It’s time for the 31 Days of Horror: 2014 Edition. For those of you who weren’t around for last year’s journey, the plan is to watch at least 31 horror movies I’ve never seen before and review them all. So sit back, strap in, and enjoy my journey down the rabbit hole.
I have trouble with found footage movies because I just can’t shake the feeling that there are always camera angles where I can’t figure out who was shooting the action. That said, The V/H/S franchise of anthology films, while often guilty of the inability to justify their footage, have been slightly better than most found footage movies. The latest entry, V/H/S: Viral, has been getting brutal reviews, but I found it to be the strongest entry in the series.
Vicious Circles, the wrap-around story, is the worst of the bunch. Directed by Marcel Sarmiento, it tells the story of a police chase involving a speeding ice cream truck and the teens trying to get cell phone video of the chase. Very little of its plot makes sense, but it does go off on some interesting tangents and features an impressive set piece with an unlucky cyclist getting dragged from the back of the truck as his feet get ground into nothing by the asphalt. But while it hits some occasional visceral highs, it’s far too sloppy in its storytelling to make any kind of real impact.
Dante the Great, directed by Gregg Bishop, tells the clever story of the titular hack illusionist (Justin Welborn) who comes into possession of a cloak that allows him to perform actual magic. But the cloak requires sustenance of the human kind and while Dante initially is sickened by what he is forced to do to maintain his power, his ego turns him into a monster. There is a pretty predictable arc to Dante’s story, but this entry has an appealing sense of humor, a good performance by Welborn, and Bishop has fun coming up with unique ways for Dante to use the cloak.
Parallel Monsters, directed by Nacho Vigalondo, takes the prize for the oddest entry. Inventors from alternate universes both create portals to the other’s reality. Initially, their worlds seem like mirror images, but they both discover the horrific differences that exist just under the surface. Needless to say, it’s a very Vigalondo-like premise. While it retains his sense of humor and builds to a funny/creepy ending, the short running time blunts its overall impact. Unlike most short films, this one feels like it would benefit from being stretched to feature length.
Bonestorm, directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, is the most surprising entry. It’s not that the premise is so unique, but it feels like the last thing you would expect from the directing team behind the restrained and cerebral Resolution. A visceral look at what could happen if a bunch of idiot teenagers tried to make their own Jackass-style video and it went very, very wrong. Filled with raucous comedy, lots of gore, and chaotic editing, it’s never scary, but is a kinetic kick in the pants.
Because of the poor reviews and word-of-mouth, maybe I went into V/H/S: Viral with lowered expectations and that explains why I enjoyed it as much as I did. But it’s a fun flick that makes for good Halloween viewing.
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