Tape 56 (C-)
"Tape 56" serves as the main story line, a rather thin story that gets us into the films and not much else. We open with four men who seem to have a penchant for cheap Clockwork Orange antics: destruction of property, sexual assault and all-around criminal behavior. They are suspiciously hired to break into a house and steal a VHS tape. This plot point isn't really discussed much which means there is not much story to begin with.
The men get inside, find some morbid omens including a stack of TVs hooked to VHS players. So our stage is set for a slew of unnerving finds...
In between each film, "Tape 56" picks up and progresses its own story further, producing a haunting mystery that, unfortunately, is never truly resolved.
Amateur Night (C+)
If you can stomach the opening minutes of dueling dousche bag Dane Cooks, "Amateur Night" picks up on three friends with a "bright" idea: put a camera in a pair of glasses and secretly record an adult movie once they pick up some ladies. Flawless, right?
Well, our lucky cameraman happens upon a mysterious young lady (who the observant viewer can spot before she's introduced, almost like she is hunting...) who is much more than what she appears.
"Amateur Night" is a solid introductory piece. There's shaky cam, gore and nudity. If that's not what you want, walk out then because it's just setting the stage for what's to come.
Second Honeymoon (B+)
Male fiancees beware: this one hits close to home. A happy couple is roadtripping and taking in the sights along the way. This includes a mysterious drifter with a knack for camcorders, knives and one hell of a surprise.
The acting in this piece stands out because of the realistic chemistry of the couple. It's a shorter piece, but serves it's purpose in unsettling the audience.
QUICK NOTE: Honey, if you're reading this... let's avoid motels...
Tuesday the 17th (A)
The title says so much: a story that has been beaten to death, but this one holds a twist in the telling that rejuvenates a genre of horror. Four kids, an adventure to a lake house, and hormones. YEAH YEAH YEAH.
But wait for it... soon you start seeing things, a blunt statement is made by one of our characters, and we see subgenres folding into each other. This culminates in a somewhat abstract, fun and creepy story.
Hey kids! Stay out of the F*@#ing woods already!
The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger (B)
Speaking of revisiting old ground, Emily thinks her house is haunted. Her logical, pre-med boyfriend doesn't. But Emily reacts to the idea the way us horror fans would: she wants to see it, speak to it, fix it. She isn't really afraid. Via webcam, this short follows her over a few nights as she comes closer and closer to finding the secret of the haunting.
Some quick shots offer standard scares and the ending is a bit hit-or-miss, but well done characters make you wonder about Emily's mental state and about her boyfriend....
Easily my favorite. The film ends on a high note with this installment, centered around four friends on Halloween who are on their way to a party. Nothing is out of the ordinary until they arrive and the party is deserted. This film really worked for me because of the starkness of it. Obviously, they were invited. Obviously, there was supposed to be a party; I've never been so creeped out by a house with all the lights on.
The friends make their way through the house and our cameraman starts to see some strange things that let us know all is not well. Ghostly reflections and camera flickers set the tone for what turns into a true nightmare as the friends stumble upon a disturbing scene.
The execution of the film highlights some incredible special effects and choreography that truly remind you of the last bad dream you had. The laws of physics bend, panic sets in and your final moments are both surreal and possible.
Overall, V/H/S collects some incredible spooky stories and some fantastic nightmares. For genre fans, it's guaranteed satisfaction. For those who may not be up to snuff with the heavier horror films, BEWARE.