'V/H/S Viral': Film Review

VHS Viral Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing

VHS Viral Still - H 2014

Time to switch to DVD

The third entry in the found-footage horror anthology series

The law of diminishing returns has set in more rapidly than usual with the third entry in as many years of the found-footage horror anthology series. Lacking the originality of the first film and the superior entries of the second, V/H/S Viral spirals downwards towards the same sort of obsolescence as the home video format that provides its title.

Featuring three short films tied together by a wraparound segment, this effort doesn't bother to maintain the strict format by which the series was originally conceived. One of the films takes the form of a schlocky reality television episode, while the others use found-footage to varying degrees. But considering the repetition factor that's become ingrained in the style, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Marcel Sarmiento's Vicious Circles opens the proceedings and is featured sporadically throughout. Dealing with a lengthy police chase of a criminal fleeing in a van, it adds some social commentary to the mix with its depiction of numerous teenagers joining the pursuit, endangering their own lives in a frantic effort to capture the action on their cellphone cameras. But it all barely holds together as connective tissue.

Read More 'V/H/S Viral'' Marceo Sarmiento on Why Found-Footage Horror is Getting "Old"

Gregg Bishop's Dante the Great offers some cheap thrills with its story of a struggling magician (Justin Welborn) who hits the big time after coming into possession of a magical cape supposedly once owned by Houdini. It also leads its new owner to commit a series of horrifying crimes, including the murder of his beautiful female assistant's (Emmy Argo) boyfriend, all of which are of course conveniently captured on video. The resulting showdowns between him and both the police and his revengeful aide are at least staged in viscerally exciting fashion.

More imaginative if not quite successfully executed is Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo's Parallel Monsters, in which a hapless inventor (Gustavo Salmeron) builds a machine that opens a portal to a mirror universe. Agreeing to switch identities with his newfound doppelganger, the scientist walks into a sexually charged world in which his wife is about to have a threesome with two half-naked men who eventually reveal sex organs resembling the creature from Alien. It all doesn't add up to very much, but it's undeniably intriguing along the way.

Wrapping up the thankfully brief proceedings is Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's Bonestorm, in which a group of young skateboarders wind up in a battle to the death with cult-like supernatural figures in Tijuana, Mexico. The gory mayhem is fairly generic save for the arresting POV shots captured by helmet and skate-cams.

Read More 'V/H/S': Sundance Film Review

V/H/S Viral at least offers the opportunity for those with short attention spans not to be overly taxed. But getting four mediocre horror efforts for the price of one doesn't exactly represent a significant bargain.

Production: 8383 Productions, Bloody Disgusting, The Collective
Cast: Justin Welborn, Emmy Argo, Emilia Zoryan, Gustavo Salmeron
Directors: Marcel Sarmiento, Gregg Bishop, Nacho Vigalondo, Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Screenwriters: T.J. Cimfel, David White, Marcel Sarmiento, Gregg Bishop, Nacho Vigalondo, Justin Benson, Todd Lincoln
Producers: Gary Binkow, Brad Miska
Executive producers: Marcel Sarmiento, Zak Zeman, Tom Owen
Directors of photography: Harris Charlambous, George Feucht, Jon D. Dominguez, Aaron Moorhead
Production designers: Marcel Sarmiento, Zak Zeman, Tom Owen, Molly Coffee, Jason Fijal
Editors: Phillip Blackford, Gregg Bishop, Justin Dornbush, Victor Berlin, Michael Felker, Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Costume designers: Sean Patton, Beatriz Garcia
Composers: Kristopher Carter, Anntona
Casting: Jen Kelley, Rita Harrell, Arantza Velez

Rated R, 82 min.