EIFF 2012: V/H/S (Various, 2012)

June 27, 2012

A collaborative anthology feature, V/H/S is essentially five short films in the “found footage” style by several established names in low budget horror, framed by narrative segments also shot in the same style. The film follows a group of misfits who go around filming wanton sexual harassment and desecration, all while filming their antics. Hired, for a measly fifty dollar reward, to burglarise a house to find a rare VHS tape, the group discover a seemingly dead man sat in front of an assortment of televisions and videos. While members of the group explore the remainder of the house, one is tasked with checking the tapes in the room with the corpse. When a tape is watched, we see the result in the form of one of the shorts. As each tape concludes, we reconvene with the burglars as events get progressively stranger on their end.

Portmanteau films like this are inherently inconsistent stylistically but also predominantly inconsistent on a quality level; V/H/S certainly does not buck the latter trend. There exists no narrative connection between the stories, but the themes of power, deception and, naturally, voyeurism are present in all of the shorts. Additionally, bar film collective Radio Silence’s concluding segment, there is a hefty dose of voyeurism related to sex, be it a man wanting to film his girlfriend undressing, a woman unknowingly being recorded as she flashes her long-distance lover via a Skype-like program, the framing device’s burglars grabbing and exposing women’s breasts to sell footage to online porn sites, a group of guys with spy-camera glasses wanting to secretly film sexual encounters, or a camera wielder lingering on a friend’s body as she walks ahead of him, referring to her as a “golden crack whore”. Radio Silence and Ti West’s are the least questionable in regards to sexual politics, and in David Bruckner’s segment in particular there is a suggestion of deliberate subversion of the male predatory gaze through the characters’ comeuppance. However, despite recurring instances of misogynist characters being the punished, sometimes at the hands of abused women, on-screen evidence with the frequent, uncomfortable leering in the other shorts feels less like any sort of deliberate commentary on the portrayal of women in horror…

Full review at Sound on Sight


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