Directed By (And hold on for this one): David Bruckner, Radio Silence, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Ti West and Adam Wingard
“I Like You.”
Anthology films don’t get made that much anymore. There were a few classics like Creepshow and Asylum but it’s largely a practice that’s been left by the wayside. It’s a shame too because it gives a great excuse for everyone to put their effort into a twenty minute segment and go a little crazy. Anthology films are like a great short story collection in that it’s sometimes just condensed highlights, and you come away from it fonder than you would’ve if it was stretched out to something longer. That was sort of a metaphor right?
I don’t even know where to begin here. OK yes I do – the start. In the wraparound segment we’re introduced to some charming young men who get tasked with breaking into a certain address, stealing a certain VHS tape and getting paid for doing it. They break into the house and find a huge stash of tapes, this being a movie they decided to watch a few while looking for the right one. The idea is that each film we watch is one that they’re watching. Sounds simple enough? Good.
Each segment is told through a point of view. In most segments it’s just someone with a camcorder though occasionally it’ll get inventive with a camera placed in a pair of glasses or via a series of Skype conversations. At least there’s no egregious reason for everything to be shot this way this time, there’s clearly a point whether it’s literal voyeurism or whether it’s a more meta context – as exemplified in “Tuesday the 17th” – in which the digital filmmaking era meets the 80’s slasher movie. One of the most common complaints I heard was why someone would take the time to transfer a Skype conversation to a VHS tape, but it made sense to me in a weird way. There’s something illicit about cassette tapes, the way they used to be traded with other people at conventions or strangers with a common interest would trade via the post. There was always this idea that there could be anything on there. The film wouldn’t have the same effect if it was called DVD or LASERDISC – though clearly the only way the film could be improved was if it was about these films being stored on the collections of snobby Laserdisc collectors.
To say too much about each segment would ruin the surprises, but they run the gamut from slowburn, to a little silly, to out and out mayhem. However, since you’re asking I’ll say my favourite segments were Ti West’s “Second Honeymoon” and “10/31/98”. They’re both opposite ends of the spectrum, both are great for different reasons. For fans of this type of thing there’s also no shortage of the red stuff on show where it sprays around pretty liberally (This is probably the goriest of the movies I’ve viewed so far and is actually fairly rare for found-footage). The great thing about this is that there’s something for everyone, whether you want the slow build or the nastiness, V/H/S will have you covered. Sadly they can’t all be winners, but it’s the great thing about any anthology – there’s always going to be another one along right away.