House Of VHS
Florie Auclerc-Vialens, Ruy Buchholz, Morgan Lamorté
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…wears its absurdity proudly on its sleeve.
July 2016 saw the end of days for the VCR when it was announced that the humble machine would cease to be manufactured. The fact that, in an age of Blu-rays and digital downloads, there was still a demand for VHS will surprise those who are accustomed to streaming Game Of Thrones. House Of VHS, the feature length debut from French director, Gautier Gazenave, is both a typical haunted house movie and a monument to the outdated, but resilient eponymous format.
In the French countryside, a group of young multinational backpackers break into an abandoned villa for a weekend of partying. When one of them finds a VCR and a stockpile of tapes, the opportunity for an old fashioned movie night beckons. But as one night turns into a few days, it’s evident that the machine has some sort of control over its watchers.
With its antagonist a demonic VCR, it’s clear that House Of VHS wears its absurdity proudly on its sleeve. Whilst performances are a mixed bag, if you know your public domain films, there’s fun to be had watching how Gazenave weaves Bloody Pit Of Horror, Circus Of Souls, and Santa Claus Conquers The Martians into a series of increasingly disturbing montages eaten up by our band of unlucky heroes. Interestingly, the film plays with the idea of art imitating life, and vice versa, as the increasing levels of violence that the group experience are shown to reflect that of what they watch on screen. With all that said, Gazenave, who also wrote the film, never allows himself to let rip. There are several missed opportunities for innovative horror, and the promise of being sucked into the film that you’re watching, ala 1992’s Stay Tuned, isn’t as satisfying as you’d expect.