V/H/S: Viral (Benson, Bishop, Moorhead, Sarmiento & Vigalondo, 2014)

Believe it or not, I’m a fan of the first two V/H/S films. If I had to narrow “WHY?!” down to one discernibly logical aspect, it’d probably be that they at least try to reinvigorate the rote found footage shtick – and the genre – to varying degrees of success. Notably bogged down by flaccid wraparound bits meant to validate the employment of VHS tapes in a modern context, Viral flops once again as a high-speed police pursuit goes titular. The enigmatic quality of the ice cream truck questionably evading authorities and victimizing teens on bicycles becomes negligible. Three disparate segments ensue.

If you’ll pardon my opening indifference, let it be known that I didn’t out-and-out hate the film’s entirety. With two out of three chunks remaining mostly satisfactory, there really isn’t much left to be discussed without addressing the faults of the film’s predecessors. After all, the lone defining aspect of all three remains the looming possibility of conceptual bewilderment, am I right? Considering that no one wants an aesthetically nauseating film hamstrung by an obvious overuse of genre tropes, herein lies the creators’ penchants for narrative insanity.

As I sidestep a critique of the unmitigated shit show that is “Bonestorm” – Viral‘s very questionable, GoPro-laden anchor – let it be known that Gregg Bishop’s apt-enough “Dante the Great” is the lone practitioner of something technically proficient, if mildly. Employing a faux-documentary approach that unfortunately trumps its focus, the idea of a demonic, flesh-eating cloak doesn’t hold a candle to the segment’s more human aspects. Although slight, it’s this tinge of multifaceted narrative that elevates Bishop’s opener above eye-rolling mediocrity. You know, the kind that involves night vision camerawork and practical effects.

Nacho Vigalondo’s “Parallel Monsters” is the film’s undeniably strongest suit, what with the writer/director’s fondness of short films throughout his career ringing logical in their excess. Although simplistic and somewhat juvenile at the time of its big reveal, Vigalondo still employs a well-worn sci-fi gimmick to a medium-high degree of tension-addled success. It’s gross, unpredictable and engaging enough to keep you invested which, to me, fits the description of any well-rounded genre effort in this day and age, barring one’s taste for gore of course.

Following its lackluster latter third, I was so turned off by Viral‘s borderline disinterest in itself that a solemn head shake and sigh were inevitable. Even despite being in-tune with the varying quality of anthology components, it’s safe to say that I can’t imagine a future for films of this type, especially if everyone involved incessantly tries to one-up each other via shock value and the like. It’s mediocre at best, so if you’re like me and found its predecessors to be reasonably involving, satisfying your curiosity for this and only this reason wouldn’t be the worst thing to do on a drunken Friday night.


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