Hi, loves! Beau here, having just caught the new horror compilation V/H/S on VOD, and spent the night ruminating on a few different elements that the film(s) brought to light for me.
V/H/S is a horror film that for me, is a game changer. And not in a good way. Were you to pull a gun to my head and ask me what genre captures my heart and my imagination more than any other, I’d say horror. It’s my Achilles heel, bloody and severed. The pulse quickens and the imagination runs rampant. You’re not limited to set tonal shifts but atypical ones. You can go anywhere in horror. And what V/H/S left me with is the sense that if we’re willing to venture into this stylized vein of storytelling, why aren’t we taking more risks inside of it? Pandora’s box is a large one, loves. She likes it that way. A girl needs a big purse.
I’ll sum it up briefly: some white guys in rural America do stupid shit, post it online, get paid for it. One of them is propositioned by a mystery man online (isn't that always the case?) to go to an old house and collect a VHS tape for a hefty sum. The guys get there, the old dude living in the house is dead, and five television sets blare static. While the rest of the crew searches around the house for any (and all) videocassettes, one guy is left to keep watch. He finds a few tapes lying around, puts one in. Then we, as the audience, watch along with him as five segments directed by five different indie filmmakers all depict some ungodly horror being inflicted on innocent (?) bystanders.
Ignoring the blatant awareness of the fact that there are absolutely no fucking characters of ethnic descent in any segment, I’m more put off by the treatment of women in this film. Swanberg’s sympathetic lead (played by a luminous Helen Rogers) notwithstanding, there is not one female here who does not exhibit behaviors commonly attributed to a victim or a villain. The male gaze, a film school staple I looked to reject in my college years, rears its ugly head here in such a way that the old adage of ‘Madonna / Whore’ perpetuates itself. We yearn for a different perspective than the ones being presented to us; why do all these women feel the same?
Even in the first segment where a man is left vulnerable and exposed, (physically and emotionally) we as the audience find ourselves split: his perverse behavior earlier on prevents us from lending him our sympathies, but hey: he’s terrified because there’s a succubus outside gnawing down on his best friend. And he knows he’s next.
We find ourselves in a moral dilemma. Do we want the fucker to live, or do we want the fucker to die? His actions have been distasteful, but the female here is not human. So our baser instincts and sympathies instinctively lend themselves to the man. How could they not? How could you not, as an audience member, relate to something that looks like you and exhibits the same emotions you would feel in this given situation?
But that’s a cop-out. It’s a cop-out in that the woman is not a woman. She’s a concept.
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl gone haywire. Sprouted wings, slitting throats and leaving all traces of humanity behind. And a concept, something that breathes but does not bleed, does not deserve our sympathies. Which are then delegated to the man. So by the end, the man’s humanity, regrettable as it may have been, still proves more relatable than anything. So we have to feel for the bastards. Because they’re the closest thing to us.
And therein lies the real horror.
‘V/H/S’ left me wanting. Aside from Swanberg’s involvement as an actor and director, and Radio Silence’s fun, frenzied finale, I spent the night in bed not shaking, but reflecting on the nature of man in horror.
John Boorman’s Deliverance, released forty years ago, placed man against man. Several guys I know call it the scariest film they’ve ever seen. And you could go so far as to say that Deliverance is really about the fear of penetration, literal and figurative. Maybe that’s the real terror surrounding V/H/S, creatively and narratively. The horror they try to deny. The horror of an incision, and the discovery of nothing even remotely resembling a man inside. Maybe just a group of boys playing with cameras. Maybe something less. Maybe nothing.
And why would any guy want to see that onscreen, when he can see boobs (literal and figurative) instead?
Have any of you guys seen V/H/S? How do you feel about the state of women in modern horror? Why aren't there more female directors who dabble in this genre?
Let's hear it.