V/H/S

Yet another entry in the “found footage” genre, VHS actually accomplishes what 3 Paranormal Activities, a Last Exorcism, and a Devil Inside could not: it’s creepy and scary. This one is broken up into five stories and works because each one runs about 20 minutes long. We get a brief setup and payoffs that pretty much work. Much better than wasting 90 minutes listening to backstory and setup that ends with a crappy punchline. The “second honeymoon” short gave me the willies…the others fun. My biggest complaint is the main story: guys paid to break into a house and steal a VHS tape but must find the right one (which is how we see these creepy videos). Great setup, horrible punchline. If they’d improved that, VHS could have been the Blu-Ray of horror this year. Despite that, it is a must see for horror fans and proof that with enough talent and imagination, the lost footage genre can rise above the “Paranormal” type crap that comes out every year. — Stormy Curry

The latest twist on the “found footage” horror sub-genre takes the anthology route with multiple unconnected stories tied together by a weak framing device. With ten directors, most of whom wrote their segments, it could have been all over the map and uneven. But these guys (every one of the writers and directors is a guy) are working at a high level with no jarring shifts in tone. Nor, happily, are there any super-groaners among the stories. One in particular, “Second Honeymoon”, is excruciatingly suspenseful, real hands-over-the-face time. Another, “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger”, is done cleverly as a video chat. The acting throughout is remarkably natural — non-acting, really, especially the asshole frat boys in “Amateur Night” and their counterparts in “10/31/98”. If the “explanation” in the main story arc seems artificial and hokey, the rest is clever and effective. — Jeff Schultz

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