Thursday, November 20, 2014

V/H/S/: Viral

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! If these damn VHS tapes are so evil, why not just put tape over the tab thing and record over them?

V/H/S/:  Viral – 2 out of 5

I’m not the biggest fan of “found footage” films—if you’re a loyal reader, you probably already know that.  Despite that, I will always give these films a shot because, and I honestly believe this, they have limitless potential with storytelling.  Sure, the producers, writers, directors have yet to master the whole reason why someone is filming every aspect of their lives, why they never toss the camera down when danger presents itself, how all major plot points are conveniently kept in shot and focused, and who is editing these and deciding that its okay to leave in nearly an hour of filler where we watch the main players be annoying and go about their lives while barely any character development or advancement in the story takes place.  Besides these complaints, there is potential for these movies to go somewhere…or you can just recycle the old and make something that is pretty much exactly like the last two films like V/H/S/:  Viral did.
And prepare yourself for a lot of scenes like this...
Once again, this series gives us an anthology of “found footage” tales that focus on the macabre and spooky side.  This time around they have pretty much abandoned both the fact the stories are taking place on VHS tapes (those are DVDs and Blu-Rays' grandparents, kids) and the need to have a central story arc—granted, this film sorta has one but it barely connects in any real way with the other stories.  Viral opens up with a boyfriend filming his girlfriend’s ass (because this series is known for being slightly rape-y…see my review of the first film) and a mysterious Ice Cream Truck comes blaring through his neighborhood playing a song that drives everyone mad.  But that’s not even the strangest part as this story deals with a lot of people who are fighting to get a video of this chase for the hits on YouTube (which is a thing, maybe?) 

Or maybe people really are obsessed with filming car chases, I dunno.
This central story (and its barely that) leads into a tale of a magician that gets his hands on a cloak that grants him real magical powers but the cloak must eat people in order for the magic to exist.  A story is told about a man who opens a portal to a parallel world and is horrified to discover the differences.  Then, finally, a tale is weaved about some skaters who accidentally stumble upon some demons and monsters while trying to make a skateboarding film in Mexico.  There is an additional tale that was edited out before the film went to the VOD market and has yet to be included.  Maybe in the theatrical cut…but I’ll be damned if I watch this again.

