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Destler Dodge

Since the unprecedented success of The Blair Witch Project in 1999, the found-footage horror genre has proven to be a guaranteed money-making machine, with iterations such as Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, [REC], and The Bay grossing billions of dollars worldwide. They range in quality from critically acclaimed (The Blair Witch Project with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 87 percent) to critically reviled (The Devil Inside, rating only 6 percent). At the end of the day, though, critical opinion doesn't matter, as Hollywood continues to pump out these films.

2012's V/H/S one-ups other found-footage films by featuring several short films tied together by a frame narrative, rather than a personal document of some disaster, haunting or other paranormal event. A group of criminals is hired by an unknown third party to burglarize an abandoned house. They find an assortment of VHS tapes in the basement, occupied by a dead man and snowy TV, pop them in the VCR, and, um, "hilarity" ensues.

Since it's a highly hit-or-miss anthology film, in order for V/H/S to be reviewed fairly, I need to rate the vignettes separately. Each vignette is directed by a different director, with the frame narrative directed by Adam Wingard (You're Next). 

Amateur Night (directed by David Bruckner): Some sleazy guys bringing some women back to their motel room to have sex with them, and one of the girls turns out to be a succubus and brutally kills the dudes. Why did V/H/S have to start out on this sour note? I hated this vignette and everything about it. It's misogynistic, creepy and totally disgusting. Do we really need close-ups of broken wrists and emasculation? I don't even think Saw would go that route. 0/5.

Second Honeymoon (directed by Ti West): A married couple head out west for their second honeymoon when a mysterious woman shows up at their hotel room one night and begins wreaking havoc on them. Second Honeymoon didn't have to rely on depravity to be effective; it had a bizarre and shocking ending that will take a while for you to wrap your head around. 3/5.

Tuesday the 17th (directed by Glenn McQuaid): Four friends go out for a camping trip when the group leader mentions that her friends were murdered at this camp last year, and they laugh it off as a joke. Uh, bad idea. Very bad idea. Not much to say about this other than it's a gorier Blair Witch with some strange camera tricks. 2.5/5.

The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger (directed by Joe Swanberg): Emily and her doctor boyfriend have a series of video chats about hauntings in her apartment, and she begins to feel strange bumps in her arms. This is arguably the best of the bunch. Can't say I've seen a video chat horror before, but Joe Swanberg made it work to terrifying heights. The story takes an unexpected twist that I don't want to spoil, but it's disturbing. 4/5.

10/31/98 (directed by Radio Silence): A group of guys set out on a quest to find a Halloween party when they stumble upon an underground exorcism. Cool concept, but come to think of it, one can't help but think these guys just busted the girl being exorcised out of the house because she was hot. Again, another nonsensical horror movie cliché: Hot Chick Leads to Death. 2/5. 

V/H/S is better than a lot of found-footage flicks, but there's definitely room for improvement. Here's hoping the sequel, V/H/S 2, is better..

Overall rating: 2.5/5