The group of filmmakers behind the found-footage anthology film V/H/S are all roughly of an age to have forged their horror fandom in the waning days of that titular, little-lamented, plastic-sheathed format. The six tales that comprise the film all fetishize the compromised fidelity, washed-out colors and technical glitches that plagued VHS, if not technically staying true to the title. (How exactly did those Skype calls end up on tape, anyway?) Results vary. The thin stories of nearly all the entries fail to justify the two-hour running time, but some of the directors manage to mine some scares. Adam Wingard is responsible for the framing story, which fails to adequately follow up on its promise of camera-wielding punks being punished for their jackassery, instead mainly serving to get them into a house stocked with a cache of videotapes and a corpse. Those, naturally, contain the snuffish pieces that make up the rest of the film, even if their presence in the house (or on tape in the first place) remains unexplained.
The first entry, David Bruckner’s “Amateur Night,” is a first-person account of a drunken night out gone wrong, allegedly filmed via eyeglass spy-camera (again, unlikely to be recorded onto VHS). It quickly becomes as obnoxious as its frat-boy characters, though Hannah Fierman’s direct-to-camera glare and uncanny movements score a few chills. Ti West, whose films have thus far been more interesting in the banal lead-up to horror than in their actual scare tactics, suffers most from the abbreviated length, just beginning to conjure a degree of suspense when the disappointing punchline arrives. And “10/31/98,” by the collective Radio Silence, begins with a fun Halloween night “haunted house that really is” premise, but trails off into an unsatisfying conclusion. Joe Swanberg’s Skype-framed “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” is the most unsettling, suggesting dark forces moving in the background of a long-distance relationship. And Glenn McQuaid most fully embraces the format’s flaws in “Tuesday the 17th,” a slasher spoof with camping teens being stalked by a living, stabbing tape glitch.