V/H/S is a found footage horror anthology movie from 2012. It's also the series that spawned from that initial movie. The original V/H/S movie features a group of criminals who film their crimes for some reason invading a house to steal a particular VHS. They get inside and discover that the home owner has died of natural causes while watching VHS tapes on multiple televisions. One of the gang begins watching the tapes while the rest of them search the house for more tapes and anything worth stealing. The guy watching the tapes soon discovers that these aren't commercial releases or harmless home videos but strange and terrifying recordings. Each time he begins watching the point of view switches over to playing what he's seeing. While this is going on the rest of the gang are discovering hundreds of tapes in the basement and gathering them up in the expectation that they'll never discover which one they need in a single night. This is interrupted by an apparition that gets briefly recorded in the basement but as the camera man was the only one to have seen it the rest dismiss the event as his imagination. Up stairs our watcher has seen an hidden cam porno ruined by a cannibal succubus bat girl, a couples vacation gone murderous, a slasher killer that corrupts video footage it appears in, and Skype calls detailing the haunting of a young woman's apartment. At the end of each tape we go back to the viewing burglar looking increasingly scared and confused. Sometimes the dead home owner is missing behind him. Sometimes it isn't. In the end both are missing when the others come back upstairs. After a moment of confusion they are attacked and presumably killed by the dead home owner. Then we hear another tape loaded up and the last short plays.
V/H/S/2 follows a similar structure but with a pair of detectives looking for somebodies teenage son rather than robbing the place. They find the same multi-television arrangement and another stack of tapes. One detective watches and the other snoops. More creepy stuff happens and this time it seems like a safe bet that the tapes are causing it but you're still left with more questions than answers. Movie three is title V/H/S Viral and features more framing around a streamer/influencer who's trying to save his girlfriend from an ice cream truck on a rampage through the city while cell phone messages seem to be enthralling random people. He spends his time desperately trying to catch up to the truck as the city goes to hell around him. V/H/S/95 is the last installment I've seen and returns to the original format with a SWAT team showing up to a warehouse and discovering the tapes and TV clusters.
As a franchise I consider V/H/S to be criminally underrated. If there is one thing I like about these movies it's that they don't explain what you just saw. The frame narratives each provide some clear sense that there is some larger thing going on in the world but they don't tell you what. Are the tapes a self perpetuating psychic contagion? Probably, but viral seems to suggest that it's not limited to that. At least one story has nothing paranormal in it. Most are about wildly disparate creepy subjects from ghosts to cults to other dimensions to a fairly original take on vampires. None of it hangs together particularly well and for me that's the best part. V/H/S/99 recently came out and I'm actually excited to see it because if the last four movies showed me anything I have no idea where this series is going. If eclectic horror is your cup of tea I'll offer a minor warning: these movies earn their R ratings. Blood and gore, sex and nudity, suicide and homicide, it's got the whole horror movie spread. If that just entices you further then I'd say go watch it on Shudder.
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