In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Madness '12

Earlier today, Midnight Madness mastermind Colin Geddes announced this year's crop of titles.  I was very happy to see that he has stacked his lineup with some promising horrors ranging from the brutal to the bizarre. Here below, be the goods.

It is a big year for returning alumni, as we have a trio of directors making their triumphant return to the midnight stage.

Two time Midnighter - his faux snuff doc S&Man played the Ryerson in 2006 & his horror western The Burrowers a few years later - JT Petty returns with Hellbenders. It stars Clancy Brown and features a group of holy men fighting the forces of evil, Ghostbusters-style.

Eleven years after he wowed Midnight audiences with his hyper-violent zombie-action flick Versus, Ryuhei Kitamura - his 2002 flick Alive also played here - comes back with a thriller called No One Lives.  This survivalist horror promises a no-holds-barred assault and stars America Olivo and Luke Evans.

Don Coscarelli, who brought the house down with Bubba Ho-tep in 2002 brings his new festival darling John Dies At The End to town.  Based on the best selling novel by David Wong, about a strange drug called Soy Sauce and its transcendental effects stars Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes & Paul Giamatti.

Perhaps the most anticipated horror title in the Midnight lineup is Rob Zombie's newest, The Lords of Salem.  The footage online is very intriguing and it looks like Zombie has put Halloween behind him, and is getting back to what he does best.  The film has a list of genre vets as long as my severed arm, so hopefully some of them will be on hand for the screening.

Director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) will premiere his star studded black comedy Seven Psychopaths. It stars Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Abbie CornishChristopher Walken

Chilean director Nicolás López brings his new disaster flick Aftershock.  Based on true events of the earthquake that devastated central Chile in 2010, the film stars an ensemble cast including horror maestro Eli Roth, who coincidentally will be celebrating the ten-year anniversary of his debut Cabin Fever, at Midnight Madness.

The other anticipated titles on the schedule are Barry Levinson's newest The Bay, Mexican killer kiddie thriller Come Out and Play, the horror super anthology The ABC's of Death and Pete Travis' reboot of Judge Dredd

On paper this looks to be the best Midnight Madness in years, so I hope to see you at the Ryerson come September! To find out more, check out the official site, by going here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sharper Isn't Always Better.

Last on my list of movies to see this year at Fantasia was the Argentinian ghost flick Memory of the Dead.

After the death of her husband, Alicia (Lola Berthet) calls all of his closest friends and relatives back to his mansion for a special wake. However, Alicia has something more sinister planned and when the clock strikes midnight, all hell breaks loose.

I was back and forth on this film as I was watching it. Although director Valentín Javier Diment does a lot with his small budget, there were a few things about this production that never gelled with me. This is a huge shame because the idea was something I could have sunk my teeth into.

I think it mainly comes down to the choice to shoot the film digitally. Diment was clearly influenced by the gialli, as filmmakers like Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci were all over this film. The problem was that there was something very off putting about seeing that aesthetic in HD, instead of its native 35mm. The closest thing I can liken this to is the “uncanny valley” effect of video games or visual effects, where something is the same, but slightly different, so you're brain rejects it. I have no doubt that if Cattet & Forzani's 2009 giallo Amer had been shot digitally, I would have felt the same way. Memory of the Dead still had a very colourful and unique look, but was nevertheless often distractingly obtuse.

Lola Berthet (left) & Luis Ziembrowski look on in Memory of the Dead

The setup was handled well enough, with Diment briskly introducing the seven or eight characters that are gathered together. The transition into the meat of the picture seemed a little shaky, as rules are quickly established and then broken. I think where the film had me the most was when it was skipping around, showing all the different ghosts that the characters encounter throughout the house. The cast was very good, but I found that almost all of them were unlikable in some way. When the one character I had latched onto was offed, I pretty much lost all connection to the piece.

A lot of people have likened Memory of the Dead to Evil Dead 2, but - apart from two key moments - I'd say it more resembles the first few Dark Castle films, House on Haunted Hill & 13 Ghosts. Even then, I don't think its mix of CG and practical was handled as well as those two films. Diment loads most of his makeup effects in the back half of the movie for some reason, where an even spread may have been more effective.

Having said all that, I did like the ending, which was a small victory I suppose. As I indicated, I was never completely out of it, but never fully onboard either. Although I am well aware that the adoption of digital was probably a budgetary decision, I feel the money saved does not equate to the damage done to the finished product.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Haunting of Julia.

In addition to the over a hundred new films that are, in some capacity, premiering at Fantasia, the festival also has several retro screenings programmed. One of these was Richard Loncraine's 1977 film The Haunting of Julia.

Still mourning the sudden death of her daughter, Julia (Mia Farrow) moves to London to start over. Things go from bad-to-worse when she starts seeing the ghosts of children in and around her house.

Surprisingly, I'd never heard of this film, but I'm glad I took a chance on this. It is refreshing to know that no matter how old I get, there are always titles from my favourite eras (the seventies & eighties) that I still have yet to discover. The Haunting of Julia is a solid example of the kind of filmmaking that was going on in the seventies. It is steeped in atmosphere and, by way of slow, deliberate pacing, uses its characters to tell the story.

Mia Farrow as Julia.

Farrow is front-and-center here and she does a fantastic job. She makes dazed confusion an art form, adding a sad and catatonic layer onto her similar award-winning performance in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby nine years earlier. I have no doubt that she was the first choice when it came time to adapt this novel by Peter Straub. She was backed up well by Keir Dullea (of 2001 & Black Christmas, another seventies horror staple) as the domineering estranged husband, Magnus and Tom Conti as her best friend and confidant, Mark.

A real standout is the score by Colin Towns. Even after the details of the film may have faded from my memory, I'll always be able to recall at least a few sections of the music. Towns has equal ability to keep you on edge with subtlety, as well as crescendo to where it seems like his score is the only thing onscreen.

It was unfortunate that the print they had available for the screening was a little weathered. There were moments where it was so dark, that it was almost impossible to see what was going on. Also, some of the sound effects were very deep in the mix, which lessened the punch of some key moments. Of course, these are minor quibbles and are only of note due to the film being so much about atmosphere.

This screening at Fantasia was part of a four-film programme celebrating the launch of Montreal cinephile Kier-la Janisse's new book, The House of Psychotic Women. Taking its name from a 1974 Spanish horror flick, it is a study of female insanity in film. The other screenings in the series were Possession – which I watched a few weeks ago, as part of my Time Out List duties – Christiane F & Dr. Jeckyll & His Women.

Now available through FAB Press.

Though it is shocking that this film is not more well known, there are superior films that deal with the same subject matter. The Changeling and Don't Look Now both tread on the same ground, yet more adeptly keep the viewer at arm's length. The story in The Haunting of Julia is fairly straightforward, but still succeeds because of competent talent and direction.

I was very glad to have seen this almost forgotten film on the big screeen. It has never, to my knowledge, enjoyed a decent release on video and is a prime candidate for remastering.

Friday, July 27, 2012

If They Came From Within!

Even though I spent many hours sitting in theatres during my stay at Fantasia, this long-running festival is not only about the films. There were several other things going that weekend, the most anticipated of which was the opening of the If They Came From Within show.

Curated by Rue Morgue Magazine's Dave Alexander, it is an art & media exhibition featuring dozens of Canada's greatest creative minds visualizing an alternate history of Canuck genre film. Filmmakers like Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun), Vincenzo Natali (Splice) and Lee Demarbre (Smash Cut) were asked to concoct a title & synopsis for a fictitious genre movie. They were then paired with renowned artists like Gary Pullin, Justin Erickson and Eric Robillard to bring them to life. Here below, are some examples.

Art by Rupert Bottenberg

Art by Gary Pullin

Art by Richard Patmore

Art by Jason Edmiston

Art by Justin Erickson

To see more of the posters in the series, check out Yell Magazine's great coverage here. The show also featured some other accessories, like props and production materials for said films. While searching the Web, I also found some accompanying scores composed by Conrad Simon. The opening party was very enjoyable and I was fortunate enough to talk with director Maurice Devereaux for a good length of time. Truth be told though, it was mainly me gushing about how much I love his movie $la$her$. Also, thanks to the free hooch, I had the courage to introduce myself to Michael Biehn who was also in attendance. He seemed a little embarrassed when I brought up the Near Dark Q&A at last year's Festival of Fear.

The show runs until the 29th, so if you are anywhere near Montreal, I highly suggest you check it out.

In addition to the show, there was also a panel with some of the artists & filmmakers. It was a really interesting affair, which delved into where ideas come from. There was also a lot of reminiscing about old VHS coverbox art, which you can imagine I was totally on board with. Devereaux further proved we may be kindred spirits by telling a story about how he also used to clip out all the newspaper ads for the movies that were playing that weekend.

