VOD film review: V/H/S Viral
Leslie Byron Pitt | On 15, Oct 2015Reading time: 3 mins
Directors: Gregg Bishop, Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Marcel Sarmiento, Nacho Vigalondo
Watch V/H/S Viral online in the UK: Amazon Prime / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
The Collective’s 2012 anthology piece V/H/S was as divisive as it was deranged. Its use of the found footage sub-genre was fondly viewed over as well as derided, but few could argue that it held a certain amount of ambition.
V/H/S 2 (2013) admirably raised the stakes, delivering a brasher and bolder collection of shorts. Neither can hardly be considered exemplar horror movies, yet their best moments hold an anarchic edge to proceedings that appealingly throw caution to the wind. Most of the writer/directors have done better with their feature-length offerings, but there’s entertainment to be found in each.
V/H/S Viral is the third entry into the faded format mythos, and does little to reach the bar set by its predecessors. Whether you’re a fan of the previous entries will certainly determine how snide or true that statement may be. This time, we have a wraparound story (directed by Marcel Sarmiento) that attempts to expand the mythology wholesale. Viral takes the idea that watching these short films warps the view, and blows the concept up to a city-wide pandemic – a novel idea in films such as The Signal (2007) but insufficiently utilised here. One moment (involving a wronged ex-lover) appears to give a whisper of shrewdness, but it quickly descends into vapid, nondescript violence, once again reminding viewers of the problematic gender issues that critics have had with the series.
This is nothing in comparison to the limpness of the main shorts themselves which, for the most part, are lifeless constructs that are more interested in how good the effects look than the conceits themselves. Dante the Great (directed by Gregg Bishop), throws away the lo-fi aspect of previous entries, going for an awkward faux-documentary which has decent effects but little payoff.
Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes) delivers an odd sci-fi in Parallel Monsters, which holds the most appealing premise of the short narratives, but no real atmosphere to hold it together. Time would be better spent seeking out his head scratching debut.
Bonestorm by Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead (Spring, Resolution) fares best out of the mini-films. Not only does the short fit the franchise as a whole, but it’s the best looking. It suffers from its vagueness (the duo’s equivocal endings work better in features), while its cast are a bunch of insufferable dullards. One has to ask the question, however: when isn’t there a bunch of bothersome imbeciles in a V/H/S film? Benson and Moorhead are at least fitting their film to type.
This is more than can be said for the compilation as a whole. Gone is the riotous feeling which the first two films brought. Viral talks a big game with its over-reliance on aesthetic glitches and world expansion. Don’t expect to be scared, though. You probably have disused video collections of your own that are more frightful.
V/H/S Viral is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.