One terribly ill-conceived moment has the Australian character seem to have a meltdown while describing the importance of the VHS to the rest of the uncaring group, in what could quite easily be described as a mockery of Asperger’s. It’s out of place and in extremely poor taste, but at least for a moment my boredom was replaced with anger, which up until this point was the most emotional engagement this film had managed to muster from me.
With an annoying soundtrack that would be at home on some rubbish MTV reality show, the first two acts of the film are painful to get through. When the supernatural VHS player is finally introduced, we do get a change of pace and House of VHS starts to resemble the horror film it’s supposed to be. Unfortunately, due to the complete lack of characterisation, any potential for you to actually care about whatever it is that’s going to happen has disappeared.
And the ‘pay off’ is anything but. Most of the cast gradually gets sucked into the VHS player destined to be forever part of the surreal movies, but it doesn’t happen in any particularly awesome way. Don’t expect anything as dramatic as Freddy Krueger pulling them into the TV screen; it’s substantially more mundane than that. The final scene has the previously mentioned Australian guy telling the English girl (seriously, that’s all they are) to go and that he “belongs here now”, while holding onto the door frame and unconvincingly trying to resist being pulled into the shadows of the house. However bad you’re imagining it, it’s worse than that.
It’s hard to mock low-budget indie films, because you know they must be a labour of love for those involved. The cast and crew are probably friends, perhaps inexperienced and looking to get into the industry. It’s something that is constantly in the back on my mind as a reviewer, and it does make it hard to be brutally honest sometimes. But House of VHS is bad. Really bad. Don’t do it to yourself. Putting aside the offensive mockery of Asperger’s, you’ll just spend 90 minutes wondering why you aren’t watching V/H/S.
Review: House of VHS
By Ross Wildish - 2nd October 2016
Despite the name, House of VHS bares no relation to the found-footage series that began with 2012’s V/H/S. V/H/S received mixed reviews, perhaps suffering from being another addition to a saturated genre (this reviewer has seen enough ‘found-footage’ horror films to last a lifetime), but it was a really good effort, and some of the acts were really chilling. House of VHS however, isn’t a found-footage film, though it does use the concept of found footage as a plot device.
The basic premise is a bunch of millennials go on holiday to an abandoned house in the French countryside, wherein they discover an old VHS player with piles of tapes. However, the VHS player seems to have supernatural properties and the group soon wish they’d never found it.
I say ‘soon’, but that is not exactly accurate. It is some time before House of VHS becomes anything resembling a horror film. More than the first half of the film lumbers through what seems to be an awkward attempt at quirky, almost slapstick humour. All the characters of the film are reduced to stereotypes of different nationalities, which really serves no real purpose to the narrative or develop them beyond vapid vessels with which little happens.