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    Review: Third installment of ‘V/H/S: Viral’ detracts franchise

    8383+Productions

    8383 Productions

    This Halloween, don’t go viral. It doesn’t help that the previous two installments of this series are so strong, but, even without comparison to its brethren, “V/H/S: Viral” is a consummate disappointment. It’s a horror movie that doesn’t have any scares.

    “V/H/S: Viral” is the third installment of the horror anthology series that started with “V/H/S” in 2012 and continued on with “V/H/S/2” in 2013. The initial film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival with rumored claims of people passing out during its late night screening. Since then, this found footage series has gained a cult following for its original concept, creative stories, legitimate scares and a dash of nudity and humor.

    The films all follow a similar structure. There’s a frame story that holds different, unrelated vignettes together, and everything is shot in shaky-cam style a la “The Blair Witch Project.”

    The great advantage to the anthology form is that it allows a great variety of stories. One story can be told from the GoPro point-of-view of a man that turns into a zombie, while the next can revolve around an Indonesian cult that makes Heaven’s Gate look like a fun slumber party.

    However, the number of shorts has diminished with each installment. The first film had five stories, the second had four and the third installment only has three. “V/H/S/: Viral” also clocks in at an incredibly, or mercifully, brief 82 minutes, 14 minutes shorter than the second film and a whopping 34 minutes shorter than the original.

    Of course, a short run time is not inherently a bad thing, and may even be a benefit if it can pack a stout punch in its brief time. Unfortunately, the frame story and three shorts are the weakest installments thus far.

    The frame story is the most expansive of the three, with the streets of Los Angeles replacing the claustrophobic, rundown houses of the first two. The police are chasing an ice cream truck across town, and Kevin (uncredited on IMDb) steps outside to capture the events on his phone so he can upload them to the Internet. However, as the ice cream truck passes his house, the truck somehow abducts his girlfriend, Iris (Emilia Zoryan). Kevin hops on his bike and gives chase.

    Now, on to the three shorts.

    The first is “Dante the Great” and shows a magician in possession of a cape that is much more than illusion and sleight of hand. The cape allows him to perform real feats of the supernatural, but at a cost: He must feed the cape with human lives.

    This segment adapts a slightly more polished documentary look, featuring talking-head interviews. The aesthetic goes against what has become standard for the series and feels out of place.

    The final, special-effects heavy showdown between Dante  (Justin Welborn) and one of his female magician’s assistants has some neat moments, but, ultimately, the short is simply not scary.

    The second short, titled “Parallel Monsters,” sees Alfonso (Gustavo Salmeron) open a portal to an alternate dimension. He and his doppelganger agree to swap universes for 15 minutes, and the “original” Alfonso enters into a world that may or may not be hell.

    Pornographic screams with no source echo throughout the alternate house, and there seems to be some kind of sexual ritual involving human remains about to take place between his alternate wife and two other men.

    This thread is more in line with previous “V/H/S” outings, as creeping unease explodes into the truly insane and bizarre. However, again, the scares are just not there.The final strand, “Bonestorm,” follows a couple of idiotic, teen skateboarders as they try to land tricks and make a video. They find themselves in a concrete wash in Mexico perfect for a kickflip, as well as for a satanic ritual to summon something from beneath.

    Three to four different camera angles are used throughout this short, making for some chaotic and visceral editing as the boys fight off apparently endless skull-masked thugs.It makes for an exciting action scene, but, again, there’s nothing to make you jump out of your seat.

    Merely thinking about the first two films and their disturbing tales sends more of a shiver down the spine than this installment. If you’re looking for some true horror to stick with you this Halloween, seek out the predecessors to this pitiful threequel.

    Grade: D+

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    Follow Alex Guyton on Twitter.

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