As much as I skip over the lore while I’m playing Guild Wars 2, I can’t help but admire what an imaginative world ArenaNet has made. Ever see a frog in heavy armor? Well, you have now. Pictured. Left.
I recall another MMO called Vanguard having various dog and cat people, and as near as I can recall, they were just human character models with dog and cat heads stuck on top. It’s just like how all the aliens on Star Trek are bipedal humanoids with prosthetic noses or ears or whatever. One of the things I really like about playing a charr in Guild Wars 2 is that it’s not just a human character model with a cat head. The charr have an entirely different posture, size, and movement animation. Similarly, the various non-human races around the world — I don’t just mean the monsters, but the NPC civilizations — have a distinct look. In addition to the frog people, there are polar bear people, platypus people, rat people, and bird people, and not a one of them uses the basic human character model. In fact, with all these NPC races, with all the charr, with all the diminutive asura, it sometimes seems that human character models are the exception rather than the rule.
From a solid zombie movie to an inexplicable demonic possession retcon, the [REC] series of Spanish horror movies went from great to “huh?” in short order. Now the third movie plunges deeper into “huh?” territory by veering further from what made the first movie good. [REC] 3 opens as a wedding video, which sets an ornate stage for a zombie apocalypse. But when it arrives, it’s mostly just a big gory goof, played weakly for laughs. Perhaps the biggest laugh — and I can’t tell if it was supposed to be funny — is how [REC] 3 decides to stop being a found footage movie shortly after the zombies arrive. After all those found footage movies when you wonder why they don’t just drop the camera, someone finally decides to drop the camera.
What should have been the signature scene (pictured) as well as a cool reveal is splayed out on the box cover, so you know it’s coming. When it finally arrives, it’s not nearly as gratifying as it should have been. As the bride, the lovely Leticia Dolera doesn’t have the physicality necessary to make the scene work. The poor woman can barely lift the chainsaw. Furthermore, it doesn’t really go anywhere. If you want to see a blood-spattered bride slicing up zombies with a chainsaw, you’ll have to visit a wedding chapel in a Dead Rising game and go to town. [REC] 3 will just disappoint you.
[REC] 3 is available on video on demand.
V/H/S is an example of how horror can live comfortably outside the usual narrative structures. This is an anthology, but it’s also a cool variation on the found footage concept. The idea is that a single tape has accumulated and sometimes overlapped footage of various horrific events, starting with a Halloween fun house (?) in 1998 and working its way in reverse order to a wraparound device involving the tape itself, which starts the movie. Cloverfield played briefly with this idea of a reused tape where you learn something when the old footage bleeds through. V/H/S is based entirely on it. And given how everyone uses digital storage these days, it’s a concept with a limited shelf life, like phone booths and television snow.
These stories are mostly morality plays that would be right at home in an R-rated splatter version of Twilight Zone, but with a latter day YouTube aesthetic, where the video artifacts, poor resolution, blurred lights, and bad sound are an asset. The best segment is “Amateur Night”, contributed by David Bruckner, one of the three directors of the brutal and brutally funny The Signal. “Amateur Night” unfolds like some sort of Girls Gone Wild gonzo porn segment, rolling along during a night of partying, accumulating hangers on, and eventually winding up in a motel hell of overthrown sexual power. It’s a nearly perfect example of how horror can combine nudity, gore, and shocks. Amateur Night, I like you. I like you.
A Horrible Way to Die director Adam Wingard contributes a lot of the movie’s connective tissue. Ti West’s segment, “Second Honeymoon”, has one of V/H/S’s strongest single moments, but it doesn’t have much payoff. Joe Swanberg’s “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” applies the found footage concept to people connected over videochat, an extra layer that ironically makes it even more intimate. And if you’re going to slaughter a bunch of teenagers in the woods, “Tuesday the 17th” (get it?) has just the video trick to do it.
These are mostly well written vignettes, and the directors are good enough to know they need good actors. Hence Hannah Fierman’s bird-like succubus, Helen Rogers’ frail girl-alone-in-a-dark-house, and an assortment of believable victims. Found footage like this is the new cinema verite, and it gives horror a distinctly relatable touch. This isn’t just a movie. This is people going about the business of taping their daily lives. And you’re gazing into the mundane, waiting to glimpse something fantastic and terrible. V/H/S will oblige you.
V/H/S is currently available on video on demand.