Friday, May 2, 2014

Some Thoughts On V/H/S Part 3

Well, I suppose it was inevitable. The murmuring over the third V/H/S/ movie - to be titled V/H/S Viral - has begun. The first two made money, and all things considered it's a pretty tidy franchise to maintain. It's an anthology, so you don't need to worry about all of the weird convolutions of continuity that you get when you take something that works well as a single story and try to stretch it out into an entire saga (still looking at you, Saw). You're not telling a single story that doesn't know when to stop, you're telling lots of little stories. So that's good. And found-footage, as a style of film-making, works best when it looks cheap, so you've got a situation where a bunch of different directors can put together something for relatively little money and put it in front of an audience with less risk of diminishing returns than a more conventional franchise. From the cost side, that's a win.

And from the artistic side, I think it's a win too. Personally, I think we need more venues for short horror films, because horror lends itself to short stories. Some of the scariest stuff  I've ever read were short stories. There's no time to get settled in - things happen and you have to deal with them, and it's over. Concise, creepy, and at less risk for over-explanation. I rate the first V/H/S largely as a success, and even the two weaker entries still did something interesting. The whole thing had a sheen of furtive nastiness to it that gave the strongest entries a real edge. It really did feel like you were watching something wrong, something never intended for others' eyes. The second one didn't work as well, I thought. The roster of directors was strong, but I really felt like it was a little too far up its own ass - too many of the entries seemed to either be more concerned with riffing on the nature of found-footage than telling a story, or telling a solid story in a way that largely elided the constraints (and subsequent narrative power) of a found-footage approach. On top of that, the bridging narrative seems to be cohering into some kind of overarching mythology, and that's rarely a good sign. That's one sure-fire way to sap all of the mystery out of the series, and it's the sort of thing I could see taking over the series further down the line until it stops being an anthology series altogether and just ends up being about a bunch of stock teen-meat cannon fodder being hunted down by these mysterious collectors of bizarre videos. It's not there yet, but I can see it from here.

But the hook here, apparently, is that it's no longer old VHS tapes (which will hopefully be a way to silence the idiots who complained about one of the entries being a Skype call being recorded on a videotape and consequently missing everything that was good about the entry), now it's viral videos - things people find on YouTube. I'll be curious to see what gets done with it. The V/H/S series has a lot of promise - it seems like a good idea from a cost standpoint, it's a format that encourages experimentation and risk-taking, and if you don't like one story, wait a couple of minutes. But success finds a way to ruin things, and I can already see the seeds of potential problems planted. Explain less, show more. Please. Don't ruin a good thing.

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