V/H/S: Viral Movie Review
Written by Tom Beasley
Released by Koch Media
Directed by lots of people
Written by lots more people
2014, 81 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 19th October 2015
Even more people
Anthology horror has undergone something of a revival in recent years, thanks to two ongoing series. Both the V/H/S and The ABCs of Death franchises have breathed fresh life into a cinematic form that had long fallen out of popularity. Giving fresh young filmmakers a platform to showcase their skills, the idea is a good one. Unfortunately, latest instalment V/H/S: Viral is an absolute mess of a movie that serves as an example of just about everything that can go wrong with the format.
Chief amongst the issues with the film is Marcel Sarmiento’s wraparound segment, which follows a teen obsessed with filming his girlfriend on his mobile phone. When a high speed police pursuit passes his house, he spots an opportunity to make his name with a viral clip. What follows is a nonsensical mess of incoherent static and headache-inducing shaky cam that, rather than easing the audience into the various short films, robs the film of anything approaching coherence. It is largely as a result of this creative misstep that V/H/S: Viral is such an unappealing, exhausting watch.
Of the three central shorts, two of them are actually fairly watchable. Gregg Bishop’s Dante the Great is a silly, gruesome tale of how absolute power can corrupt a human being. Justified star Justin Welborn is delightfully unhinged as an incompetent illusionist who becomes a star when he discovers a cloak that gives him real magic powers, in exchange for regular human sacrifices. The short is far from intelligent and has an utterly hokey conclusion, but packs some nice scares along the way.
The second short, Parallel Monsters, is the highlight of the film and actually feels as if it’s been spliced in from a better anthology. It follows an inventor who creates a portal to a parallel universe and swaps places with the other version of himself. It would be wrong to spoil the deliciously bonkers twist, but needless to say, there are crucial differences between the two worlds that lead to horrifying consequences for our lead. This is a smart short from writer-director Nacho Vigalondo that uses the found footage gimmick effectively and has a joyously dark sense of humour.
Final short Bonestorm, from filmmaking duo Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead, is like a PlayStation game gone awry. Egged on by their cameraman-for-hire, a pair of skateboard daredevils travel to Tijuana and find themselves attacked by a strange death cult looking to resurrect some sort of beastie. Watching the short develop, it feels as if Benson and Moorhead simply gave up on the intriguing mystery they were building and decided to start decapitating zombies with skateboards instead. It’s visually intriguing, but there’s nothing in the way of narrative coherence or chills to its execution.
By the time the credits roll on V/H/S: Viral and the utterly terrible wraparound segment shows its narrative hand – a critique of the desire to go viral – it’s difficult to recommend the film to anyone. Mass audiences will scratch their heads at its lack of narrative logic and horror fans will be better served for gore and scares elsewhere. It’s a consummate filmmaking disaster that deserves to be consigned to the bargain bin as quickly as possible.