Over the past three years the V/H/S series has quickly become one of my favorite horror franchises. With different crews for every entry it guarantees some new and interesting takes on the horror genre. Going into its third feature the once interesting indie film has become a full fledged franchise thanks to word of mouth. Of course this also means it officially enters the “It was good when…” territory. Essentially this is the point where a series usually drops in quality. The time when they decide “Hey, the Leprechaun would be great in Vegas or space.” It’s a growing pain for every series where they surprise everyone and get better or they falter like so many others. So will this give the series a Dream Warriors style rejuvenation or will it be the “Lets give a Cenobite CD player powers” of the V/H/S series? Let’s take a look at each entry and find out.
Dante the Great directed by Gregg Bishop-
Moving away from the VHS tape conceit Bishop’s segment plays more like a news magazine show than anything else. This tale is about the rise and fall of magician Dante the Great and his magical- read deadly- cloak. Totally different from anything else in the series Dante the Great utilizes extensive special effects and a more narrative structure to great effect. While it isn’t necessarily scary Dante the Great is a fun entry into the series.
Parallel Monsters directed by Nacho Vigalondo
Veering more in a science fiction direction is Mexican director Nacho Vigalondo. After months working Alfonso finally perfects a machine that opens up a gateway to a parallel dimension. Meeting his doppelganger Alfonso has 15 minutes to search this reversed reality. Mixing practical and computer effects the alternate reality is a unique world; a mix of the occult and extraterrestrial. With some great pacing and a great twist ending Parallel Monsters is my favorite short of the movie.
Bonestorm directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead
In their first showing since indie hit Resolution Benson and Moorehead’s Bonestorm was the short I was most excited about. I have to say I had a lot of fun with this one but not in the way I was expecting. When a group of skaters go across the border to tape their demo reel they encounter a Mexican Death Cult and all hell breaks loose. When I think about it Bonestorm is a lot like Safe Haven from V/H/S 2 with a more humorous tone. For the most part the humor works; who doesn’t love a skeleton giving someone the finger? While the cast was mostly annoying youths (get off my lawn) it was fun seeing them react to the havoc erupting around them. Regardless of that minor quibble Bonestorm makes for a darn good time. Even for Thrillho.
Vicious Circles/Wrap Around Story directed by Marcel Sarmiento
I’m really torn on Vicious Circles. On the one hand I like the idea of the whole thing. We follow Kev, a teen wanting become famous online, and other onlookers as they follow a police chase. Gives us a glimpse of the world V/H/S lives in it’s interesting to see what’s happening corrupt the people; like a epidemic tearing through a city. I really like the idea that every movie is just a small part of some massive disease that’s affecting the world. Unfortunately the message doesn’t quite shine through what we’re given. Despite a strong ending I found the story to be a bit of a mess. The camera would switch to a variety of other bystanders with no rhyme or reason. While one or two were fun the others were a bit of a slog to get through. Shame because the pay off and final shot really worked for me.
I’ve seen some complaining about this movie online and I get it. Moving away from the VHS tapes gimmick (which they technically did in the last movie) has angered a lot. The same goes for the looser definition of found footage (something usually complained about). I couldn’t disagree more though. To me this is the natural evolution when you consider VHS tapes evolved into DVDs and now digital. By straying a bit more from the handheld conceit I think it helped this movie and can open up different avenues for future entries.
Now is it as scary as past entries? No, far from it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good though. With a running time of 81 minutes (due to Todd Lincoln’s Gorgeous Vortexes being cut) it has a brisk pace and a pretty good consistency when it comes to quality. To answer my original question I’d say this is the Halloween 3: Season of the Witch of the series. While it isn’t as good as the first two it tried some new things and these risks paid off. While the formula could still use some tweaking V/H/S: Viral is still great when it comes to your Halloween viewing.