Director – Marcel Sarmiento, Gregg Bishop, Nacho Vigalondo, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson
Cast – Emmy Argo, Emilia Ares Zoryan, Justin Welborn, Shane Brady, Dan Caudill, Natalia Ferreiro, Kelly Misek Jr.
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This anthology series has proved to be a roller coaster for genre fans. V/H/S was enjoyable, with only one bad entry (“Tuesday The 17th”) and V/H/S 2 was a solid improvement over the first. So naturally, I was pretty stoked to see what the third entry, VHS: Viral, would have to offer. After seeing the initial trailer my expectations were lowered when I saw material that did not interest me like the others did. Sure enough, this installment pales in comparison to its predecessors and leaves the series on a sour note.
Four stories make up this anthology, beginning with the wraparound, Marcel Sarmiento’s “Vicious Circles”. Playing on the “viral” theme, it follows Kevin, who is obsessed with shooting footage of his girlfriend. Eager to catch a high speed pursuit on viral video, he pursues the carnage and pays the price when his girlfriend is abducted. Now in a race to save her while the police fail, he becomes part of the viral sensation himself.
This is the worst of the four entries and spends most of its runtime making little sense. Unlike the other V/H/S films, these are “viral” and are not shown via tape, yet they have the same burns and scratches as VHS tapes do. Anyway, this entry is garbage and is continuously bombarded with images broadcast to Kevin’s cell phone. Again, none of it makes sense, and the story’s “shocking” conclusion offers no relief.
Next up is my favorite installment, “Dante The Great”, from Greg Bishop. As an inspiring (aka shitty) illusionist, Dante discovered a cloak that granted him the power to perform actual magic. Eventually he rose to stardom, and ultimately learned that the cloak demands regular sacrifices for its work. Over the years Dante’s female assistants disappeared under mysterious circumstances – victims of the cloak. When his newest assistant, Scarlet, discovers the tapes he made of their violent deaths, she alerts the authorities and we see the ultimate showdown between government forces and real magic.
The screenplay for “Dante The Great” had me engaged from start to finish. Told in both the past and present, we watch as the cape that came into Dante’s possession transformed him from an unknown dooface to a famous asshole. We also learn that the cape has stood the test of time and was even used by Harry Houdini, who rid himself of it because it scared him. Things get even more interesting when we see the cape start to devour the victims/sacrifices Dante set up for it. The final fights between Dante and SWAT officers are fun to watch and are definitely the most exciting moments of the film. I was impressed with how fun Greg Bishop made this film, which is of no surprise given I heavily enjoyed Dance of the Dead.
Next is Parallel Monsters, a Spanish installment from Nacho Vigalondo. The Timecrimes and Open Windows filmmaker gives us a story where Alfonso, an inventor, creates an inter-dimensional portal where he is staring right back at himself from another dimension. Intrigued, they agree to spend 15 minutes in each other’s worlds. At first the worlds seem like exact replicas, but soon they realize the grave mistakes they just made.
This was definitely the most thought provoking of the installments. I liked seeing the Alfonsos treat their new worlds with excitement and then have to face a world unlike their own. The big difference between the two worlds is that the main Alfonso’s world is a Christian/Catholic one, like modern Spain, and the other’s is one where Satanism dominates world religions. Now I’m not saying all Satanists are bad people, but naturally you can imagine what happens in the world dominated by said religion. We see demons, monstrous genitalia (that I did not see coming) and a few decent kills. Vigalondo did well with this installment, although this one left me wanting more and I felt it left the most potential untapped.
The last entry is “Bonestorm”, from Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead. This is the only other installment to be filmed in the POV format aside from the wraparound, and it follows a trio of skateboarders wearing Go-Pros as they perform various stunts. With two additional companions they cross the border into Tijuana, Mexico where they become lost after buying fireworks and beer. They find an old drainage system to skate it, and one of them injures himself and bleeds on a relic left by a strange cult. When this happens the cloaked cultists return to sacrifice them to the beast that awaits them.
Even though I was quite annoyed with how it was filmed I was actually pretty engaged with this entry. I dug the look of the cultists and was ecstatic when they rose from the dead as skeletons, which is something we rarely see these days. I fell in love with such antagonists like those seen in Tombs of the Blind Dead and Army of Darkness, so naturally this really appealed to me. This was also the goriest entry, with lots of practical effects for gorehounds to enjoy. “Bonestorm” was not the best, but it was the most action packed of the four. The ending, however, will leave you wanting more thanks to lost potential regarding the beast.
This film tried way to hard to play into the viral format. I appreciated the attempt because these days we can all relate to it, but the constant white noise, VHS burns, and file corruption quickly became an annoyance. The stories also hold back the film, but aside from that there aren’t many other negatives. The acting performances were fair, the gore is present, and “Dante the Great” was good enough to have been in the previous films instead of wasted in this one.
Overall, if you have seen the previous flicks and enjoyed them then you should give this a watch. Whether you enjoy it or not, you’ll be aware of where the series has gone. Aside from this, I’d say to skip it.