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Commentaries on this Media!

Affective Horror of the Found Footage Anthology

by Ethan Tussey

by Laura Wilson for IN MEDIA RES

Released in 2012, V/H/S brings together two formats of the horror film: found footage and the anthology. Often, the raison d’etre of the horror film is its ability to generate affects: from tension and anxiety, to terror, nausea and disgust. In what ways do these approaches – found footage and the anthology – enhance or inhibit V/H/S’s affective capability? Through dipping in and out of short stories, the degree of immersion can be restricted. Yet, at the same time, each segment creates a mystery that promises quick resolution, providing immediate satisfaction and creating a circuitous narrative of suspense-release. The found footage element of V/H/S is two-fold: the protagonists stumble upon tapes in a house they have invaded, while this in turn is viewed through their own filming of events. Home videos draw the spectator close to the film as they inhabit the position of the film-maker entrenched in the action. While following in the footsteps of films such as Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960) by questioning the ethics of horror spectatorship, this approach inevitably situates the spectator behind the camera, creating a barrier between viewer and film. Yet this distance might be interpreted as hostility and cynicism embodied by the film itself, through sexual assaults, theft and vandalism made casual by the perpetrators’ own filming. Scenes represented via hidden cameras create an awareness of the film apparatus; nevertheless, this recognition of the technology of film induces a self-consciousness that sits uncomfortably and anxiously with the viewer. Bringing together the anthology and found footage, V/H/S induces a particular mode of anxiety. As each segment is revealed, a character from the frame narrative disappears until, in the end, the camera alone picks up the sound of the final film. Through this, V/H/S exemplifies the notion that film is nothing if not an experience of an experience; that the film does not just reveal the image, but creates it. Pointing towards the agentic position of the spectator, V/H/S effectively creates the uncanny suspicion that all the horror that was viewed, exists only because it was seen.

Found Footage and Horror

V/H/S trailer

from V/H/S (2012)
Creator: Joe Swanberg, et al.
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey