xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
“V/H/S: Viral,” the third film after Sundance hits “V/H/S”
and “V/H/S/2,” better represent the bottom of the barrel for this franchise
because I don’t think I can take much more. The first film had its issues, for
sure, but at least it conveyed a DIY, nostalgic throwback to ‘80s horror that
could excuse some of its deeper flaws. And the second film had two segments
that I would call must-see, at least for horror fans. It was more polished than
the first movie (which many purists saw as a flaw), and conveyed where this
series could go with some talent and some effort. There was little reason to
expect such a horrendous drop in quality as there is to “Viral,” a film that
contains some of the sloppiest, most ineffective filmmaking I’ve seen all year.
Even the wraparound segment doesn’t make any sense. The first two films hinged on old VHS tapes discovered and then “played” for the audience: short films connected by a wraparound segment. The connective tissue this time is an obnoxious piece that seems designed to play off the titular concept of virality in today’s social media world but is just loud, poorly edited and remarkably annoying. You have to dig to discern that “V/H/S: Viral” consists of short films with enough viral content to actually be deadly. Imagine someone screaming at you between short films and you have some idea what’s going on here.
Now, the idea that these are viral short films does give the filmmakers a bit more freedom in terms of the general restrictions of the found footage genre. However, that still didn’t excuse half of the “why would someone be filming that” choices that follow. To say that “V/H/S: Viral” pushes the suspension of disbelief in terms of found footage would be an understatement. The “Zombie Go-Pro” segment in “V/H/S/2” was delightfully simple—what if someone had a camera on their head during the undead apocalypse? All of the filmmakers here would have been well-advised to follow that simple-is-better structure.
The problems start with the first convoluted mess, “Dante the Great,” a piece about a magician (Justin Wellborn) who finds a magical cape and goes power mad with it. Everything about this segment fails. The acting is unconvincing, the structure is never consistent (are they making a documentary or is this hidden camera footage?), and the storytelling is unengaging. There’s not a single clever, interesting or memorable moment in it. The scariest thing about it is that someone thought it was competent enough to be included in a major film. It needed rewrites, recasting, and another round of editing. And it probably still wouldn’t have worked.