Let me preface this review by stating I am a huge fan of the V/H/S franchise overall. The first film was groundbreaking, a revolutionary entry into the horror genre. The second film topped the first, in that it took the thrills of first-person video terror to new levels. But the third entry, V/H/S: VIRAL brings nothing to the table, and instead clouds the continuity of the first and second films. This movie has nothing to do with the first two, which confuses and irritates me to an extent. And while VIRAL is not a complete and total train wreck, it is the weakest of the trilogy and a big letdown.
If you are not familiar with V/H/S: VIRAL, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:
A stream of police cars chasing after a deranged ice cream truck driver has captivated the attention of the greater Los Angeles area. Dozens of teens flock to the streets with their video cameras and cell phones, hell-bent on capturing the next viral video. But there is something far more sinister occurring in the streets of L.A. As they’ll soon find out, these fame-obsessed amateur videographers, capturing salacious footage for the amusement of the public, are themselves the stars of the next big viral video – one where they face their own horrifying deaths.
It pains me to write a negative review of this film because I love the rest of the franchise so much. But there are simply too many flaws and not enough positives. As a result, this one left me hoping for a reboot of the series so it can at least continue on.
V/H/S: VIRAL follows the same format as its predecessors, in that a central storyline encompasses the other short films within. Unfortunately, the main story is weak and poorly constructed. We are thrown into a situation with the main characters and given no reasoning or information behind it. It is also filled with static bursts and grain-segments which quickly gave me a headache and an uptick on my annoyance meter.
Also, I don’t like how this film deviates from the first two in how it shows the shorts. Previously, the films were all single-shot shorts, with no cutaways or picture transfers. In this movie, the films are pieced together with different camera angles and cues, much like a documentary. I feel this detracts from the original theme of the franchise, and it takes me out of the immersion I am usually able to enjoy with a V/H/S flick.
The shorts within the film itself are ok, however they cannot save V/H/S: VIRAL by themselves. Each is constructed decently for the most part, and yet each also feels rushed, particularly the endings. I think I know where each director was trying to go, but they never quite get there.
If I had to pick a favorite of the three short films, I would have to say the third segment, “Bonestorm”, would have to be it. In this film, a group of skateboarders travel to Tijuana to film a skate video in a seemingly abandoned drainage area. But when one of the skaters gets hurt, his blood seeps into cursed ground and brings forth an army of zombies. I like this one because the zombies remind me of Fulci’s living dead; they look realistic and gruesome, a true testament to the special effects crew.
But V/H/S: VIRAL still cannot pull itself out of the hole it digs from the start. As such, it falls way short of the precedent set by its predecessors. I would say you should give this one a look, if anything to see what the shorts have to offer…but do not expect great things. I hope the franchise continues with a fourth film, but I also hope the filmmakers go back to the original formula. V/H/S: VIRAL is available now in a variety of formats.