In the horror genre, the found-footage style has a very specific formula: Spend the first 45-60 minutes setting up the characters and the world, and then ratchet up the tension and scares for the final half-hour or so. Fright masterworks like The Blair Witch Project (1999) and [REC] (2007) prove that this approach, if executed with skill and flair, can envelop viewers in a sense of dread that explodes into a white-knuckle, jolting release. Too many first-person POV flicks, however, waste their time with lame characters only to deliver an abrupt, at best mediocre (or, in the case of The Devil Inside, awfully idiotic) payoff.
With V/H/S, a small, tight-knit group of the horror community's brightest independent talents have figured out a way to avoid such found-footage trappings: Use the old anthology format. That is, pack five short horror films, all shot as found-footage, into one nonstop assault of demons, slit throats, evil spirits, and reanimated corpses. Clocking in at around 20 minutes each, the individual segments in V/H/S (opening in limited theaters today, and currently available on VOD and iTunes) are designed to not overstay their welcomes, quickly establishing the characters before focusing on what genre heads pay good money to see.
It's the brainchild of Brad Miska, overseer of the popular horror website Bloody Disgusting, who, as V/H/S producer, teamed up with production company The Collective to corral a squad of like-minded writers and directors: Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett (A Horrible Way to Die and next year's You're Next), Ti West (The Innkeepers), Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), Joe Swanberg (LOL), and the viral video team Radio Silence.
Together, the V/H/S crew has solved one of found-footage's biggest problems and modernized the age-old horror anthology format, yet they've also stayed true to the flourishes and spirit of classic omnibus films like Dead of Night (1945), Creepshow (1982), and the perennially overlooked anthologies that came out of the British production company Amicus in the early 1970s, such as Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), and Asylum (1972).
In this comprehensive, lively collection of Q&As, broken down by each segment, the entire V/H/S gang opens up about the project's beginnings, the artistic and crowd-pleasing intentions behind it, and why the future of the horror genre is in very good hands.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)