Dir. Hernan Findling (2021)
The cast and crew of a horror movie are invited to watch the first cut of their film, but things begin to go awry when scenes they didn't film begin showing up in the movie.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
From Artsploitation Films and Kino Lorber comes Virtual Reality, an Argentinian slasher movie with a killer twist. A horror movie director accepts help from a mysterious producer who offers him a thumb drive with an artificial intelligence on it that is guaranteed to make his film into a masterpiece. When the director begins using the A.I., he discovers that the newly edited film is seeping into reality, as every injury that occurs on-screen also affects the actors who played the role. When they realize they can't stop the movie from playing, they must find a way to communicate with the other side and prevent their on-screen, and real life, deaths. One of the more unique setups of any slasher in recent memory translates into a film that is a delight to watch, something that feels fresh and exciting in a genre that can often become a bit stale.
The meta "movie-within-a-movie" has been done many times before, but the way in which Virtual Reality plays with the tropes of various subgenres of horror and blends them together with the actual creative process of making a movie is fascinating. The closest that I can really compare it to is Wes Craven's New Nightmare, where various parts of the film's crew have experiences as if they're actually in the movie. Virtual Reality attempts the same type of immersion, though on a much smaller and less franchise-dependent scale. There's a reason why meta-horror works so well when its done so well. The unreality of horror is what makes it an escape, something that kids can cheer along with and adults can watch after work to get away from it all. When you remove those safeguards and bring the horror into the real world, it makes things all the more scary, teasing the potential for all of these horrific scenes to happen in our lives rather than behind the safety of the screen.
Despite the unique perspective on the slasher, the movie is not without its faults. It could've used a good bit more gore, as most of the carnage is artfully hidden within the death scenes. The pacing is damn near perfect, but it feels a bit watered down at times due to the lack of brutality throughout (though there was one particular death that felt pretty real and brutal, thoroughly impressed with that one.) The parts of the film that don't completely make sense still work within the framework, though, and the duality between the film-within-a-film and the "real" events are handled extremely well, so there's not an awful lot to complain about in the film beyond what I've mentioned.
There's a lot to love here, a lot of really interesting and unique choices that were satisfying to watch play out. Argentina has made some fantastic horror films, and this one has the makings of a mini cult classic. Kino Lorber sure knows how to pick their films, and their relationship with Artsploitation is going to be a fruitful one. If you're looking for an inventive twist on the standard slasher, you definitely want to check this one out.
Who this movie is for: Meta horror fans, Foreign horror aficionados, Rich filmmakers
Bottom line: I've been pretty impressed with Artsploitation Films' releases thus far, knocking their goal, giving a release for international films with an edge, out of the park. While Virtual Reality is not an all-time classic, it's inventive enough to be well worth a watch and will be a nice refresh for slasher fans around the world. Give this one a shot if you get the chance, and if you're a collector of physical media like me, grab your copy at Kino Lorber.