Filmmakers Maurice Devereaux (left), Karim Hussain, Lee Demarbre,
Brett Kelly & Rod Gudino

Artists Rupert Bottenberg (left), Gary Pullin, Justin Erickson,
Vincent Marcone & Paige Reynolds.

A few days later, Dave Alexander hosted another panel called A Look That Kills. This was an extremely informative talk about the importance of poster art plays in selling your product. The panel was made up of two filmmakers, George Mihalka (My Bloody Valentine), Casey Walker (A Little Bit Zombie), Anchor Bay marketing head Susan Curran, Calgary Underground Festival director Brenda Lieberman & prolific graphic artist Eric Robillard. What followed was an extremely well-rounded discussion. Mihalka & Walker talked about filmmaking from veteran and novice perspectives and Lieberman and Curran spoke about marketing from both ends of the process. The former is often be the first to see a film's artwork while programming her festival, and Curran usually comes in at the last stage when tweaking the product for its transition into the home video market. Robillard came in on the creative side of things, reminiscing about his experiences – good and bad – trying to give his employers exactly what they want.

Eric Robillard (left), Susan Curran, Brenda Lieberman,
Casey Walker, George Mihalka & Dave Alexander.

Two points that really fascinated me were when Robillard explained how advanced technology has progressed. He showed an example of a cover that he designed and revealed that the only thing in it from the film was the actress' face. He then put up seven separate stock Imageshack pictures – one was of another woman's cleavage! – that were then combined into the finished product. Curran also used a slide show to beautifully illustrate the long process of coming up with the cover for the recent Battle Royale DVD release. She showed about fifteen or so concepts, and said they had settled on one that prominently featured the image below. Then they discovered that they not only did not have the rights to use the kid's faces, but it was also an inadvertent spoiler.

So, they went from that to these two. The first of which, solved the problem of the faces and the second is a nice clean image, which is apparently very important.

Make no mistake, these marketing people have things down to a science. Everything from which side a character is holding up his gun, to where the price sticker is going to go is considered. I was also shocked to learn that WalMart still has a sixty percent share of DVD sales. That means if your cover is in anyway inappropriate for mass consumption, they ain't carrying it. Which means you're not making your money back. I remember this kind of shenanigans from when I worked at Cockbuster. The blue-and-yellow had so much power back then they could actually order directors to make edits to their films. This would be begrudgingly obliged because if Ballbuster wasn't carrying their movie, they obviously lost a lot of money. I thought that shit was all behind us, but apparently not.

It was a lot to take in, but I learned a lot that weekend. You can be sure that I'll be making some sort of cover for Orange to accompany any of my further film festival submissions.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Another reason I love Fantasia is that Montreal audiences adore Japanese splatter flicks every bit as much as I do. The screenings are always lively and the directors of such fare, like Noboru Iguchi & Yoshihiro Nishimura are treated like rock stars. Every year, they trot out their newest offerings and I somehow, as if pre-ordained, always seem to be there to smear them into my eyeballs. This time around, Iguchi had two new ones.

Let us start with Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead. I don't think a synopsis is even necessary here, as this is one of those occasions where the title says it all. Then again, Sushi Typhoon's wares, like Machine Girl and RoboGeisha, have always been designed to sell themselves by concept, haven't they?

So yes, Zombie Ass delivers on its title. The movie has zombies, and it has ass. A lot of ass. In fact, one could fashion a drinking game based on onscreen butts and quickly find themselves on the floor. As you may of guessed, the movie is heavy on the toilet humour, with puke and feces flying at every opportunity. It is definitely the grossest of Iguchi's oeuvre, and that's saying something. Iguchi must be one persuasive cat to be able to get his actresses to do some of the stuff they do here.

One of Zombie Ass' few frontal shots.

Apart from all that though, Zombie Ass still showcases some insane creativity, peaking with the wonderful creature designs of the final boss battle. And seemingly channeling 2005's Meatball Machine – which along with Versus & Death Trance may have been the genesis of this movement – Iguchi also throws in some probing tentacles for good measure. Zombie Ass is retarded and silly, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Director Noboru Iguchi & composer Yasuhiko Fukada continue the tradition.

The very next day I was back for more with Iguchi's Dead Sushi. I was really looking forward to this one because it stars Rina “High Kick Girl” Takeda, and it did not disappoint. This is probably Iguchi's best film since Machine Girl.

Rina Takeda as Keiko in Dead Sushi.

