Starring Kentucker Audley, Joe Swanberg. Written by Simon Barrett, Glenn McQuaid, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Chad Villella, David Bruckner, Nicholas Tecosky, Ti West. Directed by David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Adam Wingard. 18A. 116 min. Opens Oct. 26.
You get three genres for the price of one in V/H/S. It’s an old-fashioned scary-story anthology whose segments are filmed in the much-maligned “found-footage” style, and its creators are mostly charter members of the American indie-horror movement known in some corners as “mumblegore.”
That’s a lot of conceptual baggage for a film to lug around, and V/H/S feels burdened by its intertwined conceits. Omnibus films are invariably uneven, but the stylistic unity of the stories here creates a different problem—monotony. By the third of five segments, the spectacle of dim white hipsters pointing their digital cameras at some horrible menace or another gets redundant, and the framing device of some hoodlums stumbling across a haunted videotape collection (which contains the five films) during a botched heist hardly helps—in fact, it’s easily the worst material in the movie.
Fortunately, the first two shorts are good enough that V/H/S gets a pass overall. David Bruckner’s Amateur Night, about a gaggle of coked-out frat-boys who pick up the wrong drunk girl, is authentically shivery before its satisfyingly gratuitous final freak-out. The gifted Ti West’s Second Honeymoon, which casts indie figurehead Joe Swanberg as a smug young husband, contains at least one great jolt and the best-prepared twist ending in this collection. Swanberg himself directs the relatively effective fourth installment, which gets decent scary-comic mileage out of its duelling-webcams setup but ultimately feels underwhelming—the perfect shorthand description of this ambitious and enervating experiment.