Tuesday 16 February 2016

V/H/S: Viral - a rant/review...

What's it about?
The third instalment in the anthology series in which different writer/director teams conjure up strange tales of horror. This time there's a killer magician, a gateway to a parallel dimension, and skater kids taking on 'Blind Dead' style zombies in Mexico.
Who would I recognise in it?
V/H/S was decent - but had significant flaws, the biggest being an overlong run time, and some truly unlikable male characters with whom you didn't want to spend any time with whatsoever. The latter aspect was, indeed, rather insulting to the entire male gender, tarring all blokes with the same brush while simultaneously reducing the female characters to sketched-in object/avenger binary codes.

V/H/S/2 was a considerable step up in quality, with a talented range of writer/directors behind the camera, a much more suitable running time, and a range of tales (with interesting characters) that displayed a wealth of invention and creativity - not to mention fun!

The third film? I try not to come down too hard on flicks, particularly in the last few years, and my tolerance for garbage is fairly high (there's usually something to redeem even your shoddiest bit of grindhouse grot) ... but V/H/S: Viral is, and there's no softly-softly way of saying this - dreadful...

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I had heard very mixed things about this movie, and even with my expectations low (and wanting to dig it), I was stunned by how clumsy and non-sensical the whole endeavour was. Wrap-around tale "Vicious Circles" makes not a lick of sense, as a 'deranged ice cream truck' (of all things!) is chased around L.A. by cops and a gaggle of BMX-riding Vinestar wannabes.

Meanwhile, The first segment "Dante the Great", when it isn't breaking the rules of the 'found footage' style with gleeful abandon, is ultimately lacking. There's a few tricks scattered about the tale (involving an evil magician's cape with a thirst for blood), but it feels more like a F/X trailer reel than a horror show.

"Parallel Monsters", with it's central conceit of an amateur scientist opening a portal to a mirror dimension where he meets himself, and the pair trade universes for fifteen minutes, is quite intriguing. However, much like the majority of this film, it stumbles under the weight of little of it making any actual sense. It feels more like a semi-realised dream-turned-film that has neither the strangeness of Lynch nor the techno-fear of Cronenberg.

Finally, there is "Bonestorm" - a cross between a skate video and an homage of the 'Tombs of the Blind Dead' series - which lands like a dull thud. A bunch of scruffy and decidedly unlikeable teenagers bum around interminably before crossing over into Mexico to skate. What they find, at a random storm drain in the middle of nowhere, involves something to do with a kind of sacrificial cult and a bunch of energetic, skull-faced, potato-sack-wearing zombies. There's fleeting moments of decent splatter, but that's your lot.

Perhaps these ideas would have been better suited to a 5-minutes-or-less run time within an instalment of The ABCs of Death. Even at a scant 77 minutes (the UK DVD doesn't feature the 'Gorgeous Vortex' deleted segment, which is found on other releases), V/H/S: Viral drags - quite a feat in itself. The 'Viral' theme - which dispenses with the 'creepy house filled with spooky VHS tapes' setup seen in the first two films - never takes flight, nor makes any real sense (especially in a film series called "V/H/S"). Stumbling to a limp climax, with nary a good scare and a few decent ideas squandered along the way (a 'revenge porn' retribution moment in the wraparound screams out for a standalone segment), if this is the last in the franchise then it's an ignominious end. If there's a fourth entry to come, let's hope it returns to the heights of V/H/S/2 and leaves this turgid mess behind. Even at a rock bottom price, this is a waste of time - V/H/S fans would do well to sidestep this decided misfire. Shite.

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