Naturally, it is Takeda that makes the movie. She not only has screen presence, but also allows the emphasis on martial arts to be dramatically increased. Takeda is as deadly as she is adorable. I mean, this is an Iguchi venture, so there are still some gross tangents, like the “Japanese kiss” sequence, but nothing approaching the stuff in Zombie Ass.

And once again, the crazy ideas flow like soy sauce, as an egg sushi sidekick, a battleship made of salmon roe – which Iguchi later revealed was inspired by Peter Berg's recent Hollywood blockbuster – and the fantastic final fight sequence featuring the main villain Tuna Head all delighted those in attendance.

This guy rocked da house!

Dead Sushi is rampant with cheesy CG, but for some reason, it didn't bug me as much as it did in RoboGeisha. I think that because Tuna Head was all done using practical effects, I felt it was a fair trade off.

I am generally not a fan of audience participation, but in this case I thought it genuinely added to the experience. During his intro, Iguchi instructed everyone to yell out “Danger” and “Sushi” at certain points during the flick, which was happily obliged. Speaking of the intro, here is some delighful video of Ms. Takeda showing off her signature move.

As the novelty of Japanese splatter fades from some markets – I'm looking at you Toronto – I know that Fantasia will always be my last bastion to revel in the bloodied schoolgirls and nightmare creatures of Iguchi & his like-minded brethren.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fantasia 2012!

After being stuck on a train for an extra hour-and-a-half, I finally made my way to the J.A. De Seve Theatre for the Fantasia Film Festival's opening film The Tall Man.

After her son goes missing, Julia Dunning (Jessica Biel) discovers he may be the latest victim of a local urban legend named The Tall Man.

Expectation can be an unforgiving beast, as the buzz on this film after its premiere at SXSW was lukewarm. Pascal Laugier's debut Martyrs was a grisly and disturbing affair, so one would naturally be predisposed to expect something similar for his follow-up. I have to echo festival director Mitch Davis' comments when he introduced the film. He was quick to point out that The Tall Man was not Martyrs, but a completely different animal.

Before I get into The Tall Man though, I should mention the short that played in front of it. Nick Lacelle's Cure was a well done slice of a post-apocalyptic world that was made even more impressive by its tiny budget. Shot in three-and-a half days and costing four hundred dollars, Cure accomplishes more in ten minutes than some other productions of the same ilk do in ninety.

As for The Tall Man, once you wrap your head around what it isn't, I'd say it is a solid thriller. I had a bit of an 'uh-oh' feeling at the beginning because there was something very television about it. It possessed a certain look and the opening credits sequence felt like something you would see on a trendy show like The Walking Dead or Harper's Island. Then I realized it was because it was shot in Vancouver and I was flashing back to the early X-Files episodes I devoured in my twenties. Speaking of which, it was great to see Bill “Smoking Man” Man again, as he appears as the town sheriff.

Jessica Biel in The Tall Man.

As I said, The Tall Man is not Martyrs, but that's not to say it doesn't feature some morose subject matter. Laugier is an extremely skilled filmmaker and always in control. There were a few times that I thought the movie might be coming off the rails, but he always managed to reign me back in. Though it is clearly shot in Canada, the film itself often recalled the French New Wave. The isolated locales and superb production design reminded me of MorauxPalud's Ils, and there was also an excellent midnight van chase ala High Tension.

I think the real standout of The Tall Man is Jessica Biel. She gives a really strong performance here, particularly with a monologue that she delivers toward the end of the film. Nothing I had previously seen of her gave me any indication that she was capable of something like this, so that was a nice surprise. The only glaring negative of the movie is the length. It doesn't have an excessive running time, but it is one of those movies that seems to have six or seven endings. With each new scene it faded to in the last fifteen minutes, I felt the piece diminished as a whole. I'm all for tying up loose ends, but this seemed excessive.

The Tall Man, though flawed, is a very functional thriller. As the trailer would suggest, Laugier has made something a little more commercial, but he still manages to retain his dark edge.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Postcards From Fantasia.

Hello all. Hope you are well.

Having a lot of fun here.

Be back tomorrow with my review of The Tall Man.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Netflix Pix 5.0

Good afternoon! As of today, my “working” vacation in Montreal begins. I’ll be attending the first five days of this year’s edition of the Fantasia Film Festival while I’m there, as well as a few other event goodies. You can expect my Fantasia posts to begin rolling out next Monday, but in the meantime, I’ve got a new edition of Netflix Pix for you.

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, and Big Red has been adding some decent genre titles to its Canadian catalogue’s ranks in the interim. Here’s a quick trio of films that are definitely worth a look.