Oh shit!  Look at him Jimmy knock the board into a scat of the grind!
(I'm not actually familiar with skater lingo...)
If I had to sum up V/H/S/:  Viral in one word, that word would be “lazy.”  There’s really nothing special going on in this film that made it worth the time for me.  Sure, the stories are different but it almost exactly resembles the previous two films.  Granted, the film has the magician segment play out more like a mockumentary and even, at one point, completely abandons the “found footage” element and just lets the conflict play out (although, it tries to make itself look like someone is filming it and that makes it look a little silly) and, sure, the central story is a little different in the fact it doesn’t involve characters putting tapes in a VCR and watching the action take place.  However, despite this, it’s still just a collection of poorly put together tales and this one even takes it a step further by mashing them into a central story that really doesn’t connect in anyway.
Also, you get a ton more really awkward camera angles that take you right out of the action.
This was clearly an intricate part to the plot and not
a way to cater to any certain members of the
In my review of the first film, I stated I really hated the rape-y feel of the first film as every story centered on dudes who would either objectify women by only filming their sexualized areas or flat-out try to assault women.  This was adjusted in the second film but this one feels like it needs to pay homage to the first film as the central story opens up with several scenes right after one another where the boyfriend is filming his girlfriend’s bottom, crotch, or boobs.  Was this really needed?  It literally did nothing to the story and only made that character less likable and far more creepy than he needed to be…and this plays havoc later when the story wants you to actually give a shit about him.
Honestly, this does nothing to help the film.
"I hate to bother you while your skating but do you know
which way The Gathering is?"
I will admit that the skateboarder story actually has some potential to be good and felt very reminiscent of other anthology horror movies that inspired the V/H/S/ films.  It’s a simple concept:  Skateboarders accidentally spill blood on a Satanic symbol that alerts some sort of death cult and a demon ready to burst forth from the bowels of Hell and unleash…well…hell upon the Earth.  The idea is fun and super silly—but silly in a “let’s not take ourselves TOO seriously” way.  The only problem I had with this story was the fact it had no depth to it and it is just one long sequence that feels like it is repeating itself, not moving forward, and just around to extent the length of the film.  The first 25% of the story is the setup that is handled decent enough but the next 74% is the skateboarders fighting the cult members and monsters.  That’s fine but it gets repetitive.  Now, you’re probably asking yourself what the final percentage point was in that story.  Well, actually, that is the highlight of the story as it teases the arrival of the demon they accidentally summoned and then it quickly ends.  It’s a simple, but effective, end to the story that, sadly, could have been a lot better than it was.
This movie is just reinforcing the idea that all skeletons are evil minions of the dark.
Well, this is clearly fiction.  There's a parallel universe tale
and the two guys meeting each other don't end with
them making out...fuck you, you know you'd totally
do it if you met your parallel world self.
I will further admit that the story that involved the man opening a portal to a parallel world was pretty decent and extremely well put together.  This story doesn’t hesitate to take a slow pace and actually have some establishment taking place.  This, unlike all the other stories, actually makes sense when it concerns why everything is being filmed.  Someone who opens up a doorway to another Earth and decides to swap universes with his other self would probably want to document as much as he can—sure, it doesn’t explain how the plot points are conveniently in shot when the guys decide to ditch the cameras for their own personal survival or personal satisfaction but the story is very tightly put together that it is easy to overlook this complaint.  However, the very odd turn the story takes is far too silly to take seriously.  Besides that, it is a story that is well constructed and that is fucking rare in the franchise that is V/H/S/.

Alright...this looks like Rick Grimes is groping his crotch at the foot of someone's
bed.  Why does this franchise like going in such sexually creepy directions?
Okay, since the last two paragraphs I made some confessions, I am going to continue with that run and admit even further that I actually enjoyed the magician story.  It reminded me of something I would see in a Tales from the Crypt episode or a Creepshow sequel that wasn’t the awful third one.  It was a fun concept and the fact it was presented more as a mockumentary-style “found footage” affair only helped it.  Sure, the “found footage”/documentary gets abandoned for a “wizard battle” sequence but that doesn’t hurt it at all.  In fact, it actually helps the film because the silliness of “Who the fuck is recording this?” is no longer an issue and I was able to be completely immersed in the story.  The only real issue I had with this story was the fact the magician constantly films the murders/sacrifices he makes to his magical cloak and it left me wondering why the hell would someone film this because it is all the evidence needed for him to be convicted of murder.  That aside, this was the film’s strongest aspect…sadly, it is the first story to happen after the establishment of the guy who likes to film his girlfriend’s assets.
"And now my new trick...Swallow Slugs!"
Is V/H/S/:  Viral the best film in the series?  Maybe.  However, it’s not a franchise I have ever thought too highly of.  Each film only contains minor elements that work and then spends the rest of the time stuffing the film with fluff.  The franchise is the sizzle of the steak without the actual sizzle.  It’s a hologram of the sizzle or, at the very least, a minor spit of sizzle that comes after being sold on some pretty fucking amazing sizzle.  Like the other films, the stories are, mostly, poorly developed and hinge completely on the gimmick of being a “found footage” film and what follows is an emphasis of POV action rather than storytelling.  This one stands out because it is extremely poorly put together with no real cohesive direction.  The last two had a working central story arc to present the resulting “tapes,” but this one has one only in the faintest of ways.  It gives Viral a jumbled, uncoordinated feel that looks more like someone jumping from YouTube video to YouTube video rather than an actual anthology horror film.  Yes, the stories, in some cases, are far better than the other films but it is still very sloppy and the presentation is very lazy.

It's hard not to caption this with "DERRRRRR!!!!"

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