V/H/S: Viral (2014)
★ / ★★★★
There are bad movies and then there are the despicable ones, deserving of every excoriation because it feels like the filmmakers don’t even try to put out good work. “V/H/S: Viral” belongs in the latter category; I hated pretty much every segment it offers.
The “best” of the found-footage shorts is “Parallel Monsters” directed by Nacho Vigalondo. It tells the story of a man who creates a portal to another dimension. He is welcomed by his double who also made a portal from the other side. It stands above the other segments because there is intrigue: We wonder what lies on the other side. Although the material falls apart somewhat in the final two to three minutes, a good chunk of it is curious and it offers some humor. It is rarely one note.
Arguably the worst is Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead’s “Bonestorm.” Skateboarders go to Tijuana to shoot some stunts while causing some ruckus along the way. While filming, one of the boys is injured and blood drips on a pentagram. The segment might as well have been a video game. Eventually, the boys end up fighting some men wearing cloaks—presumably devil worshippers. The violence is cartoonish, silly, and dumb but never fun. None of the skateboarders are remotely likable. I did like the shot, however, when one of the camera was swallowed by a demon and we get a chance to see inside of its throat.
“Dante the Great,” directed by Gregg Bishop, reminds me a pilot episode of a television show that might have appeared on The WB when I was a teenager. It is so dramatic, almost soap opera-like, and some of the stunts and visual effects reminded me of “Charmed” sans a level of self-awareness that made the show enjoyable to watch. The segment involves an aspiring magician who finds a cloak that requires human sacrifice in order to give its wearer some power. I sat in my chair, wondering how the segment made it into the collection because there is nothing scary, creepy, or thrilling about it.
The unifying storyline is “Vicious Circles” directed by Marcel Sarmiento. There is a high speed chase around the neighborhood and Kevin, despite his girlfriend’s disapproval, hopes to record some awesome, preferably violent, images so his footage will go viral. Then Kevin starts to notice something strange: the chase, for some reason, is going on circles. The unifier should always be told with simplicity and clarity. Because it lacks these qualities, once the segment is chopped up and interweaved between the other segments, we end up feeling confused and wondering what message the writers hope for us to take away from it. We are not given one reason to care for Kevin, his beautiful girlfriend, and their relationship.
“V/H/S: Viral” offers a dearth of suspense, great thrills, or creative horror. The filmmakers of each segment, with the exception of those responsible for “Parallel Monsters,” should pay the audience to sit through their films because looking at those images felt like work.