Released in cinemas earlier this year to little fanfare, The Chernobyl Diaries marks the directorial debut of visual effects man Bradley Parker, although it’s not his name splashed all over the marketing. The film is written and produced by Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli. Warner Bros. no doubt assuming he possesses some kind of Midas touch after the phenomenal success of his debut. There’s a solid idea in here somewhere, and even a nice bit of history, as we are told of the families of Chernobyl workers having not even five minutes to collect their belongings, but frustratingly, the potential in the premise is squandered. Continue reading →
Directed by Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence
Cast: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Adam Wingard
Magnet Releasing / Rated R / Region 1 / 1.78:1 Widescreen / 116 minutes
Disc Extras: Alternate Ending (10/31/98)/More Tuesday the 17th/Amateur Night-Balloon Night/Webcam Interviews/Cast and Crew Interviews/AXS TV: A Look at V/H/S/Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery/Conceptual Design Gallery-Lily/Cast and Crew Commentary/Theatrical Trailers
I equate horror movie anthologies to a five question pop quiz. Get one question wrong, and you’re already down to a B-. Botch two, and you get a failing grade. Telling a short story in any medium, be it film or book, can be tricky, because of what little time a writer/director has to develop character and conflict. But the movie V/H/S takes these challenges and turns them into creative energy. Folks, I haven’t seen a horror anthology this damn good in years.
I won’t give away the individual stories in this movie to avoid serious spoilers, so instead I’ll talk about the wraparound story. This is the glue that binds each story in the anthology. A group of low-rent criminals are paid to break into a house and steal items. What they find is a strange room full of VHS tapes. Curious about the odd treasures, our team begins to watch them, and one by one, we see various horror stories. Okay, found footage isn’t a new concept, but in this case, it’s portrayed in such an interesting manner. We don’t know why these tidbits of people’s lives and nasty nuggets of horror are recorded on these VHS tapes, or how they got there, or why. This adds a certain ominous feel to the whole experience I really enjoyed.
One hell of an “o-face”.
The real draw here is how the movie uses different mediums to tell a story. You get footage taken from a hidden camera in a pair of eye glasses, footage from an on-line chat, and VHS quality home movies. As far as content goes, ghosts, monsters, serial killers, sex, nudity, gore, and classic horror run amok. You get a little bit of everything. My favorite tale uses the old school slasher convention and gives it new life. It’s moments like these where the filmmakers respect classic conventions and expand on them that give V/H/S its edge. Is it one hundred percent perfect? Well, not quite. One of the stories could’ve been trimmed up time wise and another story could’ve nixed the party time scenario since there was already a segment involving young people partying, but these are very minor complaints, considering how much this movie delivers on everything else.
Critiquing V/H/S‘s audio and visual quality is a bit of a challenge, only because certain segments are designed to look like VHS tape quality footage or shaky cam. This is done intentionally, and knowing that, the film is shot professionally with the intent of quality in mind. You won’t get a “Blair Witch” sized headache viewing this puppy. The release is packed with extras, most of them involving production notes and behind-the-scenes. These are interesting enough, but I have a feeling there could’ve been a lot more. I’m willing to place a bet there’ll be a special edition with way more extras in the future.
A “found footage” horror movie about the evils of porn can’t be good right? That depends on how you look at it I guess. Is the movie well written, directed and acted? Can you look past the preaching and enjoy the scary bits going on? I very much doubt it. In my opinion, this can only be taken as kitsch by the secular audiences and shown on Friday night youth group meetings at your local church. But I am certainly open to giving it a chance. Hell, maybe a miracle will happen and I will like it. I mean it DOES feature a possessed box of porn.
Because films are not only entertaining but they’re also a way to teach people. Society learns their morals and values through music, film and television. Pornography is such a huge problem that simply telling someone how dangerous it is usually doesn’t work. You have to tell a compelling story to catch someone’s attention and then educate them while they’re being entertained.