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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

V/H/S: Viral  (2014)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
1.5 Stars
(Release Date: February 17, 2015) – What happened to the burgeoning "V/H/S" franchise in the span of a year? Gathering together a talented assortment of writer-directors, 2012's "V/H/S" and 2013's "V/H/S/2" were fun, creepy, oftentimes bananas horror anthologies marrying the modern (each were shot as POV-style found footage) with the quaintly vintage (the conceit was that each twisted tale was found on a videocassette tape). As is the case with any feature-length compilation, some shorts were more successful than others, but all of them laid claim to their own special, diversified spark. Third installment "V/H/S: Viral" features the same general format, but is such a jarring drop in quality that it plays more like a low-rent imitation from Asylum Entertainment. Were it not for an ingenious segment popping up right in the middle—Nacho Vigalondo's nightmarishly gutsy "Parallel Monsters"—this gravely inferior sequel would be all but entirely worthless.

In a wraparound segment that loses its way in a jiff, "Vicious Circles" from filmmaker Marcel Sarmiento (2013's "The ABCs of Death 2") finds Kev (Patrick Lawrie) and Iris' (Emilia Zoryan) new, exciting relationship taking a perplexing wrong turn with the appearance of a city-wide police chase involving a runaway ice cream truck. There is also some business involving electronic mind control and bloody noses, but it is so chaotically shot and edited that it becomes altogether incoherent by the end.

Of the three central stories proper, things kick off with "Dante the Great" from director Gregg Bishop (2008's "Dance of the Dead"). There is clear potential, starting with its neat premise of a magician (Justin Welborn) who gets drunk with power after coming into possession of a homicidal cloak rumored to have been previously owned by Harry Houdini. Where this story ultimately goes, though, is pedestrian and then maddening, failing miserably at the series' found-footage model by continually being shot from angles where there couldn't logically be cameras. Either commit to a particular style or drop it completely, but do not insult your audience the way Bishop does here.

Finally, an imaginative, outlandish, genuinely disturbing saving grace arrives in the form of "Parallel Monsters," from Nacho Vigalondo (2008's "Timecrimes"). When scientist Alfonso (Gustavo Salmeron) discovers a portal to a mirror-like reality in reverse, he and his double decide to journey to each other's universe for a quick fifteen minutes of exploration. What they find should be left to each viewer to discover, but let it be said that Vigalondo has envisioned a plot so sick and chilling and ingenious it's enough to make a person envious that he or she didn't come up with it first. "Parallel Monsters" is good enough to be expanded to a longer form, putting into perspective how disappointingly slapdash, even embarrassing, the rest of the picture is.

"V/H/S: Viral" concludes on a crummy note with the last--and weakest--entry, "Bonestorm," helmed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (2013's "Resolution"). Shot with a frustratingly unfocused freneticism, the story tells of a group of L.A. skateboarders who take a trip across the border into Tijuana and stumble upon a demonic coven at the concrete culvert where they plan to practice their stunts. "Bonestorm" is an incomprehensible bore, tantamount to a bunch of skeletal beings pouncing out at the insipid, obnoxious empty vessels posing as protagonists. It, like the bulk of "V/H/S: Viral," feels haphazardly and amateurishly thrown together, a sorry-excuse entry in a series that deserves better. In my review of "V/H/S," I stated that the film was "a grab-bag of clever, diverse frights" and "an ideal movie to sit and watch in a dark room on a Friday night." "V/H/S: Viral" wasn't worth going out of one's way to watch on Friday or any other night of the week while it is was in theaters, but in the months that have passed since its initial theatrical/VOD release, the memorably unsettling "Parallel Monsters" has stuck with me. If only what surrounded it was up to the same level of quality...

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"V/H/S: Viral" combines sparkling high-definition digital photography, intentionally blocky, unrefined low-grade videotape footage, and authentic surveillance video for a tricky 1080p presentation that is nonetheless outstanding. The film looks exquisite when intended, and plausibly worn and cruddy when it is supposed to. Regardless of the visual source, it is accurate to the way it was meant to be seen, and the uptick in detail and clarity over the SD version is an ideal representation of how superior HD Blu-ray truly is. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio matches—and perhaps ever so slightly exceeds—how tremendous the picture looks. The sound is full and immersive from frame one, so much so that what is happening on the screen appears to be occurring directly in one's home theater. Ambient sounds—traffic, police sirens, people on streets, etc.—boast riveting directionality as they move front to back and across the surround field. Music and dialogue are impeccably incorporated into the mix without issue.

Blu-ray Features
  • Gorgeous Vortex (16:33, HD) - The film's deleted segment, written and directed by Todd Lincoln, follows the end credits as Chapter 17. This unadvertised special feature cannot be accessed through the features menu on the disc.
  • Audio Commentary with directors Marcel Sarmiento, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson, Nacho Vigalondo, Gregg Bishop & actor Shane Bradey
  • Bonestorm
    • Behind the Scenes Featurette (5:36, HD)
    • FX Storyboards
    • Artwork/FX Photo Gallery
    • Behind the Scenes Camera Stills
  • Dante the Great
    • "Smoke & Mirrors: Behind the Magic of Dante the Great" Featurette (8:32, HD)
    • Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery
    • Production Stills Photo Gallery
    • Greenscreen Poster Shoot Photo Gallery
  • Interviews
    • Marcel Sarmiento, writer/director of Vicious Circles (2:28, HD)
    • Noelle Ann Mabry, "Lulu" in Vicious Circles (1:08, HD)
    • Patrick Lawrie, "Kev" in Vicious Circles (3:29, HD)
    • Gregg Bishop, writer/director of Dante the Great (1:31, HD)
    • Justin Welborn, "Dante" in Dante the Great (2:02, HD)
    • Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, writers/directors of Bonestorm (5:15, HD)
  • "AXS TV: A Look at V/H/S: Viral" Featurette (2:08, HD)

Bottom Line
On a technical level, it is difficult to find fault with Magnet Releasing's Blu-ray release of "V/H/S: Viral." While the film overall fails to match its predecessors and the shorts are more chancy than ever, macabre middle tale from Nacho Vigalondo, "Parallel Monsters," can stand on its own and is worth seeking out. Because this release is so strong and the special features are plentiful, fans of this anthology series will want to pick up a copy. For them, this Blu-ray of "V/H/S: Viral" comes recommended.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman


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