Horror movies seem to be in a bit of an in-between right now. I feel like I haven't seen anything that's truly scared me in awhile. I was thinking about this last week when some site ran a story about what we've seen so far this year in the genre, which added up to a big blah - truly awful found footage junk like Apollo 18 - and what we've got coming ahead, which also looks like a big blah.
Course this was before I saw V/H/S, which is decidedly not blah. It's anti-blah. It's not going to be redefining the genre this year, turning horror on its head like it needs to be and like I hoped it might. It is great fun of the anthology sort, meaning some pieces work better than others, but they've all got something to recommend.
Since the film's not out until the end of August (on demand; it'll play some theaters in October) I'm not going to run through the specifics of each segment. I'd kept myself spoiler-free, and so should you if you can. I will say that the framing device is clever and seems to have gotten all of the filmmakers enough on the same page that there's a coherence to the thing as a whole's tone that these kind of movies often lack. These stories feed off each other in interesting ways, and there's a momentum as it skips along that becomes tangible.
For instance, whether it was on purpose or not there's a recurring theme of people falling down stairs that's tweaked towards the end to get a good laugh - did they edit the pieces together specifically to get that gag, or was it happy coincidence? I dunno, it's slight enough that maybe it's the latter, but it nudges me towards a feeling of kismet where these guys were all coming from.
Similarly, I don't use the word "guys" there on accident - the film dallies with sexism both explicitly... and obnoxiously. I don't doubt the hyper-aggressive and confused attitude towards lady-folk is often the point, often underlined by the stories themselves as in Ti West's honeymooning couple (which gets kind of undone by a bizarre choice in the final moments) and especially Joe Swanberg's terrific Skype session from Hell.
Horror's battle between the sexes is storied; it's a fertile lot to lay their seeds, if you will. It's the right place for young men's aggressive expressions, for good and especially for ill. If it's not making you or me uncomfortable, then what's the point of calling it horror? Still, while it might be interesting to write about what the fifteenth set of flaunted and abused boobs means from a psychological standpoint, it can get a little tiring in practice. Maybe they could have had one lady director up in here? Still for the most part these entirely manly men film-makers seem more interested in undercutting their manly man leers and posturing. For the most part.
And such tedious academic concerns aside, I bounced around in my seat like a mofo here. There are scares a'plenty - good smart riffs on old stand-bys; a definite love and awareness of the genre by people who want to leave a mark within it. The stories are small and quick but they have real reasons for being told; real purpose, usually of the "Fuck yeah, nobody's ever shot this scare this way before, and we're gonna unnerve you in totally unexpected ways" sort. And the devil forbid I ever complain about an effort of that dreamy sort. It's the exact sort of thing I am always looking for when I go see a scary movie, always bitching that we don't get enough of. V/H/S sticks more against the wall than anything I've seen so far this year, and is a righteous rollicking good romp of the hills running red.