With certain notable exceptions, I've never been a big fan of the anthology film format. The quality of the stories always vary from segment to segment, and more often than not the wraparound story is just a lame attempt at bringing multiple disjointed works into a single cohesive units. As a whole, the film tends to be an uneven experience, and just difficult for me to appreciate as a singular work of art.
I am, however, a fan of found-footage films. They have a way of drawing me into the story that a more cinematic method fails to do. When something uncanny or unusual is shown via amateurish or non-cinematic camera work, it somehow seems to me more real and less like a special effect.
So right off the bat, this movie had one plus and one minus in my mind, which pretty much put it at an even playing field when I popped it into my DVD player for the first time. There was a lot of positive buzz, followed by a lot of negative backlash, for this movie and I carefully avoided it all. I wanted to go in fresh.
The wraparound story (Tape 56, directed by Adam Wingard) involves a group of low-level thugs and amateur pornographers who are hired by persons unknown to break into a house and steal a specific video tape. Once there, they find the corpse of the homeowner and a number of VHS tapes. They play the tapes, looking for the one they were hired to steal, and each of these tapes delivers to us another story.
Amateur Night directed by David Bruckner
Three of the most despicable, obnoxious douchebags that I have ever had the displeasure of seeing hit the night club scene with a pair of spy glasses, hoping to bring some drunken co-eds back to their hotel room and capture their sexcapades on tape. Two out of the three bag a babe, but back in their room, one passes out before much of anything can happen and the other is much more than they bargained for. It would have been enjoyable if I didn't hate every last one of the principal characters 30 seconds after the segment started.
Second Honeymoon directed by Ti West
A married couple on vacation in Arizona refuse to give a hitchhiking woman a ride, and thereafter a mysterious stranger sneaks into their room and films them while they sleep. It features some truly creepy moments (reminiscent of Evil Things), a truly gory one, and a twist ending that is relatively silly. But at least the main characters are likable this time around.
Tuesday the 17th directed by Glenn McQuaid
The title isn't the only part of this segment that is a riff on Friday the 13th. In typical slasher fashion, a group of horny, pot-smoking young people visit a rural location and find themselves stalked by an unstoppable killer. For whatever reason, the killer's image is unable to be captured on video, so he's represented by a lot of digital distortion and a mess of pixelation. Unfortunately, changing the camera perspective doesn't mean anything new is brought to the table.
The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger directed by Joe Swanberg
This entire segment is shot using video chat software and follows a woman who is trying to convince her long-distance boyfriend that her apartment is haunted. It offers a few chilling glimpses of spirit children running through the background, but a simple and effective premise was ruined for me by a convoluted and unexplored twist ending.
10/31/98 directed by Radio Silence
A group of male friends on their way to a Halloween party find themselves at the wrong house in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Not comprehending their mistake, they explore the house. The initial spooky happenings are laughed off as Halloween tricks, but there are some things that simply can't be denied. It is a batshit crazy take on haunted houses and urban legends, and was probably my favorite of all the segments.
All said and done, it was a pretty good little flick even if it didn't live up to all the hype. There were quite a few chilling moments, and although not all of the stories were home runs, the ones that worked outweighed the ones that didn't. I'll probably watch this one again, at least certain segments, and I'm looking forward to the impending sequel.
"I like you."