Written by John Edward Betancourt
I think perhaps the greatest challenge facing a major horror franchise is finding a way to stay relevant as the sequels roll on. It usually calls for radical changes in storytelling, the design of the franchise and the characters, and let's be honest, when those chances are taken the results are often mixed.
Sometimes we get a brilliant horror sequel, one that leaves us terrified and sleeping with the lights on. Other times we get a sequel that leaves us with grand disappointment and sometimes...we just get something so unique that we are left pondering exactly where it falls in terms of quality and I would have to say that the latter of all those categories is where I would place V/H/S: Viral.
Much like its predecessors, V/H/S: Viral has no true plot to speak of. It is a collection of tales courtesy of a mysterious set of VHS tapes that drive its viewers mad. But seeing as to how the last film in the franchise was a rousing success, it's obvious the filmmakers here wanted to up the ante and find new ways to tell this tale and the end result of experimenting with the core formula is a unique one to say the least.
The film to me, is entertaining to say the least, but it truly is the weakest entry in the series due to the fact that well...it isn't a horror movie through and through. While its predecessors went to extremely dark and twisted places, this movie delves into other genres. There's elements of fantasy and science fiction with stories about magic and parallel dimensions, and while horror elements are peppered into these, they are simply not scary. In fact the only story that seems to fit into the horror genre is the skateboarding segment and even that is played more for laughs than for scares. Perhaps the best story in the bunch is the wraparound story, where the VHS tapes that have terrorized so many for so many years have found a way to broadcast onto cell phones via an ice cream truck, and seeing the tapes be given a new purpose and life, if you will, while seeing the wild things that happen because of this makes for some interesting storytelling. Especially since it seems that evil's plan all along is to punish the wickedness of the world.
But outside of that, V/H/S: Viral is so radically different that it polarized its fan base. I've met people that love it, others that hate it and others who really have no clue what to think of it. In my opinion, it's worth watching, simply because I'm quite impressed with the bold risks the movie took to stay original and give us something fresh and new. Sure it may not work all the time, but you have to respect a franchise like this that is so well loved, essentially telling the fans that it wants to evolve and well...impress you. The end result may not have been the most terrifying film I have ever seen, but it was certainly entertaining and interesting and there is definitely nothing wrong with that.