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What do an ice-cream truck, a trailer park magician, pan-dimensional witches, and Mexican skeletons have in common? If you guessed, V/H/S: Viral, congratulations (other acceptable answers include, an abomination of a movie, the worst movie of the year, and an inexplicable piece of videotaped garbage). Don’t get me wrong, I love horror, and I enjoyed the first two installments of the V/H/S series, but the direction part three has gone is soul crushing.
Much like its predecessors, V/H/S: Viral is a combination of horror shorts combined into an amalgamation of found-footage terror. Unlike its forefathers, however, Viral is compiled of footage uploaded to the Internet, and shot by groups of people recording themselves to gain Internet celebrity. With a wraparound (literally) story involving a police chase and a “possessed” ice-cream truck, the film cuts between three other stories involving the aforementioned magician, pan-dimensional beings, and Mexican skeletons.
Remarkably enough, V/H/S: Viral feels like something that one would find on a semi-popular YouTube channel. With its phoned-in effects and equally uninspiring acting, the whole movie feels amateurish and flimsy. Not so much directed as a heavy-handed excuse for the actors to hold cameras, the movie becomes quickly tedious, and all stupidity must be ignored in order to continue watching in a calm manner. Knowing full well that any sane person would drop a camera when desperately searching for their girlfriend, or running for their lives, V/H/S: Viral is very uninspired when it comes to “finding footage.”
In each of the segments (which vary in degree of originality), premises are relatively solid, but clichés are abundant. To keep the individual segments running smoothly, characters must instantly fall for the same gags, and plot-points must line up perfectly. Actors fit “neatly” into their defined roles and read their lines either menacingly (villain) or timidly (woman in distress). With such a short run time, one would expect a lot more room for inventiveness, but it seems the log lines were too much for the writing staff to handle. Simple, yet effective scenarios are overwrought with pointless dialogue and over exposition. Each one is introduced, allowed to play out, and neatly wrapped-up and handed to the audience.
Perhaps the most glaring inconsistency with V/H/S: Viral is the way each scenario transitions to the next. I can easily understand why with V/H/S and V/H/S 2 the transitions looked like a tape needing to adjust tracking or like a magnetic strip of physical tape being erased by an anomaly of some kind. Digital videotaping does NOT have static, it does NOT need to track and it does NOT skip like VHS tapes used to. Perhaps the target audience is too young to remember the heyday of home video and the painstaking process of adjusting the tracking on a VCR, but I do, and I also remember leaving them behind in the 1990’s. It is absolutely understandable that, in keeping with the hallmarks of the franchise, some jarring and noisy transitions are needed, but the reliance on scratchy, outdated clipping together of videotape technology is completely unacceptable.
In what is a completely boring, unoriginal and unfunny film, V/H/S: Viral fails on all fronts. With a script that matches the ineptitude of its actors, the third movie in the V/H/S series misses the mark completely, and should be relegated to the anonymity of a similarly failed attempt at making a viral video.