Horror anthology V/H/S is “a celebration of fantasy rather than snuff”

V/H/S director Glenn McQuaid talks found footage, horror anthologies and video tapes at FrightFest.

VHS horror movie
VHS horror movie
V/H/S wowed crowds at Sundance earlier this year

V/H/S is an anthology of found footage stories: in the framing story, a group of burglars find a huge stack of VHS tapes in a flat with a corpse, and discover some disturbing content on the tapes. We grabbed Glenn McQuaid, director of I Sell The Dead and one of the segments in V/H/S, for a quick chat ahead of the film’s screening at FrightFest…

V/H/S is an anthology film – what made you want to be involved in that?

You know, I love anthology films. I’m a big fan of Amicus and my favourite stories from people like Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and Richard Matheson, they’re all short stories. I really think there’s something to be said for that short sharp shock, and also there’s a real art to presenting them in order. As a kid I read all the Herbert van Thal Pan Horror collections, and I just liked that kind of thing. I think it’s thrilling to know that pretty soon a whole new world is going to open up to you.

Why do you think found footage is so popular right now?

I’ve always been a bit suspicious of found footage, but truthfully I hadn’t seen many of those films. So when I got involved with V/H/S I went and looked at all the Paranormal Activities and so on, and I think it’s a pretty vital way of telling a story, really. You know, the sky is the limit – there’s no reason why it shouldn’t extend out of horror and bleed into other genres as well. I don’t know why there isn’t a found footage World War II movie, or a romantic comedy. And not just because you can get stuff done cheaper, but because when you get a set of rules, it’s fun to see what you can break and what you can’t and where that leads.

How closely did the various directors in V/H/S work together?

We didn’t! I really have to credit the producers for keeping us in line and letting us know it was okay to push the fantasy elements, it was OK to have a little bit more fun. Mind you, I was still nervous when I saw the whole thing because my piece throws believability out of the window at one stage, and it was nice to know that the other guys followed that same technique and had fun. At the end of the day, V/H/S is a celebration of fantasy rather than any kind of snuff realism.

VHS horror movie
V/H/S features 5 short found footage movies and one wraparound story

What makes your section special, then – what’s your style?

Hopefully, some of the humour. My piece is inspired by some of the slasher flicks that I love, like Friday The 13th, The Burning, and a British flick called Tower Of Evil also came to mind. I wanted to get in there and have fun with that world and that kind of set up see how far I could push some of the realism, at the same time keeping it, not camp, but having a bit of humour to it.

Why do you think there is this sense of nostalgia towards VHS tapes?

You know, I’m pre-VHS; I was maybe 9 when we got our first VHS player, so prior to getting that I was glued to BBC2 and watching horror double bills. And you know, with VHS you really had to hunt and gather your collection. Once we got the internet and access to pretty much everything we wanted a lot of the magic was lost, because if everything’s at your fingertips, there’s the loss of that passion, for trying to build something.

It’s interesting to me that there’s a huge vinyl culture again, and a huge cassette tape culture in music – people are beginning to appreciate the magic in having to seek something out and to covet it, in a way.

V/H/S is expected to get a limited cinema release from 5 October 2012. Glenn McQuaid’s previous film I Sell The Dead is available on DVD for £2.99 and on Blu-ray for £5.99 from Amazon.co.uk.