I, like most horror movie fans, love an anthology. There’s no other genre that makes use of the short film the way horror does. Throw three of them together, maybe a bookend segment, and you’ve more than likely got something that horror fans are going to be paying attention to. The first V/H/S film was met with mixed reception, some loved it, some hated it. Me? I loved it. I’m a fan of almost everyone involved in it, and I thought it was a quite solid anthology. Then V/H/S 2 came along a year later, and it was greeted with almost nothing but praise. I’ll admit, as much as I enjoyed the first, V/H/S 2 blew it away. It wasn’t perfect, of course, but it was just on a different level than the first. Now we have a third, and supposed final, installment in the series, V/H/S: Viral.
Synopsis from the film’s official site:
A police chase after a deranged ice cream truck has captivated the attention of the greater Los Angeles area. Dozens of fame-obsessed teens flock to the streets with their video cameras and camera phones, hell-bent on capturing the next viral video. But there is something far more sinister occurring in the streets of L.A. than a simple police chase. A resounding effect is created onto all those obsessed with capturing salacious footage for no other purpose than to amuse or titillate. Soon the discovery becomes that they themselves are the stars of the next video, one where they face their own death.
For the first segment, titled “Dante the Great” we’re treated to a tale of a maniacal magician whose cloak is possessed by a demon and must be fed victims for it to continue to perform. Bad premise, bad performances, just an all around bad opening to the short films. The idea of an insane magician could have been cool, but the execution here is lacking severely in imagination. Writer/director Gregg Bishop instead delivers a bland tale that ultimately disappoints from start to finish.
The second segment, titled “Parallel Monsters”, from Nacho Vigalondo, ends up being the one bright spot in Viral. It’s an imaginative, wonderfully weird, mind bender of a story that brings to mind one of the best segments from V/H/S 2, “Safe Haven”. A scientist, working from the basement of his home, ends up perfecting a machine that opens a portal to a parallel dimension. When he opens the door to find another version of himself staring back at him, the two decide to trade places in the respective dimensions for just a few minutes. What they quickly discover is that despite an initial familiarity, the two dimensions end up being far from the same. This one will stick with you, folks. It’s more the kind of thing you’d see in Eerie than Creepy though, if you’re familar with those old horror comic mags. Really, really enjoyed this one.
The third, and final short is “Bonestorm” from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead. It basically takes a group of these skater kids with the Go Pro cameras, and slaps a coat of horror paint over it. It sounds mediocre from that description, and that’s exactly what it ends up being. A bunch of teenagers take a credit card from one of their dads, and head to Tijuana to film themselves shredding in a large, remote drainage ditch. When they get there, they are attacked by a group of masked cultists, looking to make a ritual sacrifice of some sort. The whole thing is jerky, the characters are awful, and it’s basically 20 minutes or so of kids running around a drainage ditch hitting skull mask wearing people with their skateboards, and occasionally shooting one or two of them. It’s not exciting, we get absolutely no clue as to who the guys in masks are, what they’re doing, why they’re trying to kill these extreme kids, and it’s just not entertaining.
V/H/S: Viral was a monumental disappointment for me. As a genuine fan of the series, I can only hope that some of the people involved in the first two return for one more shot at bringing the series back from this terrible entry. I’d hate to see it end on such a down note.