John’s Horror Corner: V/H/S Viral (2014), another found footage horror anthology with a couple of cool short stories
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This article is rich with images you do not want your boss to see when he’s looking over your shoulder at work. View at your own risk.
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MY CALL: There are certainly better horror anthologies out there, but I really enjoyed two of the stories herein. Looking for a film that features egomaniacal magicians, horrifying elderly nudity, alternate dimensions, demonic genitals, “sort of” zombies, a fork frenzy massacre, Mexican Satanists and an evil ice cream truck? Then this may be for you—of course, with very small doses of everything. OTHER HORROR ANTHOLOGIES: Some other anthologies include (in order of release date): Black Sabbath (1963), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), The Uncanny (1977), Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985), Creepshow 2 (1987), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Campfire Tales (1997), 3 Extremes (2004), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Chillerama (2011), Little Deaths (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Theater Bizarre (2012), The ABCs of Death (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013), The Profane Exhibit (2013) and The ABCs of Death 2 (2014). A found footage episodic horror anthology, the movie opens with the overarching horror story. These short films vary substantially in filming style, acting, gore, direction and writing quality. Below is a summary of each short film and, sometimes, a cheeky quote…
Overarching Story. This opens with scattered videos of a man recording his girlfriend. They seem quite happy until their clips lead to a terrible accident in which his girlfriend disappears and suddenly calls his phone–flickering in and out and apparently in trouble (via Skype call). Everything hereafter strangely seems to revolve around a police chase with an ice cream truck as people who the boyfriend knows keep dying in weird ways as we go from story to story. Meanwhile, this story continues intermittently and then concludes the anthology.
Dante the Great. Dante (Justin Welborn; The Signal, The Crazies, The Final Destination) was once a struggling wannabe magician living in a trailer park who somehow came into possession of Houdini’s cloak. This cloak gave him real magical powers and, subsequently, fame and megalomania. He telekinetically dissects a rabbit with a thought, levitates people, teleports them, breaks their bones (this was REALLY cool), guts them…but this power comes at a price. The cloak needs to be fueled. By what you may wonder…?
I really enjoyed Dante the Great, directed by Gregg Bishop (The Other Side, Dance of the Dead). The pacing was perpetually entertaining and the ending was cliché but fun. It reminded me of Lord of Illusions (1995) with a dash of The Craft (1996).
Parallel Monsters. A man creates a portal to another dimension that is exactly the same as his own…except that everything is mirrored in this twisted story. He meets “himself” who thinks the same, invented the same machine at the same time to cross dimensions and they used it at the same time. The two (versions of the same) men are giddy with discovery and decide to “trade” universes for 15 minutes. Only, once the switch is made, it seems that things are a bit more different than expected. Even morality and the general sense of “good” is reversed.
“Oh, look. An alternate dimension me. What could possibly go wrong?”
Directed by Nacho Vigalondo (The Profane Exhibit, The ABCs of Death), this Spanish language short film starts out fantastically—we sit back wondering “what’s going to go wrong”—but veers into the bonkers zone towards the end. Not just the off the deep end, but into the “demonic genitals” end. That said, I loved this. The storytelling gets a bit slow in the middle, but you’re bewildered in the horror of this “other world” and we get some nice surprises. Bonestorm. A group of teen skateboarding troublemakers recording a webseries about their ill-conceived stunts decide to venture to a secret spot in Tijuana, Mexico to party and finish their project. They encounter an earthquake tremor, a deeply disturbed woman who appears to be in a trance, long decayed remains, small shrines and a skate arena complete with a pentagram drawn across the floor. The kids don’t seem to consider that anything is wrong. Stupid. Not just the kids, but the story, acting, filming, writing, effects…smh. The extremely shaky GoPro shots offer nothing to the story other than mirroring the chaos of these teens’ judgment. This film relies on entropy for entertainment, but it’s not working for me at all. Some kid gets blood on the pentagram, a bunch of weirdoes show up to tear the kids apart, and there’s apparently some sort of “Hell Beast.” Cultists chant, wear cultish outfits, light blood on fire with black magic…things just get more stupidly bonkers, and not in a way that I find cool or funny. This feels like a gory acid trip written by a flunky. The gore is abundant and ill-executed—it almost draws a smile. And no sense can be made from the mayhem. It should come as no surprise that the men behind this film were the least experienced in terms of directing.
SUMMARY: Far too much attention is dedicated to the over-arching story, which offers nothing but incomprehensible chaos. It isn’t clever. However, some of the deaths will please viewers with surprises. While it tries to show us a lot, the wraparound story is less engaging than the much simpler ones used in V/H/S (2012) and V/H/S 2 (2013). I could have done without this wraparound story altogether. It ends the anthology in a major disappointment and isn’t creepy or scary, nor twisty or explicative. Trick ‘r Treat (2007) did this all much better, with a wraparound story that actually connected the stories instead of simply serving as a gift bag with a bunch of random stories therein. People may complain up and down (in some reviews I’ve read) about Dante the Great and Parallel Monsters. But these are exactly what I wanted! They’re stories I haven’t seen or heard before and they were done adequately. Good or bad, they were at least adequate and (for me) fun. The wraparound story and Bonestorm were simply a waste of film, both of which being so mundane and flat out awful that I’d be all the happier if they were altogether omitted at the expense of the film’s running time. I guess I was pleased with this movie. Not overall, but because I got two interesting stories out of it (hidden among the other crap).