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I saw this last night at the Seattle International Film Festival at a midnight screening at Seattle's own illustrious Egyptian Theater.
Mark me down as one of those folks who feel the found-footage schtick has been run into the ground like a stale Pall Mall, but I realized I really only feel that way when there's no real reason to do it (see: Chronicle). VHS (I'm going to dispense with the forward slashes from here on it, it's just too cumbersome) actually lends itself to the found-footage format...it emulating old scratchy VHS tapes and all (think bootlegged Faces of Death tapes back when you were little, only with supernatural shit). So it worked in this setting.
There's a bookend narrative about this gang of hoodlums who break into a dead man's house to steal a certain VHS tape that someone will pay big bucks for, and while sorting through the dead man's many tapes, this is what makes up the movie...each tape they review is a different short film. It's clever.
My main nitpick, I guess, would be that none of the shorts are really, genuinely scary. There's some great scares....but none of them, as a whole, really, truly fucked me up. And I'm a sucker for found-footage horror when it's done well. The Paranormal Activity's shake me something fierce. But the scares that are there are done well, and some are just flat out ingenious. The "Skype" short is really kinda brilliant. It reminded me of a blend of Rosemary's Baby and Cronenberg's The Brood. But you know...on Skype. That was probably my favorite one. And the last one had shades of Polanski's Repulsion too.
All in all, a great time out at the movies, and director Ti West was in attendance....he did a little Q&A at the end, and he seemed like a genuinely cool, down to earth fellow. One attendee had the gall to actually ask Ti West what his short was "about." I haven't been to many Q&A's, but that struck me as a real faux pas. Asking the director what his movie was ABOUT? Come on now.
I got to talk to Ti West after the movie, and I basically just asked him questions about what it was like to work with Tom Noonan, because honestly, that's what I wanted to know the most. It's Tom Noonan, man!
Anyway, a real fun anthology (and I realized I really MISS the horror anthology format....Creepshow was one of my favorites growing up) but I'm not so sure how it would hold up on DVD or Blu-Ray or whatever. If you can see it at a midnight showing with a bunch of people, I would recommend doing so.
Sounds really cool. I too am an ardent supporter of found-footage horror. I think of it as first-person horror (not to sound like the most pretentious asshole on the planet). Even though it's not technically found footage, it seems to me that Hitchcock's Rope was a predecessor of this stuff. I remember in Rope, you are always dying to know what's going on to the left and the right of the camera, but since the film is one continuous shot (yes I know they cheated) it's never gonna cut to the reverse perspective and show you. It's gotta pan....really....slowly until you see it. Really suspenseful. I think the best f.f. horror understands this.
It gets a lot of flak around here, but I genuinely believe the first Paranormal Activity is one of the scariest films ever made. It takes such an old-school approach, building real slow and respecting the romance of its lore and all that. Although the characters aren't lovingly portrayed like they would be in a Ti West joint*, I think the demon stuff IS.
*Are filmmakers other than Spike Lee allowed to make joints?
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