Columbia native Simon Barrett brings 'V/H/S' thriller to True/False

Friday, March 2, 2012 | 4:31 p.m. CST; updated 11:26 a.m. CST, Monday, March 5, 2012

COLUMBIA — Attendees of the True/False Film Fest might consider keeping an airplane sickness bag handy if they plan on seeing "V/H/S," a new film co-written by Simon Barrett, 33, a Columbia native.

Motion sickness is not expected in the theater, but the graphic scenes in Barrett's film were too shocking for some viewers to stomach during the film's debut at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in January.

Although "V/H/S" did not receive any awards, the documentary-stylized thriller made serious waves during its late night opening screening. 

Unrelenting and aggressive, "V/H/S"  is an anthology of fake gory home movies found by the film's characters, each segment woven into the storyline by Barrett and his team of writers, Barrett said. Due to the film's fictional plot, "V/H/S" is an unusual selection for the True/False Film Fest, but it has been widening its selection beyond strict documentaries since showing "Troll Hunter" in 2011.

Waves of nausea hit some unsuspecting viewers at Sundance, including one couple who made it to the theater lobby before the man fainted and his girlfriend vomited nearby. Paramedics were called to treat the cinephiles who said they did not expect anything to be that scary, according to producer Roxanne Benjamin.

"Not on any level is this a family-friendly film," Barrett said, whose horror picture is playing at 10 p.m. Friday at the Missouri Theatre. "This film is different from anything ever shown at True/False before."

Barrett grew up in Columbia and graduated from Hickman High School in 1996. He said he always wanted to contribute something more than patronage to Columbia's largest film festival. With "V/H/S," Barrett has brought a new kind of terrifying picture to True/False, but he's not sure how it will be received.

"I hope people here respond as they did at Sundance, at least those who knew what the film was and what they were getting into," Barrett said.

At the 10:30 p.m. showing of the film Thursday at Ragtag Cinema, about 20 attendees left during the screening, according to Vox Magazine's review of the film.

In addition to Thursday night's showing, "V/H/S" will show at 10 p.m. Saturday in the Ragtag Cinema's large theater. Tickets sold out almost immediately for both Ragtag showings. However, Barrett is hoping more people come to see the film Friday.

"You just are not going to get very many chances in life to see such an ugly film in such a beautiful venue," Barrett said.

For "V/H/S," Barrett knew he wanted to use footage of some Columbia scenery to get the right tone of suspense. Barrett's work with Columbia backdrops in his previous film, an equally frightening flick called "A Horrible Way to Die," led him to return home to film outdoor segments of "V/H/S."

"I knew I wanted that wintry Columbia feel, with its desolate gray skies and banks of snow on the street corners," Barrett said. "Having spent 15 winters here, I know how depressing it can get."

Barrett says he feels honored to have the film playing in his hometown, especially due to the venue selection for the "V/H/S" Friday screening.

"I get this feeling of hometown pride," Barrett said. "Having my movie playing at the Missouri Theatre is crazy. That was the first big, beautiful movie hall I had ever seen growing up."

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