There’s a few things that I’ve come to accept in the V/H/S series: There is going to be blood. They will find an interesting way to avoid the Why do they keep taping? question. There will a story that goes in a direction I am not expecting. The wraparound is meh. Such is the curse of the franchise apparently. While I loved the concept of V/H/S, the execution was clunky and it did not play well. V/H/S 2 was much better, and in my opinion, a reason why the Paranormal Activity series has shifted gears from subtle horror to a more in your face assault.
You’d think they’d have it all figured out now with V/H/S Viral , right? Nope. Viral seems to have taken a step back from its predecessor. Overall, I felt it played itself out by the end. The wraparound is better than before, but the film progressively marches down to its climax. However, it does play like a viral video after all: I’m not really excited that I watched it, but I’m not disgusted either.
One of the best segments of the series is Dante the Great. It’s a phenomenal concept: A magician gets a cloak that gives him absolute power. And, as always, absolute power corrupts absolutely. It’s filled with fun little camera tricks, and I would watch an entire film based off this concept alone. My kids are really into Harry Potter, and I’ve always wondered why most wizards and witches there aren’t sadistic madmen. This was right up my alley.
Parallel Monsters was not a bad second concept. In fact, I was completely misdirected by it. In it, a man creates a portal to a parallel universe (almost a mirror world-everything appears here appears over there, just reversed). When he opens this portal, he and his image decide to spend 15 minutes in each other’s world. I’m not going to spoil it, but it doesn’t go the direction you think it is. In fact, wow. It wanders off at the last second and leaves you laughing/horrified at what you’ve seen. Even as a short though, it does take a little too long to set up and feels slow (an homage to the first film?).
The final segment is called Bonestorm. Usually, the wraparound story in these films involves unsavory characters. Viral drops that and sticks them all in here. In Bonestorm, two skater punks and their friends head down to Tijuana in search of a concrete ditch to make a skateboard video. While they are there, they encounter a cult and…something else. The kids are awful human beings, and yet we are forced to root for them as heroes. While I generally like horror films that play like video games, I was not into this one. It treats the situation like a 10 year old would imagine it to play out and the kids take way too much pleasure in their fight for survival. And, to boot, the payoff is not good.
The wraparound was better than previous editions. It’s called Vicious Circles and follows an ice cream truck/police chase throughout Los Angeles. Its inspiration is clearly drawn on a real viral video where a kid sees a police chase come right past his house. As the truck passes random people in the street, we see the films they are making and end up with a glob of random films loosely tied together. It’s like a Google search from hell for messed up videos.
V/H/S Viral is definitely watchable, don’t get me wrong. While Dante is phenomenal, the rest of the film just does not quite deliver. It’s sad too, because the only uninspired piece was the skater segment (and even that is just a line em up gore-fest). I felt the CGI was especially heavy in this film (although, I may be basing that off the zombie segment in 2). The gore is back to the initial film level, and it’s teasing with its women. I have to give props as this series continues to find interesting stories to assure that the characters keep taping. Well, almost. Dante does not feel like a found footage at all. It’s multiple camera angles, and plays more like a feature.
Like most viral films, people tune in to see the most bizarre stuff and the unimagined. While V/H/S Viral pays off initially, it becomes progressively expected. It’s like searching for a video you want to see and continuing to watch Youtube’s suggested videos that aren’t as good. Check this one out if only for Dante the Great.
(BTW…Nobody said it but I’m assuming the cover art for this film is an homage to our logo. And, yes. I’m serious.)