Tuesday, September 10, 2013

V/H/S/2

I had rented the original V/H/S a while back with the intention of reviewing it for this blog. Unfortunately I thought it was so goddamn bad that I turned it off after thirty minutes, therefore giving a critique wasn’t possible. When I heard that a sequel was being pumped out asap due to its popularity I inwardly groaned. I said right then and there that I wouldn’t give it the time of day and that I’d rather watch The Cold Light of Day again than that trainwreck in the making.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… boredom will make you do crazy things. Guess what has two thumbs and willingly watched V/H/S/2? THIS GUY!
As before this is an anthology movie with a wraparound story involving the watching of various video cassettes that contain the short horror films that make up the bulk of the film.

I will admit that I watched the whole movie through and I enjoyed it. Sure some of the stories are better than others, but they all are watchable for the most part.

The wraparound story,” Tape 49”, is written and directed by Simon Barrett and tells the tale of a private detective (Lawrence Michael Levine) and his assistant (Kelsey Abbott) who are investigating the disappearance of a college student. When they break into his house to search for him they find a number of televisions and a stack of VHS tapes. Hoping to find some clue as to his whereabouts they begin to watch the tapes one by one…
As with the first film, the wraparound story is lame and uninteresting. Like the other shorts it is filmed in found footage style. In the case of this particular story there is no point for these two characters to be filming the parts we get to see and as a result the entire segment comes off as awkward and forced. It’s the weakest of all the stories.

The first tape contains the short “Phase I Clinical Trials”, written by Simon Barrett and directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next). A wealthy man (Adam Wingard) who has lost an eye in a car accident receives a replacement in the form of an experimental camera that records everything remotely. It also allows him to see the spirits that haunt his home.

I was extremely disappointed with this one due to how much I liked Wingard’s You’re Next. The story is dumb and is a direct rip off of the Asian horror film The Eye. Sure there are a couple of twists, but they are contrived and dumb and the finale is nonsensical in the extreme. The ghosts don’t seem to be violent at all, but out of nowhere they get all cray cray and the story lost me. Out of all the shorts (not counting the wraparound) this one is the worst.
The second tape contains the short “A Ride in the Park”, written by Jamie Nash and directed by Gregg Hale & Eduardo S├ínchez (The Blair Witch Project).  A guy (Jay Saunders) taking a bike ride through a forest is infected by a zombie outbreak and begins feeding on the various people he comes across.

This clever tale basically documents the creation of a zombie all the way through his undeath via a Go Pro camera attached to his bicycle helmet. We see this poor dude get attacked by a zombie, transform into one and then go on a rampage infecting person after person. It’s fun, somewhat frightening and ultimately tragic. The idea itself has never been attempted as far as I can recall so the overused zombie genre gets a fresh new angle that was most welcome. It seems to borrow the basic idea of “U is for Unearthed” in The ABCs of Death, but is more successful. A winner!
The third tape contains the short “Safe Haven”, written and directed by Timo Tjahjanto (The ABCs of Death segment “L is for Libido”) & Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption). A news crew (Fachry Albar, Hannah Al Rashid, Oka Antara and Andrew Suleiman) documenting an Indonesian religious cult, led by the Father (Epy Kusnandar), find themselves knee deep in their prophesized apocalypse.

Out of all the shorts this one is the most successful. All the performance are solid, the found footage aspect works since the main characters are filmmakers and are each wearing a concealed camera on their shirts as well as carrying full sized ones, the shocks are scares are outstandingly graphic and it all works due to great development of the characters by the writers. The two directors working in tandem sure know how to milk the situation for all its worth regardless of the fact that it begins to go down a familiar path associated with cults of this nature. Thankfully it bounces back in a big way. Only the final shot is silly and kind of hokey.

The fourth and final tape contains the short “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” written by John Davies & Jason Eisener and directed by Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun). A group of prankster kids having a sleepover find themselves the target of a relentless alien onslaught.
This is yet another weak entry, not as bad as “Phase I Clinical Trials” or “Tape 49” but definitely not as good as “A Ride in the Park” or “Safe Haven”. The actors are terrible all around, no one is likable since they all come off as a-hole douchebags and the idea of the camera being attached to the family dog in order to record the events that take place is asinine. The alien make-up is freakishly frightening, as are the people playing them. I suspect they were mimes or dancers since they gave imparted them with a sort of “otherworldly” set of movements. Sure the final shot is extremely heartbreaking, but everything that came before that was lackluster in the extreme.

Combine all these uneven shorts together and you have an equally uneven total package. Still, it’s entertaining and highly watchable. I’ll freely admit that this is a huge step up from the original film and I hope that if there is a V/H/S/3 that it shows the same amount of improvement. As a modern day Creepshow… it still has a long way to go.

3 out of 5

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