I liked Rabies because it took a fairly stale subgenre and made it unique by implementing one little twist early on. What if the “killer” was taken out of the equation fifteen minutes in? How would his victims deal with being stranded in the forest? The usual logic leaps are still present unfortunately, but the freshness of the idea was enough to get me over a lot of those humps.  And hey, how often do you get to see an Israeli slasher film?

Coincidentally, I saw A Lonely Place to Die at last year’s Fantasia. While I’m the first to admit the build up is better than the payoff, I still feel this, for the most part, is a taut little thriller. The action sequences really pop and Melissa George is totally believable in a very physically demanding role.

Yes, the classic Roman Polanski film Repulsion is now on Netflix. Catherine Deneuve shines as a unstable young woman, who, after being left alone by her sister, slowly begins losing her mind to crippling hallucinations. Say what you will about the man, but as an artist, Polanski was a visionary, ushering in the “psychological horror” genre that we know today. After Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby three years later, the landscape of horror films was forever changed.

Okay, that's all for now.  Have a great weekend everyone, and see you next week!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Haunting (#15)

As promised, the next film I watched on the Time Out Best 100 Horror List was Robert Wise's 1963 film The Haunting.

Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson) brings a group of people together to aid in his research of Hill House, a remote estate long thought to be haunted. It isn't long after they arrive that strange things start happening.

This is another solid pick from the Time Out crew, as I can't fault anything in this film. I thought the cast was perfectly balanced and each role had just the right amount of characterization. The ringleader Markway is clearly led by his passion to document acutal proof of the paranormal, even if means putting his subjects in jeopardy to do it. The one most at risk is the sensitive and shrewish Eleanor (Julie Harris). She is so desperate to get away from her unhappy existence, that she's willing to do just about anything. Luke (Russ Tamblyn) the heir and eventual owner of the estate, is also along for the ride to make sure nothing happens to his meal ticket. Lastly, and most interesting to me, is the psychic Theodora (Claire Bloom). She has a playful, yet devilish nature and takes an immediate liking to Eleanor.

Claire Bloom (left) & Julie Harris in The Haunting.

I first I thought I was imagining the lesbian overtones, but as the film went on, I could see there was a definite vibe going on. I found this extremely fascinating because in the early sixties, that must have been scandalous. That is, if it was even picked up on at the time. Now, I'm not naïve enough to think that lesbianism in film began in the eighties, just as I was first discovering it on late night TV in films like The Hunger and Desert Hearts, but I couldn't find many references pre-dating Wise's film. I didn't look too thoroughly – I'm not writing a master thesis after all – but I'd wager this has got to be one of the earliest instances in a genre film. Or at least ones that don't involve vampires.

From here I'd like to move onto the most important component of The Haunting; the house. Now, it is not unique that the haunted house be a character unto itself, but I can't say that it has ever been done better. Black & white is the perfect medium here, as I love the way Wise uses shadows in this film.

Bloom, Russ Tamblyn, Harris & Richard Johnson look on.

I say the only shortcoming (of the DVD, not the film) is the sound mix. This is a film that could really lend itself to the 5.1 treatment, but maybe that's not even an option. I suppose depending on how the sound was laid down on the master, it may not even possible to isolate the different sounds. That would be a shame because the bedroom scene with Eleanor & Theo would really rock in surround, as would much of the film.

Unlike with my experience watching Diabolique, I fortunately remembered very little of The Haunting's 1999 counterpart. I only recall who was in it and that the movie collapsed under the weight of its overbearing CG. I'm glad that I hadn't seen the original at that point because I would've been appalled at its falling so short of the mark. Oh well, even thirteen years on, Hollywood has still yet to learn that digital effects are not scary.

The Haunting is a perfect example of the benefits of simplicity and restraint and fully deserves its spot on the Time Out List – at the impressive slot of 17th out of 100 no less! Well, that's another one down. With only fourteen titles left, I'm going to have to start digging deeper.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

DKTM 150!

To commemorate the one-hundred-and-fiftieth Don't Kill the Messenger post, I figured I would make it an all-video edition.  Here goes!

Marble Hornets.

I happened to come across this web series called Marble Hornets earlier this week.  You know, it's a testament to just how vast the Web really is, because this thing has been going for three years now, and I'm only just discovering it now.  Here below, are the first two episodes, and if these don't hook you, nothing will.

