[Fantastic Fest Review]…V/H/S: Viral

VHSVIRAL_FF2014Horror anthologies don’t come along all that often. But thanks to Brad Miska, fans of Creepshow, and similar short-form storytelling would no longer lament the lack of fantastic but short glimpses into strange horror themed universes. V/H/S, and its sequel, went all out and brought the idea of “found footage” horror to new levels. Depending on who you talk to, you’ll likely find people praising one film over the other, but each has its fair share of exceptional segments that stay with you long after lights come up.

So here we are with an equally enjoyable and effective third outing which shows strong signs that this series has found its groove. V/H/S: Viral has fewer skits, but it gives each of the directors just a bit more time to linger in, and explore the shocking worlds they created. In fact, some of situations are so intense you’ll want them to end sooner. Unique and gruesome, each of the four segments gets the job done, and then some.

Viscous Circles” kicks things off and weaves the film’s skits together. It’s about a police chase through a suburban neighborhood and a young man’s attempts to capture the video in hopes of getting his footage to go viral. But the chase is just a taste of the paranoia and insanity happening all over the city. It’s gritty, and frenetic, and Marcel Sarmiento does a fine job getting things outside the confines of a room or house. It cuts between the young man’s footage and others wanting to get a piece of the action which makes the footage very dynamic as police cars, bikes, helicopters and pure madness flood the streets.

Gregg Bishop‘s segment “Dante the Great” is about a magician who finds a demonic cloak which grants him powers in exchange for human souls. This is the odd one in the bunch for sure because, for starters, it’s not really found footage. Part of it is, but it takes place as a flashback while Dante is being interviewed by a national news outlet about the disappearance of many of his assistants. It has more in line with Joe Dante (not knocking him or Bishop) and while creepy, it tries to add humor and therefore comes off a bit tame. Things do however take a dark and action-packed turn. It’s exciting, but kind of expected which ruins some of the fun. Still, very enjoyable and solid.

Next, the duo of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson bring an uncanny aggressiveness to “Bonestorm“. That sequence is led by two rough and tumble skaters who are documenting their awesome skating skills with go-pro cameras and hired cameramen. Bored with their local turf, they head to Tijuana for some great skating (and drugs). While there, they unknowingly aggravate spirits by skating through their territorial markings and then, all hell literally breaks loose. As they fend for their lives, the cameras capture every gunshot, sword stroke, bashed skull and kill as the two flee for their lives from an army of skeleton zombie creatures. There’s an excitement, energy and visceral sense to all the chaos, and man is it fierce!

Wrapping things up (before the over-arching conclusion of “Circles“) is Nacho Vigalondo‘s exceptionally creepy and inventive segment “Parallel Monsters” which easily stands out as the best of the group. In it, a scientist opens a worm hole to another dimension and discovers a mirror image of himself and his world. But the similarities soon diminish as it’s revealed how wild and horrifically different they are. Now, because of the machine, there is no barrier between worlds. It’s the most frightening segment and a standout piece, not just in this film, but in the series as a whole.

If you’re a fan of these anthology films, as well as horror and effects that go for the throat, then you will likely find great satisfaction in V/H/S: Viral. Each effort from these talented directors offers something drastically different in this third outing. The great thing about any of these films is that so much can be achieved in the limited time. Would any of these stories work as a feature-length film? Most likely not, so there’s really something to be said about being able to exhibit such wit, composure and impact in a short amount of time. Sarmiento, Bishop, Moorehead/Benson, and Vigalondo should be very proud of what they’ve put on screen. It’s badass, and because of the quality of each succeeding film, there doesn’t look to be an end in sight for the V/H/S series…fingers crossed anyway.

QuadCard-VHS Viral