“V/H/S: Viral” Review
By Rob Jefchak
In 2012, a new “series” of horror films came out with the release of a strange kind of anthology found footage series called “V/H/S.” Each year a new film would come out and each entry would involve the same kind of set up: people finding and watching various video tapes that feature different short horror stories, all tied together (albeit loosely) with a “wrap around segment” that brings all the stories full circle…sort of. The first one was a decent launch attempt, the second was infinitely better (and my personal favorite entry in the entire series) and now we have the third and hopefully final entry in the series (and found footage films in general) “V/H/S: Viral.”
“V/H/S: Viral” starts off with a young man eager to record a police chase following a strange runaway ice cream truck, despite the protest of his girlfriend. The girlfriend vanishes however while the man tapes the chase and soon goes on his own chase to find her and find out why people are being strangely prone to acts of violence by watching weird videos online. The stories that follow include a magician who finds a REAL magical item and becomes consumed by its power, a man developing a portal to parallel realities with horrifying results and a group of skateboarding kids that become targets for a Mexican death cult ritual.
Turns out there was supposed to be a 4th segment included but was cut for time but will appear on the Blu-ray release. Each segment (including the wrap around one) is directed by a different director but sadly, none of these directors alone or together could cobble together a cohesive enough story to prevent this movie from becoming a confusing mess that was more scattered than it was scary. The first two “VHS” films got downright terrifying at times and totally had the natural “VHS” look and feel; as if you were actually watching old tapes on someone’s VCR.
However, “Viral” sacrificed horror, effects and most importantly ANY KIND OF SENSE to churn out a clearly cheaply produced series of films that fail to capture any kind of the memorability the original films and their stories had. “Vicious Circles”; the wrap around segment started off interesting and mysterious but it’s connections to the other stories is left ambiguous at best, and it ends with the most utterly nonsensical conclusion imaginable. None of the wrap around stories make much sense but they at least had a semi-sort of structure to follow, here it’s just completely random and cryptic without even bothering to cough up half a brain cell’s worth into creating an actual ending.
The first story is “Dante the great;” an interesting plot with a decent cast that managed to deliver a pretty damn good story despite some weak moments with camera work and its presentation. “Dante the great” did however create a truly impressive finale with two magicians dueling with all kinds of spells; that reminded me of a similarly spectacular finale fight from found footage film “Chronicle” by Josh Trank. The second story “Parallel Monsters” is easily the best; the concept seems simple enough but then turns into a truly horrifying nightmare that has to be seen to be believed.
It felt like a R rated “Twilight Zone” story and everything about its approach, pacing and presentation was simply superb. I really wish the 4th segment had been included because unfortunately; the movie leaves us with the worst segment in the entire franchise’s history “Bonestorm.” This story was a total mess, the camera work is utterly atrocious, the violence and acting is sub-par and it feels more like some obnoxious 13 year olds home movie that he put on YouTube than an actually funded movie.
Overall, “V/H/S: Viral” has 4 stories total: 2 of them suck horribly, one is decent and one is truly worth watching but not if you have to endure the rest of this film. This is a found footage film that should have not have been found; it needs more work, actual logic, non-headache inducing camera work and enough effort and money to make you feel like you didn’t get ripped off by spending your time or money on this film…which is EXACTLY how I felt.
I give “V/H/S: Viral” 1 star and a ½ out of 4.