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Tales of mystery and overactive imagination


I've never gotten the fascination with horror films, or more specifically slasher flicks. I understand the adrenalin rush of shock, but I don't see what pleasure is derived by watching fake throats getting slit or someone being relieved of several feet of his intestines. I love inventive filmmaking, however, and though it's not always successful, the horror anthology "V/H/S" does feature some pretty clever ideas in the course of its overlong running time. It goes about this in the now-ubiquitous found-footage manner, a creative blessing to filmmaking on the cheap and to those able to tell a story with what's not on screen. Unfortunately, "V/H/S" conspicuously embraces a few old clichés: horny young people deserve to die, basements are deadly, and two boobs are always better than none.

"V/H/S" is made up of five short films, with a sixth serving as a framing device. Directed by Adam Wingard, this mostly uninteresting thread is called "Tape 56" and follows a quartet of destructive jerks on a housebreaking mission. "All we gotta do is steal this one VHS tape," declares one of them, in those proverbial famous last words. David Bruckner's unremarkable "Amateur Night" tags along with a few coked-up idiots who neglect to notice that the hot girl they're planning to triple-team is probably a feral demon. Glenn McQuaid's kinda tense "Tuesday the 17th" puts a high-tech spin on the doomed-camper plot, while "10/31/98," by a filmmaking quartet called Radio Silence, offers up a creepy, convincing argument against being a Good Samaritan.

Mumblecore pioneer Joe Swanberg is involved in the two highlights of "V/H/S." He stars in the unnerving "Second Honeymoon," by "The Innkeepers" director Ti West, as a husband hoping to protect his wife from a possible stalker, and Swanberg directs "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger," a series of disturbing Skype sessions between a young woman and her medical-student boyfriend with a slick twist. Horror fans take note: "V/H/S" screens as part of the Little's Halloween Project 5, in years past a 24-hour movie marathon but this year divvied up into less-grueling portions.