When the first V/H/S anthology film hit, it felt like a breath of fresh air. Although anthology films are nothing new, this was a different take and it was coming from the up and coming horror filmmakers who would soon become a household name. (Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, or Ti West ring a bell? They have brought you the wonderfully fresh You're Next, House of the Devil, The Sacrament and A Horrible Way To Die just to name a few.) V/H/S was met with mixed reviews, but was successful enough to warrant a sequel. Thus, V/H/S 2 was inevitable; it upped the ante and is considered by most to be the more ambitious of the two. If you haven't seen V/H/S 2, the segment Safe Haven from Gareth Evans (The Raid and The Raid 2 is an absolute thing of beauty) is so good that you wish it was a feature length film. One of the biggest complaints of these two films was the improbability of all of these videos existing in VHS form. Seriously, who has a VHS recording of a web chat? Well, V/H/S Viral has almost done away with the VHS aspect, instead focusing on the viral nature of our videos these days and it has some interesting comments on our current culture.
V/H/S Viral begins with the familiar sound of popping a VHS tape into your VCR and then that familiar blue screen that pops up (well, I suppose I'm aging myself by saying that this is a familiar sound to me). Then everything quickly and rather seamlessly goes into the kinds of videos that are now so commonplace. Vicious Circles is the story that anchors the other three together and is a mixture of hand held camera and camera phone storytelling. It's the story of a young couple in which the guy has a serious compulsion to videotape everything and then the world starts crumbling around them. Police helicopters, people running wild in the streets, general chaos and an ice cream stabbin' cabin. Yup. An ice cream truck, or rather, what I like to call a stabbin' cabin (you know, those suspicious vans that don't have any windows) is driving around inciting anarchy and everyone is out in the streets watching the action and videotaping it. Oh, and the guy's girlfriend has been abducted by this "ice cream truck". The use of camera phones makes for some truly nausea inducing bits, but it's worth it to see the P.O.V. shot of someone being dragged by the ice cream stabbin' cabin and eventually lose their feet; an awesome cringe worthy moment. The video in Vicious Circles cuts in and out frequently which is mildly annoying but also allows for the other videos to insert themselves in the mishegas.
Dante the Great, from Gregg Bishop, is a fun parable of an aspiring magician who possesses zero skill until he stumbles upon a mysterious cloak that, allegedly, belonged to Houdini. The power contained within this cloak was such that Houdini himself got rid of it and it somehow ended up in the hands of Dante. Cut to Dante The Great being a huge superstar performing tricks that are absolutely unbelievable. His new assistant wants to learn from him, but begins to realize that no one knows how he performs these illusions and that when Dante wears the cloak he is different. Well, that's because the cloak is home to some sort of demonic presence. There are tons of really fun visuals in Dante the Great and the battle at the end is especially amusing, but the scares are non existent.
While that ice cream stabbin' cabin is still driving in circles, our video cuts into Parallel Monsters from Nacho Vigalondo. Vigalondo is the mastermind behind the under-seen film Time Crimes; a mind bending time travel story that has to be seen to be believed. In a way, Parallel Monsters is a companion piece to Time Crimes in the sense that our protagonist has developed a doorway to an alternate reality and on the other side of that doorway is himself in the other dimension. It's kind of like Bizarro Superman; everything on the other side looks the same, but of course it isn't. The two men agree to cross over to one another's reality for exactly 15 minutes to see what's happening in their respective alternate realities. This is, basically, a stripped down example of the fact that everyone's "normal" is different. To ruin what is actually lurking in the other dimension would take all of the fun out of the truly jaw dropping last moments. Though not scary, it is definitely a uniquely creepy film.
Yup, that stabbin' cabin that is, clearly, not selling ice cream is still driving around while that poor kid tries to chase it on his bike. If Blair Witch gave you motion sickness, then this will too. You may actually be relieved to have Bonestorm, the final segment, begin.
Bonestorm is a group of teenagers hoping to make a video of themselves skateboarding that will, ultimately, go viral. Outfitted with cameras attached to their helmets and a camera man filming the action from his perspective, the kids mostly act like typical teenagers until one of them suggests going to Tijuana to film their video. Just when you have hit the wall with watching these hooligans speak like idiots and be, mostly, irritating a group of scary looking people descends upon them. I can only assume that these people are meant to be a sort of zombie because they are hard to kill, but easily injured. As the two kids fight off these zombie creatures, their helmet cameras are still filming and it turns into a kind of video game/music video and it's pretty fun. There are some great kills with skateboards and broken bones and the idea of blood catching fire is very cool, but nothing is particularly scary. If anything, Bonestorm plays out more like an action comedy that happens to have some blood and guts in it.
So, yeah, the stabbin' cabin is still running amok, dude is still trying to track it down and this is when the social commentary kicks in. We have a small bit concerning a woman getting revenge for revenge porn and then we have the ultimate comeuppance in the "careful what you wish for" category. Basically, V/H/S Viral is a fun and, at times, humorous film, but it is certainly not scary or unnerving on any level. Horror fans looking for some real terror and gore definitely need to look elsewhere, but if you're just looking for a fun film, this is it.