The Scariest V/H/S Segment Combines Real-World and Supernatural Terrors


The Big Picture

  • V/H/S
    was a game-changer for horror in 2012, blending found footage with a fresh anthology format.
  • David Bruckner’s “Amateur Night” set the tone, delivering a monster twist on grim, real-life fears.
  • The success of “Amateur Night” led to the feature film
    , but was not as effective due to it not being in the found-footage format.

When the horror anthology film V/H/S came out in 2012, it was a breath of fresh air for a genre struggling with its identity. The renewed slasher craze brought on by Scream and its clones was over, leading to the 2000s remake binge, thanks to the success of 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot. As remakes of classics became less inspired and unwanted, horror tried to find a new era. 2012 was the year Sinister would be released, with The Conjuring coming out a year later. By 2012, the found-footage horror genre had seen unprecedented heights with the massive success of 2007’s Paranormal Activity as it became one of the most profitable movies ever made. While many immediate follow-ups in the subgenre were worth a watch, this boom naturally featured some flops. However, 2012 saw found-footage make a comeback with a clever premise.

V/H/S combined the realism of found footage with the anthology format, found in classics such as Tales From the Crypt and Creepshow. What resulted was a film that felt at once familiar yet completely new. Though the franchise, which is up to six films now, has been up and down in quality, its creepiest and best moment happened right at the beginning of the very first film with David Bruckner’s “Amateur Night.”


When a group of misfits are hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for.

Release Date
July 28, 2012

Calvin Reeder , Lane Hughes , Adam Wingard , Hannah Fierman , Mike Donlan , Joe Sykes

David Bruckner’s “Amateur Night” Set the Tone for the ‘V/H/S’ Franchise

V/H/S, created by Bloody Disgusting and produced by the website’s founder, Brad Miska, begins with a clever premise. Rather than being an anthology of unconnected short films, V/H/S sets up its story in the prologue, the Adam Wingard-directed “Tape 56”, where a gang breaks into a creepy home at night to steal a videotape. It’s there that they find a deceased man in front of multiple TVs. One of the curious gang members plays a tape in the VCR and the movie begins.

The first segment on the videotape is called “Amateur Night”, directed by David Bruckner(The Ritual, Hellraiser). We first see a group of young male friends in a cheap motel room. One of the friends, the more shy Clint (Drew Sawyer), puts on a pair of thick black glasses with a video camera in them. The group then heads out into the night to find women to have sex with, all with the plan to tape it without the women’s consent. They pick up two women, one being Lily (Hannah Fierman). She’s young and attractive, and the men take an immediate liking to her, but something is off with her. Lily not only seems very shy, but her face is wide with something that looks like a cross between confusion and fear. She frequently whispers “I like you,” with no emotion or expression in her words. Did she just have too much to drink?

The guys don’t care about her personality, it’s only her body they want. They take her back to the motel where her friend passes out. Though she is still acting strange, the men gang up on her, but it’s the subdued and scared Clint who she really wants. Frustrated that she can’t have him, Lily shows her true monstrous side, as her head splits open and her mouth opens wide to show two rows of fangs. She attacks and kills Clint’s friends, and as Clint flees outside, she swoops down, now sprouting wings, and carries the young man high into the sky, his glasses recording all before they fall to the ground.

“Amateur Night” Is a Monster Short Film in More Ways Than One

“Amateur Night” works on several levels. Before it even becomes a monster movie, it’s terrifying enough for women and should be for men. The plot begins as a sexual assault, with one woman passed out and unable to consent, and another acting like she’s not in the right frame of mind, all as she’s surrounded by a group of men who outnumber and who could overpower her at any moment. The fact that Lily is being taped without her knowledge only adds to her vulnerability, exposing her to an unknown audience and assaulting her before she’s even touched. With her wide, expressive eyes, we are scared for this woman who seems to be looking right at us silently asking for help.


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The twist of Lily being the one truly in control should be seen coming because it’s made very clear that there’s more to her than we can first see, and the film maintains suspense by not revealing Lily’s true nature until the right moment. Once the tables are turned on the men, the fear and terror are ramped up to an all-time high, even though you want to see them get their comeuppance. The filming style and the claustrophobia of the small motel rooms trap us in there with them. The final shot of Clint getting out of the room, only to be swooped up, shows us the hopelessness of the entire situation. Clint and his friends were dead from the moment they picked Lily up. They never had a chance. In a 2020 interview with Nightmarish Conjurings, David Bruckner said “‘Amateur Night was different for me in the sense that it was a send-up of a particular kind of masculine locker room culture and it was much more of an issue, in a sense, that we were exploring.” This was a refreshing shift in the horror genre as the 2000s had been home to the repeated over-sexualization of female characters. While the final girl trope meant we saw a lot of women fighting back and getting revenge against masked killers, “Amateur Night” combined the final girl and the villain to bring a new twist on the horror movie monster.

“Amateur Night” Became the Feature Film ‘Siren’

“Amateur Night” was so memorable that it became the basis for a 2016 feature film, Siren, directed by Gregg Bishop, with Hannah Fierman returning as her succubus character. While critics liked it well enough (it has a 65% on Rotten Tomatoes), it doesn’t hit as hard as “Amateur Night.” For one, the found-footage style is replaced by a traditional movie with music telling you how to feel. The realism of the videotape is gone, and the plot is too broad in its scope this time. It’s not only the monster that makes “Amateur Night” so creepy, as that is simply the release of the build-up. It’s the excruciating reality of a woman in despair and the tables turned on guilty men that made it so frightening.

A lot of the V/H/S franchise segments don’t connect because they’re a premise without a solid story behind it, or they put shock over the situation. “Amateur Night” knew how to scare us with the simplicity of combining the worst of humanity in real life with the supernatural. Here, it’s not the monster we should fear most, but the mindset that the worst crimes can be committed by those who think they’re not doing anything wrong at all.

V/H/S is available to stream on Hulu in the U.S.



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