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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that V/H/S: Viral is the third movie in the V/H/S horror anthology series. This one abandons the creepy house full of old video cassettes and takes place in the present day, when everybody films everything in the hopes of getting famous on YouTube. Expect extreme gore, fighting, bashing with skateboards, blood spatters, shooting, killing, and monsters. An older topless woman is shown, as is a topless female "monster." Monsters are shown with strange growths where their genitalia should be. There's a near striptease and some cameras ogling women's cleavage. Language is strong, especially in the skateboarding segment, with constant uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Teens smoke pot in one scene. The theme of seeking fame via online viral videos is a timely and relevant one, but the supernatural elements here may render the discussion null and void.
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What's the story?
In a segment that wraps around the other episodes in the horror anthology V/H/S: VIRAL, a young man likes to shoot videos of his girlfriend, but when he gets obsessed with filming a police chase involving a mysterious ice cream truck, she disappears. Meanwhile, in the story of "Dante the Great," a loser magician inherits extraordinary powers when he discovers a cloak that might have belonged to Houdini. And later, a scientist invents a portal into an alternate universe that looks almost exactly like his own world but turns out to be a sinister, vicious place. Then a group of punk skateboarders goes in search of the perfect spot to shoot a video, winding up in Tijuana in a place of demonic ritual. Finally, the young man catches up to the ice cream truck and finds something terrible inside.
Is it any good?
The gripping third movie in the series that also includes V/H/S and V/H/S/2, V/H/S: Viral abandons its predecessors' set up of a creepy house filled with old video cassettes. Even though the movie seems to have built-in, recurring technical errors -- fizzling out and showing buried, half-erased images -- it has little to do with old-fashioned formats. Instead, it concentrates more on the "viral" theme -- and in doing so, the series spins off in an interesting new direction.
Each of the three segments, plus a fourth wraparound sequence, is told from the point of view of a first-person camera. Characters film absolutely everything, constantly, in the hopes that it will earn them a measure of fame. Each of the segments suggests that this is unhealthy behavior, favoring the act of seeing things for the way they are instead. The movie isn't exactly terrifying, but it's clever and playful and has a worthy -- if dark and bloody -- cautionary message.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about V/H/S: Viral's violence. How much is shown, and how much is withheld? Does it seem over the top? What impact does it have?
Is the movie scary? What makes a good horror movie? How does this movie qualify -- or not qualify?
What does the movie have to say about making videos of everything? One character justifies his actions by claiming that he's becoming "part of something bigger." Is he right?
What's the appeal of making a "viral" video? What's the downside? (Parents, here's everything you need to know about YouTube.)
- In theaters: November 21, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2015
- Cast: Patrick Lawrie, Justin Welborn, Emilia Zoryan
- Directors: Nacho Vigalondo, Marcel Sarmiento
- Studio: Magnet Releasing
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 82 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing strong violence and gore, sexual content, language and some drug use
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.