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Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // November 21, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
The first two V/H/S films opened to mixed reactions. Some horror fans rejoiced the disturbing shorts with a framing that connects all of them together. These demented segments are written and directed by various filmmakers in the horror industry. However, one major issue that some audiences find with anthology films such as this, is how they aren't entirely consistent from one short to the next, making for an uneven level of tone and atmosphere. Given that they're each made by different filmmakers with varied styles, this is an inevitable occurrence that is sure to happen when so many visions come together in a single picture. Nevertheless, V/H/S: Viral proves to be another entertaining entry in the franchise.
The third film follows a group of fame-obsessed teenagers who are desperate to become the next Internet sensation. As a high-speed police chase continues to unravel through neighborhoods, the residents become increasingly fascinated in its outcome. They soon discover that this seemingly ordinary chase is somehow tied to a selection of brutal videos that are bringing out the worst in people.
V/H/S: Viral begins by setting up the story that will somehow bring all of the seemingly random videos together. The segment that continues to unravel throughout the running time is titled "Vicious Cycles," which was directed by Deadgirl director Marcel Sarmiento. While not particularly outstanding, this is a massive improvement over the "wraparound" segments found in the two previous pictures. It manages to bring the feature's viral elements together quite nicely, although it doesn't necessarily make sense of the shorts that are to come. Even so, "Vicious Cycles" brings about one of the most brutally intense scenes in the entire film. This introduces a violent sequence that is unlike anything that I've ever seen in a horror flick. While it delivers a decent build-up, the conclusion leaves a lot to be desired, giving audiences the feeling that Sarmiento took the easy way out. The tension simply peaks somewhere in the middle, and it never manages to return back to that level of energy.
This brings us to the first short, titled "Dante the Great," directed by Dance of the Dead filmmaker Gregg Bishop. While the capturing of the content doesn't entirely make sense here, the material is decent enough. "Dante the Great" feels like a guilty pleasure in the form of a late-night horror show. It features a magician who can somehow perform real magic, but a sinister supernatural force proves to be involved in these tricks, which ultimately consume the caster. The short begins with a documentary-esque tone, which builds to a climax that provides quite the show. You won't be scared, but you'll most certainly be rooting during this intense stand-off. This violent and exciting short is a strong way to kick off the videos, by bringing a true sense of fun to the picture.
Next is a science fiction / horror mash-up by Timecrimes director, Nacho Vigalondo. "Parallel Monsters" brings the same person together from two different dimensions. While incredibly strange, it proves to be effective. It oozes Twilight Zone, although the finale isn't quite as satisfying as one would hope. Given that I haven't enjoyed very much of Vigalondo's previous work, "Parallel Monsters" is some of his better material. While not my favorite segment, if you like your films weird, then this is right up your alley. It has a surreal and twisted look at what could be occurring in the dimension right next to yours. Once the screen fades to black, you'll be sure to look at your friend with an expression of shock and confusion. It's definitely a ride that defies expectations.
The final segment is titled "Bonestorm," which is directed by newcomers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. When this one starts, it's absolutely insufferable, as we follow a group of skateboarding teenagers who are teamed with a videographer, as they film their dangerous tricks. They even have their own helmet-cams, although this style becomes rather stale extremely quickly. Fortunately, after they decide to venture across the border into Tijuana to practice their moves in a specific spot, they discover that they have disturbed some type of demonic seance, placing them in a desperate fight for survival. This is when the short becomes a lot more fun, as they use their skateboards and anything else that they can grab in order to fight the twisted summoners and what is to come. The characters might be insanely irritating, but the action really draws us in, making for one hell of a finale.
While opponents of the franchise will continue to make many of the same criticisms, V/H/S: Viral proves to be quite a bit of fun. Unlike its predecessor, it doesn't have that one particularly excellent segment, - I'm looking at you, "Safe Haven" - but it does offer a collection of solid shorts. The connecting story is most certainly an improvement, although the franchise still hasn't quite managed to perfect its "found footage" style. While not a gripe about the content itself, the constant interference static becomes so incredibly distracting, that it pulls us out of the experience. Regardless, there's plenty to enjoy here for those who liked the first two. V/H/S: Viral is a solid piece of horror entertainment. Recommended.
V/H/S: Viral will be released through VOD on October 23, 2014 and in theaters on November 21, 2014.