In such, this modern work of boys' club ethos mixes the dominant cultural voyeuristic preoccupation with an overriding sense of male nostalgia, simultaneously embracing and avoiding the present with irreverence and limited self-awareness.
To frame, or justify, this series of shorts from the directors of fare like House of the Devil (Ti West), I Sell the Dead (Glenn McQuaid), The Signal (David Bruckner) and, more peculiarly, Hannah Takes the Stairs (Joe Swanberg), a gang of misfits inexplicably watch rare VHS tapes in a home they're burglarizing.
Since they are a gang of morally abject sociopaths that routinely videotapes their attacks on women in public locales, ripping off their clothes for underground video masturbatory aid, there is some credulity in their unwholesome preoccupation with witnessing death and brutality, even at the risk of their safety.
Conveniently, although not likely intentionally, the first video they pop in the VCR adjacent a dead body features a similar gang of interchangeable troglodyte boys meandering around the city looking for women to use and toss away. As expected, they all get more than they bargained for when rudimentary male anxieties and an overall fear of female sexuality, itself exacerbated by garish monstrosities, takes over the latter half of the short, reiterating the limited scope of the overall theme and narrative complexity.
Less shocking and aggressive is the next short, "Second Honeymoon," which follows a couple on a trip where their camera is routinely used as they sleep. Going for lowbrow cache, Ti West manages to capture a bit of tension before reiterating the misogynist status quo, which is continued in the more visceral and genuinely creepy Glenn McQuaid short, "Tuesday the 17." This instalment is about a group of kids that travel to a remote lake known for grisly murders. McQuaid makes the best use of the medium here, exploiting the VHS quality aesthetic to create one of the more terrifying, albeit undefined villains of modern horror.
Joe Swanberg's approach to the material is that of haunted house Skype conversations between a young woman questioning her sanity and her absent boyfriend. Initially, the only short that doesn't look to vilify or exploit the horrors of the opposite sex — monstrous whenever not passive and complicit — it eventually features an image that denotes reproductive horror and the demonization of maternal physical capabilities.
It's at least a more psychologically complex work than "10/31/98," which follows a group of slightly less grotesque boys to a haunted house party where, again, female monstrosity finds them imperilled. Featuring some playful visual effects and a propulsive structure, this short at least has the decency not to feature rape or bodily mutilation.
There are some extremely creepy moments and clever utilizations of the found-footage medium here. Unfortunately, they're often at the expense of women, given that this entire project exists within the vacuum of adolescent male anxieties and superficial id-fulfillment tedium that understand only broad, rudimentary human sensation and emotion. (eOne)