The third instalment of the V/H/S horror anthology series premiered as the second to last movie at this year’s FrightFest film festival at the Vue Leicester Square, with some of the filmmakers involved in Viral also bringing other films at Frightfest (Nacho Vigalondo was in town to promote his new thriller Open Windows). Aside from Vigalondo, V/H/S Viral also brings together in total the talents of: Marcel Sarmiento (Dead Girl), Gregg Bishop (Dance of the Dead), Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Resolution).
Previous V/H/S anthologies showcased everything from a ghost story reminiscent of The Eye, crazy vampire rampages, zombies with head-mounted cameras, and even grey alien abductions. Viral, in keeping with the structure of its predecessors, consists of three main stories which all are linked by a wrap-around tale. Viral’s first segment is titled Dante the Great, which sees a magician finding a supernatural cloak that transforms his career, but brings with it a sinister thirst for blood. This segment was arguably the most tame of the three.
Parallel Monsters, tells the story of a man engaged in a epic struggle to create a portal to another world. He finally discovers a parallel reality to his own, and his respective parallel self, but things start to unravel after they swap lives. This tale nods towards Invasion of the Body Snatchers and many other ‘things/people are not what they seem’ stories. Parallel Monsters brings some dark humour to the table with the conceit that domestic violence is solved by having mutated alien-like threatening teeth-filled genitals. It veers towards silly when a parallel woman punishes a man by sticking his head inside herself at the very last second.
The final segment, Bonestorm, follows two teen skaters and their videographer who are off on a trip to Mexico, where they find an unsettling place covered in remnants of past rituals. Their nightmare starts when they come under attack from strange, witch-like attackers. This sequence is shot with the use of Go-Pros, unlike the others, which makes it more intimate and immersive, and boosts the sense of ‘realism’ even when striking digital skeleton effects are mixed in seamlessly.
Though more than a few ticket holders at Frightfest could be heard complaining about how played-out they felt the found footage sub genre has become, this year has proved that it is nowhere near its death, and doubtless we will be seeing more found footage films in the years to come. Viral is one of many brilliant examples of a subgenre that seems to be taking the horror world by storm. It cannot be said that Viral beats out its predecessors when it comes to delivering the scares, but don’t let that deter you.