Independent Review: V/H/S and Compliance Talk of Sundance

Everyone is on their way back to Los Angeles and New York now that Sundance is over, but it’s another year where people are talking about a few movies, and the biggest winners (at least in publicity and distribution deals) were horror films, both of very different ilk.  There are many stories coming out of the festival, such as the audible yelling, jeering, and angry patrons of the film Compliance from Craig Zobel, one of the goofy creators of Homestar Runner.  Compliance, however, is much different than that, described as a blood and guts free terror film.  Here’s the official synopsis:

“When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed. Based on true events.”

The film stars Ann Dowd, Pat Healy (of the recent horror hit The Innkeepers), and Dreama  Walker, and apparently after the screening, some patrons got upset at the film’s content, not comfortable with the things portrayed in the film.  This only seems to happen at Sundance anymore, as it’s been years since someone got angry or passed out at TIFF, which used to be notorious for people vomiting at the Midnight Madness program.  The trouble with Sundance is the fact that older patrons just grab tickets to anything they can without knowing the notoriety of the film.  By the time it hits national release, these audiences have already been scared away, or have heard enough to know that they’re not interested.

The other big story is V/H/S, the anthology found-footage horror film from horror directors Ti West, Adam Wingard, Joe Swanberg, Glenn McQuaid, David Bruckner, and the group Radio Silence (made up of Justin Martinez, Tyler Gillett, Chad Villella, and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin).  The resurgence of anthology films has been strong the past few years, but this is the first found-footage entry I’ve heard of, and it had great anticipation going into the festival, especially with the burgeoning popularity of Ti West for his films House of the Devil and The Innkeepers), and Adam Wingard with his films A Horrible Way To Die and You’re Next, so both have become horror critic’s darlings the past few years.

Here’s the official synopsis:

“A POV, found footage horror film from the perspective of America’s top genre filmmakers. A group of misfits are hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house in the countryside and acquire a rare tape. Upon searching the house, the guys are confronted with a dead body, a hub of old televisions and an endless supply of cryptic footage, each video stranger than the last.” 

Produced on a low budget, V/H/S arguably had more people talking than just about any other movie, and after the midnight showing, there was a late-night bidding war for the film, which was eventually won out by Magnolia Pictures for over a million dollars.  The only curious part to me is whether Magnolia will release this one, or if they’ll put it out through their Magnet Releasing label, which is usually what they use for genre releases, like The Innkeepers.  The good news for fans is Magnolia doesn’t sit on films trying to figure out what to do, they know how to release them and when, so look for this on on VOD soon, followed by a limited theatrical run, and if you don’t catch it on VOD or in theaters, it will be on DVD and Blu Ray in all your favorite stores shortly after, as Magnolia/Magnet has been a leading force on making genre films widely available to the legions of fans that soak them up on a regular basis.  Look for trailers soon, I’m sure we’ll see them before summer.

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