V/H/S (2012) Fantastic Found Tape Fear

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I had thought that I was pretty much burnt out on “found footage” films. But my excitement levels rose after this film got into its second vignette  out of the six “mini” films on offer here.

Although the film really falls into the anthology genre, a few horror films do this really well but the ones who can really pull if off are all Asian film makers, who have yet to make an anthology film that could be classed as a stinker.

This anthology of “found” footage horror films had been written and directed by some of the most impressive new names in horror today:  Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and the directing quartet known as Radio Silence.

The film opened January 2012 at the  2012 Sundance Film Festival  and was then  released on demand on August 31, 2012. V/H/S then had a limited  theatrical premiere in the United States on October 5, 2012, in the UK on January 18, 2013, and in Argentina on February 7, 2013.

I will not go into any of the films except for the one that ties all the segments together. A group of young men are hired to steal a video tape from a house. They accept the job and find that the house is full of video tapes, video players and a dead man. As the film moves forward, the action keeps cutting back to the room with the dead (?) man and all those tape players.

Tapes are put into a player and watched, by both one of the young men and us. The dead body on the chair behind the film’s video watching character appears and disappears. It is a brilliant way to segue the different films together in a cohesive manner.

Each of the six films are entertaining. Each one has a separate theme and they all feature a type of almost “guerrilla” film making. The other thing that the films all have in common, is that they don’t don’t suffer from what I like the call, “The Cloverfield Effect.”

In the 2008 film, Cloverfield, when the character in the film who was “filming” the events put the camera down, even in a stressful or scary situation, the camera was always right side up and always in focus. The found films in the anthology don’t do that. Cameras seemingly wind up where they, “wind up,” if you get my meaning. It doesn’t feel like a “movie” so much as actual found footage.

The news that a sequel is due out this year, actually has me quite excited. As I said above, I thought I was burnt out on this particular genre, but apparently,  a well made “found footage” film can still get me excited.

This is a real 5 out of 5 stars as all the stories were original and in most cases, I couldn’t see the twist coming. Of course I might be too obtuse, but as a rule, I can usually see the twist a mile away. Great little film here that won’t disappoint you.

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The Innkeepers (2011): New England Hotel Necromancy

Written, directed and edited by Ti West (Does this make anyone else think of Robert Rodriguez?) and starring Sara Paxton, Pat Healy and Kelly McGillis, The Innkeepers is a brilliantly entertaining ghost film.

There were some complaints from a few critics when the film was released about the slow pace. To those nay-sayers, I say, “Sit down in the back and shut up! If you were really paying attention and watching the film instead of trying to show how clever you are, it would have made sense.”

The film is about the Yankee Pedlar Inn (a real establishment in Connecticut where the film was actually filmed) and it’s last ever weekend. The place is closing down and two ‘skeletal’ staff have been left to work in reception for the odd guest who just might show up.

This is where the beauty of this film first appears. West has taken a lot of time and effort to allow us, the audience, to bond with the two erstwhile and likeable staff members who are running this last shift.

Sara Paxton plays Claire, an arrested in development ‘super-geek’ who desperately wants to experience a paranormal event. Big points have to go to Paxton. She is probably the only actress that I can think of who will let herself appear practically make-up free and is not afraid of letting herself ‘look’ like a ten year old boy in the arena of mannerisms and attitude. She sold this film and it’s story by giving a more than 100% performance and making her character so damned likeable that you really cared about what happened to her.

Pat Healy plays Claire’s partner-in-crime Luke. Luke is that sort of chap we’ve all worked with. He’s probably a bit too smart and obviously over qualified for his job. But his disinterest in finding any higher means of employment speaks volumes about his overall get up and go factor. Luke is another immensely likeable character.

Luke and Claire, minimum wage ghost hunters.

By the time the film gets seriously into the ghostly happenings at the hotel, we have bonded with both Luke and Claire and we like them both. Both actors gave a real sense of partner-ship with their characters. You could tell that the two characters had worked together before and often and that they both liked each other’s company.

At the beginning of the film the only guest is a woman who has left her husband and has checked into the hotel with their son. Ex-actress Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis) soon checks in and Claire is more than a little star-struck by the presence of her childhood hero being in the hotel.

Along the way, they lose the woman and her son (not through any sort of ghostly foul play, but mainly because of Claire’s ghost hunting techniques) and an old man checks in. The old man (George Riddle) is sad, full of melancholy and creepy as hell. He wants to stay on the third floor which has been stripped of its furnishings and only a few beds remain. Claire takes pity on the old boy and gets him some sheets so he can stay in the honeymoon suite that holds so many memories for him.

To say that I loved this film would be the understatement of the century. The characters, the plot, the hotel and the underlying comedic edge to the film elevated this to an ‘I must own this film’ category. I was already a fan of Paxton’s after seeing her in The Last House on the Left remake. Now I’m a lifetime fan-boy. She is an amazing actress and it will be fun to see just how far her star rises.

I enjoyed Pat Healy in 2001’s Ghost World, but I loved his performance in this film. He is another actor who has just shot to the forefront of my list of favourite actors.

Directer Ti West has shown that his vastly entertaining The House of the Devil was no fluke. He is another of those Hollywood protégées who will become the next Spielberg or even Rodriguez in the very near future.

Run, do not walk, to your closest film rental outlet and watch this film. It was so good that it defies the usual bag of popcorn rating system.

If you can only watch one ghost film in 2012, make it this one.

I thought she said don’t go into the basement…