Some of you may remember a point in the history of home video wherein amateur filmmakers who had managed to save up enough bread to buy a camcorder would make their own movies. These shot-on-video (SOV) items were usually of the horror variety, and were renown for their piss-poor quality in terms of, well, everything. Nevertheless, indie distributors managed to make a few bucks off these budget-less wonders — something that wasn't too terribly hard to do in an age when rental priced videocassettes often sold to mom-and-pop stores for a hundred bucks a piece, and private producers could easily sell their wares at a much lower price.
Things changed, of course, once the advent of digital technology advanced into the home video market, and DVD titles hit both rental and sell-through outlets at the same time for the same price. Video stores could then afford just about any item they wanted, and the really obscure shit started to dry up in the sun. Now let's fast-forward to the present: a future where high-definition TV sets and Blu-ray have secured the home front. Needless to say, there are those of us with a passion for those glorious analog days (some who long to relive it, others who missed it entirely and wish to experience it), and the SOV horror genre has been brought back to life for them.
V/H/S, the strangely slash-happy title given to this horror anthology, dives once more into the waters of SOV-goodness. Well, it's more like badness, in this instance, since V/H/S is just as awful as that of the movies it emulates. Taking a cue from the Amicus horror films of the '60s and '70s, V/H/S opens with a basic outline and then presents viewers with several stories — all of which are related to the wonderful world of Vertical Helix Scan technology. In this case, a group of miscreant douchebags are sent to steal a super rare videocassette from someone, and they discover several tapes full of horrific footage.
Yup, not only is it a contemporary SOV flick, but it's a found footage flick, to boot. Joy, eh? And, considering this movie had an even more miniscule budget than the first Paranormal Activity, you can bet your bottom dollar that the special effects, the level of acting, and even the writing will be just as classy. Sadly, you'll only win back your own dollar if you do opt to bet it, since the people behind V/H/S used theirs to buy the cassette they shot this on. Most of the stories range include some sort of supernatural element here (e.g. ghostly killers, demonic possession, some weird-ass alien conspiracy), and feature a variety of unlikable individuals in shaky situations that they (fortunately) do not escape from.
Alas, the shakiness is not limited to the state of affairs here: the photography is so nauseating as it attempts to give us that realistic approach. Sure, I know people wouldn't film their own deaths at the talons of girls who turn into birds (were such a thing likely to happen) with any degree of stability, but one shouldn't need to pop a Dramamine for a movie. Period.
It's a bit odd that this SOV atrocity was treated to a limited theatrical engagement before being swept onto the mats of video stores near and far by Magnet Releasing, who have included a number of forgettable special features such as featurettes, deleted/extended scenes, interviews, and an audio commentary with many of the performers featured in the film. From an audio/video perspective, the quality of V/H/S is deliberately crappy — with some of the segments looking like they were sourced from bootlegs. I mean, they really couldn't call it V/H/S otherwise, right?
Of course, it would have been better if they made a movie called Beta, since Beta was better (rumor has it they're actually making a sequel, called S-VHS, naturally).
Ultimately, it would have benefited us all had they not made the movie at all.