V/H/S Arrives All Washy-d Up
I held out hope for V/H/S, opening this weekend at the Egyptian, for a single shot I’d seen of someone wearing one of those transparent face masks (look for more of them this Halloween season) where you can almost but not quite see the person underneath, see the humanity struggling to escape the fixed expression. The human visage looks out through its prison, but can’t touch, can’t influence, the outside world.
I still love those masks because they still creep me out, but guess what? You only see one in the movie for about two seconds, and by then it’s pretty obvious who’s wearing it to what end. I’d hoped the purloined-VHS tape gimmick might give rise to truly twisted tapehead horror manifestations; instead, all concerned filmmakers (six, counting the Radio Silence collective as one) go for the anti-gusto, emphasizing tape’s dull, leaden, murky qualities.
Of course, sinister and mean things can emerge out of that murk. David Bruckner’s bit starts off the way a lot of these segments do–with a cadre of idle youngsters caring for nothing but the next high–and by the time they figure out the lusty young thing they’ve picked up for fun is sucking their fun and everything else dry, it’s too late for them to do anything but scream. You’ll probably figure it out before them, of course–assuming you’re not as high. But second-guessing the bled-dry is one of the easy thrills of the modern-day horror film.
Kudos also to Joe Swanberg, who mixes paranoia and betrayal in a sickly brew and throws in video conferencing for extra slow-burn menace. On the whole, though, there’s a movie I’m thinking you should see instead. It’s called Trash Humpers, directed by Harmony Korine. And he did things with the gaping-at-decay gestalt–slowing it down, siphoning off all underlying plot progress, leaning in close–that Ti West and company can only grimace and bear down at.