M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Last month, counted down my favorite horror films from my first year of reviewing. Now it’s on to Year Two which began officially on October 1, 2011 and went through September 30, 2012. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around a bit. I’ve even added a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2011 and September 30, 2012 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on August 31, 2012 and available on Video On Demand, digital download, and DVD/BluRay!

V/H/S (2012)

Directed by Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence
Written by Ti West, David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Chad Villella, Justin Martinez, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Nicholas Tecosky, Simon Barrett, Tyler Gillett
Starring Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Adam Wingard, Hannah Fierman, Mike Donlan, Joe Sykes, Drew Sawyer, Jas Sams, Joe Swanberg, Sophia Takal, Kate Lyn Sheil, Drew Moerlein, Jason Yachanin, Helen Rogers, Chad Villella
Find out more info about this film here!

The thing that makes V/H/S stand out from most horror films is that is momentarily brought back the anthology film. While not every story in the collection is great, V/H/S shed light on a group of up and coming filmmakers and allowed them to use a trendy mode of filmmaking. After V/H/S and along with its own prequels, many films were following suit. Some were good. Others not so much. Many were just collections of short films glued together with a barebones theme. Still, V/H/S and all the buzz behind it is the thing that seemed to bring back anthologies—at least for a short time. I went into V/H/S hoping the hype behind it would be accurate. PR was rampant at how horrifying this film was, stating that people had fainted from viewing it and that it was the scariest film of the year. I don’t know if it was because of this hype that my socks weren’t blown off by the film or maybe…quite possibly, it wasn’t as good as it touted itself to be.

Let’s examine each chapter.

The wrap around segments tying this film together follows a group of internet daredevils choose to break into a house and steal a package, all the while catching it on video to later be posted on the web initially is a decent way to wrap together these stories. The deviants happen upon a dead body sitting in an easy chair and a room full of VHS video tapes. While some of the guys scour the house for booty, one of the thieves decides to see what the old guy was watching on his VCR.

The overall flaw of the film, though lies in this moment, as the tech used to take the camera footage and the societal need to film every waking moment in one’s life wasn’t really around at the time of the VHS tape. So unless the old dead guy in the chair spent a hell of a lot of time needlessly converting all of the digital footage to VHS, there’s really no reason these shorts should be recorded on VHS.

But that’s nitpicking, I guess.

Story one, directed by David Bruckner, is called “Amateur Night” and is by far going to be the one that goes down as the most iconic short of the film. A group of partying friends equip their nerdy friend with a pair of web glasses which records everything the wearer sees. They pick up a few girls at a club and bring them back to the room they are staying in and soon find that one of the women is not what she seems to be. The segment is well plotted, with a nice buildup to a shocking reveal. The acting is pretty good, meaning the three partying guys act like total idiots. But the true standout is Lily, the strange girl from the bar played by Hannah Rose Fierman, who’s creepy line delivery of “I like you.” has become somewhat of a phenomenon (spawning its own spinoff SiREN). This segment does deliver in thrills and chills, though the shaky movement of the camera is about as frantic as I’ve ever seen in a found footager. I jumped numerous times in this segment and it is by far my favorite of the bunch.

Ti West helms “Second Honeymoon” which follows Joe Swanberg and Sophie Takal as they go on a vacation, get on each other’s nerves, and make up in an extremely banal fashion. What makes this segment stand out are the well-done moments of sheer tension, proving that there may be hope for some variety in the way found footage can play out. Here, a nighttime visitor in a hotel room steals the vacationers camera and terrorizes them while they sleep. West’s story is the stuff that gets under your skin and festers, but I did find the ending to make things somewhat trite and too quickly wrapped up. Redeeming factors include an extremely gory death and some fun following Joe Swanberg around.

“Tuesday the 17th” is one of those stories which was probably awesome in its initial idea, but didn’t translate well when put to film. The story is pretty confusing as the rules of reality changes at the whim of whatever needs to happen at the moment. There are some cool scenes of a stalker which can’t seem to be picked up by the camera, but I felt that director Glenn McQuaid doesn’t have enough time to explain the rules of the world this story lives in and didn’t flesh them out in a manner any way other than confusing.

Joe Swanberg returns to direct “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” which trumps PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 by having the entire segment filmed via Skype style computer camera. While initially this story is pretty innovative, I kind of groaned once the curtain is pulled back and we realize what is actually happening in this story. Still, Swanberg comes up with some extremely tense moments and some nice scares, though a lot of them require us to suspend a lot of disbelief in order to be effected by them.

The final segment focuses on another group of partying guys who video tape everything as they head out to a haunted house party which turns out to be a real haunted house. Again, there are moments of fun and some decent scares, but by this time of the film, I feel the movie ran out of innovative way to take advantage of the found footage medium or original ideas and things resorted to the sort of ScyFy GHOST HUNTERS style filming techniques we’ve all seen before. The film looked like it took a lot to pull off technically, and while that’s appreciated, I felt this segment entitled 10/31/98 by Radio Silence was the weakest of the bunch.

Which brings us back to the wraparound segments, which build to a fever pitch, but ultimately ends with a WTF. The film just kind of ends with a lot of potential started and never followed through. For example, multiple times, the camera is set up to see the thief watching television in front of him, with the dead man in the chair in clear view behind him. Though later in the film, when we return, the chair is empty, there’s never a moment to suggest some type of movement from the scary old guy. Maybe the director of these segments YOU’RE NEXT’s Adam Wingard didn’t want to do the obvious, but personally, I felt this was a huge missed opportunity.

In the end, as with many anthologies, some of the stories were better than others. There were solid scares throughout and some innovative ways with which the constraints of the found footage film were dealt with and overcome. But this is a flawed film. A good flawed film. A film that sparked a bit of a revival in anthologies, but a flawed film nevertheless.

THE 2011-2012 COUNTDOWN!

#17 – V/H/S
#24 – [REC]3 GENESIS
#28 – INBRED

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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