Tag Archives: David Bruckner

Still Preoccupied


by Hope Madden

If found footage, horror anthologies and 80s nostalgia are your thing, V/H/S/85 is speaking your language. The sixth episode in the series straps on those heavy camcorders and uploads that security cam footage to remind us of all the horrors of the Reagan era.

Highlights include David Bruckner’s wraparound story, “Total Copy.” An alum of the 2012 original V/H/S and successful filmmaker behind The Ritual and the recent Hellraiser,  Bruckner has a tricky assignment. The wraparound has to serve as an anchor for the balance of the short films while standing on its own. Bruckner’s tale delivers a VHS tape of security footage that’s been copied over with commercials, exercise videos, and other horrors. But the main story it tells, of an entity in lockdown being studied by researchers, is chilling, sometimes funny, and eventually pretty bloody.

Not to be outdone, Mike P. Nelson contributes two short films with one clever twist. The first, “No Wake” follows a group of campers who head out onto a lake despite posted signage forbidding it. And though things go predicably wrong for them, the actual execution (both by the director and of the characters) delivers genuine surprises, as does the twist in Nelson’s second outing, “Ambrosia” about a fundamentally bent family tradition.

“TKNOGD” (technogod), from Natasha Kermani (Lucky), is the most daring of the set, although it nearly outstays its welcome before hitting its stride. A performance artist laments the blossoming obsession with tech. The plausibility of the audience reaction is almost as much fun as the gory finale of her show.

Gigi Saul Guerrero (Satanic Hispanics, Bingo Hell) contributes a news piece gone wrong during Mexico City’s 1985 earthquake. What’s most effective is her use of the set to increase claustrophobia to high levels before bursting that tension with the bloody finale.

Scott Derrikson’s (Sinister, The Black Phone) “Dreamkill” is the most effective and imaginative of the set, plus there’s a Goth kid! Now that’s a reason to love the 80s! A police detective keeps receiving VHS tapes in the mail of murders that have not yet been committed. From the grim crime scenes to the plot twists to the almost funhouse architecture of the final acts of carnage, “Dreamkill” never lets go.

This is the strongest set of shorts in a V/H/S installment in a while. It’s fun, gory, creepy and bite sized – ideal for the season.

Buyer Beware

The Night House

by George Wolf

The Night House rests on a trusted horror foundation that’s adorned with several stylishly creepy fixtures. But it’s a terrific lead performance from Rebecca Hall that becomes the support beam preventing total collapse.

Hall plays Beth, a New York teacher still reeling from the recent death of her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit). As Beth drifts through her impressive lakefront house trying to adjust, new discoveries bring unexpected questions about her late husband’s outside interests.

Though Beth’s neighbor (Vondie Curtis-Hall, always a pleasure) and best friend (Sarah Goldberg) both warn her not to fill the void in her life with “something dark,” the dark keeps calling. The more Beth digs into things Owen left behind, the more signs point to an unsettling secret life, and to the possibility that Owen may not have entirely moved on.

Director David Bruckner (The Ritual, The Signal) and screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski (Super Dark Times) each have resumes showing impressive results within limited budgets. Stepping up a bit in class, their metaphor for the fog of grief and depression is familiar but well-crafted, with soft-pedaled jump scares and effectively spooky visuals.

Bruckner fuels the standard what’s real/what’s-in-her-head questions with some nifty camera tricks that make the house come eerily alive with forced perspectives and Dali-esque illusions.

As solid as the film’s construction may be, it falls on Hall to make sure the reveals waiting in the third act land with more emotion than silliness.

She’s more than up to the task. Early on, Beth’s sustained grief, and her indignation toward everyone who’s not Owen, carries an authenticity that gets us squarely behind Beth’s personal journey. And that pays dividends once the film relies on our belief in what Beth believes. Thanks to Hall, we end up buying in.

Looking ahead to 2022, Bruckner, Collins and Piotkowski will team up again for the Hellraiser reboot. That means that while there’s enough in The Night House to satisfy horror fans today, there’s also plenty here to get us hopeful about the future.