Synopsis: A police chase through the streets of Los Angeles inspires dozens of fame-obsessed teens to try to capture the salacious footage, but they are unaware that they will face their own deaths as stars of the next video sensation.
Release Date: November 21, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
As spotty and uneven as they were, V/H/S and V/H/S/2 both made money, and that means a sequel – a threequel, if you will – was inevitable. Well, V/H/S: Viral is here. The concept is basically the same, with the film consisting of a handful of found-footage shorts with a wraparound segment that tries to tie them together. The results are pretty much the same, too: consistently inconsistent.
The first segment, directed by Gregg Bishop (Dance of the Dead) and called “Dante the Great,” tells the story of a magician named, of course, Dante (Justin Welborn from The Crazies), who acquires a cloak that allows him to perform real magic feats of teleportation and levitation. His abilities come at a cost, though, as the cloak needs to be fed, and Dante is the one who has to keep finding victims for the garment. It sounds silly, but “Dante the Great” is easily the best segment in V/H/S: Viral – it’s this movie’s equivalent of V/H/S‘s “10/31/98” and V/H/S/2‘s “Safe Haven.” The story is told in the form of a television news documentary, although it does kind of stray from the found footage methodology during the climax. It may be because of its non-adherence to the strict found footage protocol that makes “Dante the Great” the most enjoyable section of V/H/S: Viral.
Next up is “Parallel Monsters,” directed by Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes). This segment concerns a young man who builds a machine in his basement that opens the door to a parallel universe in which he encounters himself and his wife. He quickly learns that the parallel universe is not the same as the one that he left behind. “Parallel Monsters” is all shot from the point of view of the camcorder that the guy was using to document his experiment, so it contains all of the nauseatingly shaky camera work that usually accompanies found footage movies. There are a couple of cool monster effects that are a treat to watch, including an absolutely crazy puppetry scene, but the segment as a whole is pretty bland.
Finally, there’s “Bonestorm,” the short directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (the pair behind Resolution). “Bonestorm” is about a pair of skateboarders who go to Tijuana to shoot footage for their skate video and stumble upon a river bed that is full of occult symbols and artifacts. Unfortunately for the skaters, the cult that was using the river bed is still there, looking for fresh sacrifices. This segment uses footage that was primarily captured by a bunch of Go-Pro cameras that are attached to the skaters’ helmets, so while it’s smoother than “Parallel Monsters,” it’s still pretty rough. “Bonestorm” is the happy medium between the awesomeness of “Dante the Great” and the mediocrity of “Parallel Monsters.”
Oh, and there’s a wraparound that isn’t really much of a wraparound. It’s directed by Marcel Sarmiento (the filmmaker responsible for “D Is for Dogfight,” the best segment in last year’s The ABCs of Death), and it’s called “Vicious Circles.” It’s about a guy who wants to create a viral video, and finally gets his chance when a police chase ends up in his neighborhood. As he shoots video of the chase, somehow his girlfriend gets sucked into the ice cream truck that is being chased and messages him for help on his phone. The guy soon realizes that the chase is going in circles, yet still can’t seem to get his girlfriend back. Again, it’s not much of a wraparound; it’s not really even much of a short film. The segment is the one the film keeps coming back to in-between the other segments, and one has to wonder if it would be more coherent if it was seen all at once. Probably not, since it’s so disjointed and confusing, but it still is more of a standalone film than an anthology wraparound.
It’s worth noting that there is a lost piece to V/H/S: Viral. Initial press reports had Todd Lincoln (The Apparition) slated to direct a segment called “Gorgeous Vortex” which was about an underground organization that tries to track down a serial killer. For some reason, it’s not in the finished film. Maybe it ran too long. Maybe Lincoln turned in an inferior piece, or never completed it. Maybe the producers saw The Apparition and rescinded their offer. Whatever the reason, the promising segment was left off. Maybe it will be tacked onto the home video release? That could be a good selling point, since the premise of the omitted short is so intriguing. But, as of now, it’s nowhere to be seen.
All in all, viewers know what to expect from the V/H/S franchise, and V/H/S: Viral delivers more of the same. Some of the problems of the first two movies have been fixed (the long running time, the lack of identifiable endings to the shorts) while some remain (the inconsistency of quality). As far as V/H/S: Viral goes, “Dante the Great” is the big winner, and it alone is worth the price of admission (or the price of a rental, if that’s the case).
With found footage movies, usually the audience is too distracted by the shoddy cinematography to really get scared, and V/H/S: Viral is no exception. There are a handful of good jump scares, and some creepy imagery, but nothing too horrifying. The creature effects in “Parallel Monsters” are cringe-worthy in a fun, 50s B-movie kind of way, and the final battle in “Bonestorm” is exciting enough to get the heart pumping, but neither are scary enough to raise any real goosebumps. “Dante the Great” would be scary if the audience could actually be fooled into believing that it was, in fact, really true, but that ship sailed away years ago with The Blair Witch Project. It has some fun storytelling and some cool effects, but V/H/S: Viral won’t generate a whole lot of fear.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Justin BensonNacho Vigalondo
- Screenwriter(s): Justin BensonGregg BishopAaron Moorhead
- Story: Marcel Sarmiento
- Cast: Nacho Vigalondo Justin Welborn (Dante)Emmy Argo (Scarlett)Emilia Ares Zoryan (Iris)Nick Blanco (Danny)Jawed El Berni (Skull Face)Angela Garcia (Carolina)Jonez Jones (Boneface)
- Cinematographer: Gregg BishopPhillip BlackfordEd CardenasJustin Dornbush
- Production Designer(s): Harris Charalambous
- Costume Designer: George Feucht
- Casting Director(s): Morgan Susser
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA