“In spite of its defects, V/H/S: Viral is still an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half.”
Film fans, and cineastes of all stripes, have a theory about trilogies. In short, according to this theory, the first movie is iconic, the second is by far the best and the third falls far short of the other two. This theory, many argue, is borne out by the The Godfather trilogy (for which it was originally coined) the first Star Wars trilogy and even Wes Craven’s Scream trilogy (which actually references it within the second movie).
Having now become a trilogy with V/H/S: Viral, the VHS franchise would also seem to support this much touted theory. V/H/S: Viral does not stand up, in terms of quality, to the other two found footage anthology films, in fact an argument could be made that it’s not even a found footage film in the traditional sense of the term.
The wraparound tale Vicious Circles, directed by Marcel Sarmiento, introduces us to the voyeuristic Kevin and his good looking girlfriend Iris. When a high speed police chase comes right past his house, Kevin sees his opportunity to shoot a viral video. Before he can act on this, Iris is abducted by the sinister Ice cream truck the police are pursuing. As the truck circles the neighbourhood, and Kevin pursues it – egged on by images sent to his cell phone, the truck sends out video messages to those it passes sending them violently insane.
The first segment, Dante The Great, directed by Gregg Bishop (The Other Side), tells the tale of a trailer park dwelling, would be magician, who chances upon a cloak once owned by Houdini. The cloak has actual magical powers allowing Dante to transform the field of magic and becomes its brightest star. But the cloak’s magical gifts come at a steep price which may prove Dante’s undoing.
Parallel Monsters directed by Nacho Vigalando (Timecrimes) starts in the basement of wannabe inventor Alfonso, who has just invented a gateway to a parallel dimension. As luck would have it, his counterpart in the parallel dimension has invented the self same device and also activated it. The two agree to explore one another’s worlds and document the differences on film, before crossing back in fifteen minutes time. However the difference between the two worlds is more horrific and perverse than Alonso may guessed.
Bonestorm is directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead and follows four skater punks trying to shoot a skate video. They decide to travel south of the border to Tijuana in search of an exclusive skate site. As luck would have it, they stumble on the site of a Mexican death cult and find themselves fighting for their lives against creepy acolytes and resurrected skeletons.
The trilogy theory might also apply to this little triad of stories. Dante the Great isn’t exactly iconic, but it more or less abandons the found footage format from the get go — opting instead for a documentary approach that incorporates elements of found footage. In this way it opens the door to the other two segments to also ignore a great deal of found footage convention. It’s well shot and entertaining, but it’s not very scary.
Being the second segment in this trilogy of shorts, Parallel Monsters is probably the most accomplished of the three. Once again it bends the rules of the found footage format and it isn’t really scary either, but it does have the single best WTF gross out moment in the whole movie and is commendable for that. If Dante the Great has a Tales from the Crypt vibe about it, then Parallel Monsters is more in the mold of The Outer Limits.
In spite of having a great name, Bonestorm is by far the lamest segment of the movie. The four leads are obnoxious and irritating and the unconvincing action finale is nothing more than a highly improbable take on a first person shoot ‘em up shot through their helmet cams. It comes across as an unconvincing attempt to replicate the GoPro cycling zombie thriller from V/H/S 2, only with skateboards and skeletons.
As a wraparound storyline Vicious Circles is perhaps the most confusing and incomprehensible I’ve seen. As a metaphor for contagion, and the relationship between real violence and the voyeuristic pleasure taken in violent entertainment, it falls rather short and doesn’t leave you feeling either mad at society or scared of what your fellow man is capable of. It just leaves you scratching your head wondering what the hell that was about.
In spite of its defects, V/H/S: Viral is still an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. If you are a fan of found footage films or, more importantly, anthology horror movies, then you’ll still find a lot to like here.
Directors: Marcel Sarmiento, Gregg Bishop, Nacho Vigalando, Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Starring: Patrick Lawrie, Emilia Ares Zoryan, Celia K. Milius, Steve Berens, Garrett Bales
Release date: DVD 17 February 2015 (UK)
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