V/H/S Viral (2014) is a found footage anthology that isn’t at all related in terms of tone or style to the first two V/H/S movies. Overall, it is an incoherent mess, with only one segment worth watching. Seriously. It’s a waste of time. Watch it when it’s on cable TV and nothing else is on.
Yet again we have another horror film that suffers the Curse of the Third Movie.
What is the Curse of the Third Movie? Well, I’m glad that you asked!
Franchises often hit a stride once their second movie is a success. After that, there’s a huge push to get a third movie done and out into the public’s dirty little hands asap because the producers want to cash in on that puppy before the money well runs dry and people forget that they loved the first two movies. (I’m pretty sure that’s what they think. I honestly don’t know why they push to make and then distribute a movie in such a short frame of time. I mean, films are business yes, but they’re also an art medium. And art takes time if it’s going to be good. So why rush it?)
Here’s the thing. “V/H/S” has such a stupidly simple premise: people are hunting down old cursed video tapes to watch, and we see them go insane or be affected by the films as they watch them. That is the overarching plot, and in between these scenes, we are shown short films. It’s creepypasta found footage. That’s it. That’s the premise. It’s not hard. Really, it’s not. Just go watch the first two movies in the series. You’ll see.
The framing story/overarching plot of “V/H/S” Viral is “Vicious Circles.” And in this one we have um… a young couple in love, chick makes random comments about being on film and suddenly the dude just HAS to video tape a police chase. So he pursues a high-speed chase on HIS BIKE! No, not a motorcycle. A ten-speed mountain bike, and a girl’s one at that. So… Yeah.
He can also catch up to taxis that are driving the speed limit (i.e. 45 MPH) on foot. Damn that kid is fast! He should’ve been in the Summer Olympics.
I mean, what was up with the ice cream truck driving in circles that may or may not have been hacking into people’s cellphones and doing, um… something? To people? I think? Maybe?
Not sure exactly what it was doing other than causing eyes and noses to start bleeding, and then people disappeared. Your guess is as good as mine at this point, because I have no fucking clue what the hell that was about.
I suppose “V/H/S Viral” may have been commentary about people’s obsession with recording their dumb antics and uploading them in the hopes of making it big and “going viral” but it really wasn’t clear.
The movie sort of had a message, but then it finished its first sentence in a mumbled garbled mess, looked at the floor, shuffled a foot shyly, screamed “Biiiitch!”, knocked your popcorn out of your hands and then ran out the door.
So Many Questions, Zero Plausible Answers
Why were the police chasing the ice cream truck? Did they want a Bomb Pop or one of those Mickey Mouse ones with the gum eyeballs? Did the ice cream truck driver take their money and then not give them any ice cream and sped off?
WHAT WAS UP WITH THE DAMN ICE CREAM TRUCK?! AAAAHHHHHH!!!!
I honestly have no clue. I can’t figure it out, mainly because there is NOTHING there to figure out. It’s incoherent because it lacks a plot, it lacks story elements that are related to each other, it lacks substance and character actions, it lacks every thing that a story needs to be well, a story.
When your over-arching plot is an incoherent mess, I know that I’m in for a really, really bad movie. Fortunately, it was so bad that I did find it funny.
Feet and hands and arms just come flying off! It’s amazing!
So… instead of the movie starting with yet another person in search of the creepy pasta tapes of doom, and using that as yet another “framing” piece to use between each segment of the anthology they went with random police chase, random cell phones doing “stuff” to random people, a random Cholo BBQ cook-out where the stereotypical gangster Latino family has a random argument for no apparent reason, and random ending where guy finds the ice cream truck and uploads himself into the TVs that are in the back of the truck. Man what?
The framing pieces in the first two installments in the franchise gave the audience a visual break, and we knew that the current vignette we were watching was over. That’s what it was there for. It is a simple and effective framing device. This time around though, the framing story was a confusing cluster-fuck of random shit thrown at the screen. It’s like they couldn’t figure out what to do with “Vicious Circles” so they just did whatever.
It wasn’t super clear, but I think the Ice Cream Truck of Doom was causing outbreaks of violence and stupidity. Maybe it was a demonic ice cream truck. Maybe it needed an exorcism. I don’t know!
Someone call the Warrens! Annabelle was driving the ice cream truck!
Out of three stories, only one of the vignettes actually fit the theme of the V/H/S franchise: “Parallel Monsters.” Now that was a great piece.
“Parallel Monsters” would’ve worked better as a slow burn, full-length feature film, with the strangeness of the parallel realities slowly revealed as the story unfolded, but as it is now, it’s still a good little short horror film. It also had the best special effects, and I’m pretty sure it’s the only one that didn’t recycle the severed arm that someone from the prop department bought from Halloween USA.
While it was nowhere near perfect, it was by far the best part of the entire movie, and I did enjoy the thought of a mirror world being demonic. It’s just that, like everything else in “V/H/S Viral,” it left me with some questions that had no easy answers.
What’s up with the bag of meat on a hook hanging at the sex altar in the living room?
Why is it there?
What is its purpose?
Do their monster genitals eat from the bag or something? We’ll never know…
While we’re on the subject of WTFs: What was up with the giant floating speakers with the upside down neon cross?
Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was cool, but it just wasn’t explained and could’ve easily been edited out because it really didn’t do much for the story.
Speaking of things that didn’t work, the entire plot of the skateboarding segment, “Bonestorm”, just didn’t fit.
Yeah it was all about the Go Pro and doing “Jack Ass” type stunts to try to make a viral video to sell, but still it felt more like something that belonged to an episode of “Monsters” or “Tales from the Darkside.” I mean, skater kids go to Tijuana and fight off quasi-Santeria-esque cultists that turn into skeletons? Man, whaaat?
The only cool thing in this segment is that blood catches fire when it hits the magic circle in the drainage ditch that the dudes go skating in. I thought that was pretty awesome.
It was just too goofy to take seriously, and while I enjoyed the actors that played the skater kids (They did a great job!), I wasn’t impressed with the thin story or the really weird, inexplicable ending.
Then there’s “Dante the Great.”
“Dante the Great” is about this magician guy, named Dante (duh), that gets an evil cloak that turns out to actually be magic. Woooo, spoopy!
This story had potential, but it was totally wasted. The format was completely out of context to the “V/H/S” series, as most of it wasn’t even found footage. It’s format just felt weird and out-of-place.
This segment is guilty of telling and not showing. It’s an important rule for a reason, because it keeps the audience engaged and interested in the movie. When you don’t do that, the movie drags and becomes, well, rather silly.
Why show interviews with cops? Instead of using interviews with random people, and having random characters tell the audience about Dante the Great and what happened to him, why not just show it?
This segment could’ve very easily have been the framing story for “V/H/S Viral,” with Dante’s assistant uncovering tapes that showed him feeding people to his demon cloak. It would’ve worked quite well, and to be honest, I have no idea why they didn’t use it like that.
Now, I did miss out on one of the vignettes, as there’s a version floating around with another segment in it, so I can’t comment on that one, but overall, from what I’ve seen, “V/H/S Viral” is the weakest entry in the “V/H/S” franchise. And that’s rather disappointing, considering that the second one was a pretty solid film.