V/H/S Nope, nothing terrifyingly horrific here. Move along.

V/H/S OPENS WITH what I can only describe as an incidental sexual assault. A group of men pull on ski masks and ambush a woman in a snowy parking lot. They tear off her clothing, record it, and run away. It's quick, gross, and probably where I would have walked out if I wasn't getting paid (a little bit) to watch the dang thing.

Why do I object to that scene and not, say, the steaming avalanche of gratuitous viscera that courses intermittently through the rest of this found-footage horror anthology? Well on one level, it's just hypocrisy. But on another level—which is the one I'm going to cling to—it's that getting chopped up into little bits is a fairly universal fear. Getting molested in an empty parking lot is a more specific and immediate anxiety, and cheaply exploiting it for my entertainment feels cruel to both the characters and the audience. That is a type of cruelty I'm reluctant to endorse.

It's a shame, because once you get past the persistently clumsy framing story, the short films contained within V/H/S are inventive and unnerving; there's a good blend of CGI and practical effects, and there are some scares outside the usual "Oh God I am being stabbed to death" (though there is plenty of stabbing). The House of the Devil director Ti West's Second Honeymoon is the standout in terms of subtlety: It's a slow, effective burn, and much of the horror comes from the casually shitty things people in long-term relationships sometimes do to each other.

Should you see this movie? I dunno. If you like found-footage horror movies, you'll probably love this one. I'm not going to condemn you as a human being if you do. But I don't feel good recommending it to anyone else.