Look, there are all sorts of reasons why after speaking about my distaste for found footage films I am here again, squandering my final free-rein Hooptober entries with another found footage film. V/H/S: Viral is the third in the series of anthology films that tries to take the conceit and move it in interesting ways. My reasons for revisiting this largely forgotten feature were two-fold: I just watched the trailer for Benson and Moorhead’s Something in the Dirt and couldn’t for the life of me remember their entry here. Likewise with Nacho Vigalondo, who I’ve been waiting for something new for a while now. The revisit proved that there was more good than I remembered, but not where I expected it to be.
THE QUICK SUMMARY: The footage is a killer…literally! Four tales take our obsession with filming ourselves to a new level of horror…with varying results! I know, you’re shocked, but you shouldn’t be because after all, this is another entry in the V/H/S series! Now with an even more annoying wraparound segment! But also penis monsters, so maybe it all shakes out in the end!
At this point it’s a given that the weakest piece of these films is the wraparound segment, and that holds true here. Directed by Marcel Marciento, it swerves between hand-held camera work and found footage through news footage, cell phones, and whatever other cameras are available. It’s supposed to push forth the conceit from the other films that the act of filming is causing mass carnage and evil to spread, but as a story it’s anemic at best, with maybe a few glimpses of gore that make it almost worthwhile.
Far better are the actual full segments, the best in my mind helmed by Gregg Bishop. His “Dante the Great” imagines a hapless dope (Justin Welborn) who finds the cape of Houdini and learns to wield its magic to become an incredible stage magician whose need for power and acknowledgement goes chaotically out of control. Framed as a kind of Unsolved Mysteries segment, Bishop has too much fun to really stick to the found footage concept, and as things get crazier and crazier I laughed more and more. I’ve been waiting for something from the guy who made Dance of the Dead, and I was not disappointed.
“Parallel Monsters” at first feels like what you expect from Nacho Vigalondo, whose Timecrimes is a minor miracle of a film. He has much more gleefully perverse things in mind, however, as a quick concept of a guy opening a world to a parallel dimension where he switches places with his doppelgänger for 15 minutes turns into a savage and funny piece of horror. I’d like to think a lot of this was influenced by the band Gwar but however he came up with his idea, it makes me excited for whatever he does do next.
For me the most problematic of the segments is “Bonestorm” from Benson and Moorhead. Problematic because of the full stories it’s easily the least coherent and impactful, but I still kind of love how dumb it is, and how gleefully unaffected its protagonists are. The story is that som skateboarder kids travel to Tijuana and skate over a ceremony to summon a demon. They fight cultists, skeletons, and leave behind their cameraman, who admittedly was a dick who was trying to cash off them getting hurt or killed doing stunts. Despite all that there are small glimpses as to why these two are some of my favorite genre filmmakers.
It may not reach the heights of the previous films (V/H/S 2 in particular is really good) but there’s some gold to mined yet from this franchise. I know there are two more in the series, and I know I won’t be able to help myself and watch them.