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VHS: Viral (Movie Review)

VHS: Viral (Movie Review)
11.21.2014by: Eric Walkuski
4 10

WATCH V/H/S: VIRAL HERE!

PLOT: The third entry in the found footage anthology franchise, which kicks off when an intense police chase has strange effects on the bystanders who record it.

REVIEW: One day, they'll make a V/H/S movie I like. I want to like them, I do: I'm a huge fan of horror anthologies, and this franchise boasts some of the best names working in the genre today - almost all of whom have done good work elsewhere. But for whatever reason, the appeal of the V/H/S movies eludes me. There have been flashes of greatness, sure - Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto's "Safe Haven" remains the undisputed champ - but by and large I have found them to be raucous, uninvolving affairs, significantly lacking in frights or suspense.

V/H/S: VIRAL continues the disappointing trend by being the least satisfying entry of the bunch. There isn't one entirely compelling segment to be found, although thankfully at least two of the four have inspired moments. It's easier to just go through them individually, so here goes. (Note: In case you didn't know, Todd Lincoln's segment has been dropped from the final product; no word on why.)

"Vicious Circles" - directed by Marcel Sarmiento - is the wraparound story, involving a frantic police pursuit of an ice cream truck by police and the various city residents who get swept up in the chase. Quite quickly it appears something else is going on here, however: whoever gets caught up in the tawdry spectacle becomes hypnotized by a strange video they receive on their smart phones. The "protagonist" is a man whose girlfriend is seemingly kidnapped by the ice cream truck, which might be at the center of this deadly signal. Sarmiento's segment is hectic and unfocused; the story, such as it is, never gels and the finale leaves us on an abstract, frustrating note. The characters we encounter aren't interesting in the least - which is a problem for the V/H/S movies on the whole - and we never get to the bottom of what's going on. 2/10

Dante the Great - directed by Gregg Bishop - is the most visually stimulating of the bunch, and probably the best overall. A loner (Justin Welborn) finds a magical cape that enables him to become the world's greatest illusionist. But the cape demands human sacrifices in return. The finale of this one is rather inspired, as Dante battles his assistant - and a SWAT team - for dominance over the cape; Bishop cleverly delivers a handful of nifty slight-of-hand effects, where the cape is used to make objects and people disappear and reappear during a knockdown battle. Not especially enthralling as a story, but thanks to Bishop's invigorating directing, "Dante the Great" is a fun morsel. 7/10.

"Parallel Monsters" - directed by Nacho Vigalondo - is the most disappointing, if only because it starts off so well. A scientist creates a portal to a parallel universe and meets his other self. At face value, the two men are exactly the same, and, sharing each other's glee, they decide to briefly explore the other man's world. Both soon find out things are not quite as similar as they seem, as one parallel world's population contains disgusting abnormalities. Vigalondo nails the opening minutes of this short, and the possibilities are limitless in terms of where he could go with it. Where he does end up going with it, however, is weird but unfulfilling. Grotesque creatures are fun and all, but is that all that could have been done here? It's sadly a waste of a very cool premise. (Unrelated thought: this would make a fun exercise, have a few different directors use the central idea of "Parallel Monsters" as a jumping off point to tell their own twisted parallel universe stories.) 4/10.

"Bonestorm" - by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead - really falls flat. A quartet of obnoxious teens travel to Tijuana in order to film a skateboarding video. Unfortunately, they pick a sacred site to play in, and soon incur the wrath of ghouls, skeletons, spirits and human sacrificers. The first half of "Bonestorm" is just spending time with these dreadful characters, the second half involves their systematic destruction of their supernatural foes. Their exploits seemingly go on forever, and the entire segment ultimately resembles a silly video game more than anything else. 2/10.

The final score is hopefully an accurate average; I'm bad at math so I may not have calculated it right, but this is how I leave it. You get the idea, though. The V/H/S movies are not my cup of tea.

Extra Tidbit: V/H/S: VIRAL is currently on VOD and hits theaters on November 21st.

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