Apparently, the myth of “The Slender Man” is something that started on the paranormal message boards of the website Something Awful. In 2009, filmmaker Troy Wagner began a web series that incorporated the modern urban legend and now, after over sixty episodes, it has garnered quite a following. To get on board, check out the MH YouTube channel here. Be sure you have some free time though, as the total running time these days is in excess of four hours.  Happy hunting, and sweet dreams...

Finally, She Shows Her Face.

At last, we have a proper trailer for the Soska Sisters' new film, American Mary. The movie stars Canuck Katherine Isabelle as a deranged medical student. Thanks to Twitch for the heads up.

Comic-Con Goodies.

I recently gave up cable, and the only thing I really miss is G4TV and their pervasive E3 and SDCC coverage. Here is some of the cool stuff that hit Comic-Con this past weekend.

First up, is the trailer everyone's been waiting for.  The Season 3 teaser for The Walking Dead.  Unlike some shows - Dex*cough*ter - this one looks like it's getting better with age.

Here's a clip from the upcoming Silent Hill sequel, Revelation.  It was a good move to lead with the strong stuff, wouldn't you say?

On the gaming side of things, here is the newest clip for my most anticipated game of 2013, The Last Of Us.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Analog Nightmares.

Happy Friday the 13th everyone! To celebrate, I have a review of perhaps the most anticipated horror film of 2012, the new anthology V/H/S. I was very fortunate to get into the sold out show that was part of Toronto After Dark's summer screening series. The second part of a double-bill with Detention (review), the buzz around V/H/S was enough to pack The Bloor on a Wednesday night.

A group of petty criminals are hired to steal a particular VHS tape from an old house. Finding many when they arrive, they start playing them and discover the horrors within.

So yeah, V/H/S was a good time. It didn't knock my socks off, but I didn't dislike any of the segments, which is kind of a rarity when it comes to horror anthologies. The wraparound story by Adam Wingard  was functional, but I feel he could've done more with it. It started to fall apart toward the end, but it's forgivable because the meat of the project was the short films.

I liked the first short, “Amateur Night” by David Bruckner, quite a bit. This cautionary tale should be made required viewing at frat houses everywhere. The make up effects work was a big highlight and the story thankfully goes further than the jump scare spoiled in the trailer. Hannah Fierman (pictured below) is the standout here. Not since Angela Bettis in May have I seen a better portrayal of the “quiet & weird” type.

Glenn McQuaid's story “Tuesday the 17th” clearly the weakest of the bunch. This is a shame because I'm a huge supporter of his 2008 debut I Sell The Dead and was really looking forward to seeing something new from him. This slasher-in-the-woods yarn had a very intriguing concept, but it was unfortunately populated by the most grating characters of the entire project, so giving two shits about what happened to them was a little hard. Even the gore seemed a little empty in this one.

“Second Honeymoon” was the easiest to identify with its director. With its mix of dialogue and atmosphere, its style is fundamentally Ti West.  A lot of people I saw it with were not happy with how it ended, but that shouldn't be surprising, as finales have never been his strong suit. I didn't have a problem with it myself.

In fact, it was Joe Swanberg's bit that had an ending I wasn't fond of. As the trailer sets up, “The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Young” begins as a solid creepfrest with two characters talking over Skype. Then, just when this “ghost” story hits its fever pitch, it goes for the gross out and pretty much negates all it had built.

And therein lies my only real beef with V/H/S. It lathers on the gore at almost every opportunity, which is fine - I love blood & guts as much as the next guy - but that is not how the hype machine had pitched this movie to me. It was billed as scary, and it rarely was. The aesthetic is very similar to that of the shower-inducing Poughkeepsie Tapes, but V/H/S never gets anywhere near as disturbing. It may not be a fair comparison because one is a feature and one is vignettes, but I just wanted to point out that it can be done.

Lastly, there's the segment from Radio Silence entitled “10/31/98”. Who would've thought that put up against all these indie horror darlings, this practically unknown filmmaker collective from L.A. would come up with the best short. The group of drunken buffoons in this short are not nearly as annoying as the ones in Bruckner's, and I had fun watching them goof off as they walked around this seemingly abandoned haunted house. This short featured some genuine freak-out moments with wonderfully implemented visual effects. This was the perfect short to end on because by this point, the movie was getting a little long in the tooth.

V/H/S is not the saviour of horror that some are hailing it as, but it's certainly entertaining. If producer Brad Miska & company were to cull together some more filmmakers to make a V/H/S 2, I would definitely be onboard, as this analog conceit fits the anthology medium very well.