story like this.


Frame Story (SEE) - A private investigator looks into the disappearance of a college student. The moody lighting makes these interstitial segments worth viewing.

Phase I Clinical Trials (SEE) - An optic implant gives a man the ability to see beyond the grave. This short plays fast and loose with the rules of the "found" footage genre, but it has a pleasant pace and a good, unsettling climax.

A Ride in the Park (SKIP) - A first-person encounter with a zombie outbreak. I liked the birthday party bit, but otherwise, there aren't too many surprises here.

Safe Haven (MUST SEE) - A news crew investigates a cult in Indonesia. This is easily the best short in the entire "V/H/S" series - it obeys the conventions of the genre, it puts together a half-dozen indelible images, and the finale is about as nightmarish as anything you'll see on film.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction (SKIP) - Aliens invade a slumber party. Lots of random loud noises and flashing lights, but it never really goes anywhere.

V/H/S: Viral

Frame Story (SKIP) - Viral video of a high-speed pursuit threatens to overwhelm people's senses. This frame story sorta drags the whole movie down - I appreciate that it tried to go full Quatermass with the ending, but it made little sense.

Dante the Great (SEE) - A magician finds a mysterious cloak that grants incredible power...for a price. I like that they wove in real-life illusion tricks, so I thought this one was fun.

Parallel Monsters (SEE) - There's a universe parallel to ours, with some strange differences. This short is great the first time through because of the surprise factor, but it loses a lot on subsequent viewings.

Bonestorm (SKIP) - Skateboarders have a violent tangle with a Mexican cult. There are some fun action scenes, but this short is too long and doesn't develop its characters as well as something like "Safe Haven."

Gorgeous Vortex (SKIP - this short was cut from the theatrical release) - A beautiful woman tries to escape from a secret society. A little too abstract for my taste, and it deviates so far from the found footage formula that it was rightfully cut.


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