Found-footage films have become pretty standard in the low-budget, horror-movie genre since the success of “The Blair Witch Project” in 1999. If you can get past the jerky/dizzying handheld camera work, there’s something immediate about following a protagonist into a dimly lit home at night, a remote stretch of woods or a supposedly abandoned house.
“V/H/S,” an overhyped collection of six short films, does all of the above, but with mixed and very bloody results (if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen all the “best” parts).
It begins with a confusing framing story, “Tape 56,” about some criminals sent to steal a VHS tape, only to discover a house full of them. As they watch each different tape, we get to see them as well. Unfortunately.
The first short, “Amateur Night,” follows some college guys who pick up a couple of women in a bar and bring them back to a hotel room. The meekest of the men is recording the encounter through a hidden camera in his glasses. What happens in that hotel room is disturbing and reprehensible, then horribly violent and otherworldly. Beware that quiet, seemingly nervous girl who keeps saying, “I like you.”
The middle three stories follow a married couple videotaping their “Second Honeymoon,” some friends (and future victims) headed to a cabin in the woods and a woman seeking reassurance from her boyfriend on a Skype call. Oh, and a knife to the head, a disemboweling and what I think was some sort of alien impregnation.
The best is saved for last. In “10/31/98,” a handful of guys head to an unfamiliar neighborhood for a Halloween party. While this section starts off slowly, once the group begins to investigate a quiet house, all hell — and a flood of visual effects — breaks loose and brings this too-long, violent horror anthology to a merciful end.
1 1/2 stars
With Calvin Reeder, Drew Sawyer, Hannah Rose Fierman, Chad Villella. Various writers and directors. 116 minutes. Rated R for bloody violence, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, pervasive language and some drug use.
©2012 The Seattle Times
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