Tuesday, December 3, 2013

V/H/S/2 (2013) - A Review

Boy, am I ever late to the train on this one. Regardless, here it is and I’m glad to be reviewing it. 

I’ve also realized that I have not posted a review since Gravity, and that breaks my little heart. The past few weeks have been rough but I am very excited to be getting back into it. Once I get a new laptop (which should hopefully be very soon) you guys will be getting too much of me, so I bet you’re just so excited about that as well. 

Regardless, enough yammering, I am even boring myself. Here we GO. 

Last year was a big year in the world of horror anthologies. Not only did we get ABC’s of Death (review), we got my personal favorite of the year, V/H/S. Produced by Brad Miska and directed, written and starring the newest up and comers in the world of horror, the Mumblegore Crew, it is a fantastic found-footage film that chronicles 5 stories of death and desperation. I loved it, and was naturally very excited when it was announced that a follow up to the film would be released in 2013. I’ll admit, I was very late to the game in seeing this one. Due to a mixture of a faulty computer set up and a bunked up schedule that did not allow me to catch any screenings of it, I was finally able to settle in for a viewing when it was released on Netflix earlier this week. 

Title: V/H/S/2Director(s): Simon Barrett (Tape 49), Adam Wingard (Phase I: Clinical Trials), Eduardo Sanchez  and Gregg Hale (A Ride in the Park), Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans (Safe Haven), Jason Eisener (Slumber Party Alien Abduction)
Writer(s): Simon Barrett (Tape 49 and Phase I: Clinical Trial), Jamie Nash (A Ride in the Park), Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans (Safe Haven), John Davies (Slumber Party Alien Abduction)
Producer(s): Roxanne Benjamin, Gary Binkow, Kyle David Crosby, Brad Miska, Jamie Nash
Starring: Lawrence Michael Levine, Kelsy Abbott, Adam Wingard, Hannah Hughes, Jay Saunders, Fachry Albar, Hannah Al Rashid, Oka Antara, Epy Kusnandar, Riley Eisener, Rylan Logan, Samantha Gracie, Cohen King, etc. 
Studio: Bloody Disgusting, The Collective, Haxan Films
Running Time: 92 minutes
Release Date: July 12, 2013

What do you get when you take seven directors, a butt ton of actors and too much fake blood? Why, you get the follow up to one of the most successful horror anthologies in recent times. V/H/S/2 came hot off the heels of its predecessor, and while it seems to have received pretty mixed reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Was it better than the first installment? It’s hard to say, it’s different, but not too different. The segments, while they don’t necessarily flow together, are not out of place with one another either. There were a couple segments that I loved, more so than the first.

Let’s take a look at V/H/S/2 segment by segment.

Much like the first film, this one presents itself with the recurring short that ties all the others together. As opposed to a gang of rowdy criminals, this time we’re treated to what appears to be an amateur private eye and his girlfriend who are hunting down a student who has a very worried mother, as he has been missing class and been unreachable. After tracking down where they believe he's been living, they are treated to a disheveled house with an amalgamation of television sets and a big ‘ol pile of VHS tapes. While Ayesha, the pretty blonde, settles in to start viewing the tapes, her boyfriend Larry begins to investigate the house. While you do see bits and pieces of this short throughout the others, I'm not going to focus on it, as it merely serves as the glue of the film. You can see it for yourself when you watch it tonight on Netflix!

Phase I Clinical Trials

One aspect that I love about these films is that these directors have found very inventive ways to work around the stigma of the found footage genre. Unlike Paranormal Activity, which sticks largely to the format of home security cameras, personal camcorders, and the occasional addition of modern technology. This short, however, employs the idea of an implant. An eye implant for a man who was in an accident and somehow (quite miraculously) only injured his left eye. It’s a new technology, so the team who invented it are observing and recording everything he sees to work out glitches. SPOILER:What this poor soul doesn’t know is that this implant gives him the special ability to see the dead. 

I really enjoyed this short, it was a great way to kick off the film, and had a pretty fun twist on the idea of a haunted house. While you are left wondering why the ghosties suddenly seemed to care about his presence in his (apparently well lived in) house after he had the implant, with a dash of the suspension of disbelief, you can work around this one quite easily. Adam Wingard, who directed and starred in the short, delivers another solid piece of horror lovin’. 

A Ride in the Park

This one utilizes the use of a Go Pro camera on the helmet of a man who enjoys mountain biking. After having a very lovey-dovey conversation with his sweetheart, who is upset that he would rather ride his bike than her, he takes off down a mountain trail until he stumbles upon a young woman who is bloodied and screaming. After stopping her and attempting to help her, it’s quickly made evident that, well, he’s pretty much screwed. Zombies are a-foot y’all. SPOILER: What follows is, in my opinion, a very fun take on the zombie approach. After being bitten by said screaming lady (he just so happened to stumble upon her seconds before her change), we get to see his zombified viewpoint as he stumbles around, crashing children’s birthday parties, looking for his next meal. 

Eduardo Sanchez, who you may know as the director of a little film called The Blair Witch Project brings us this one with the help of his long time partner Gregg Hale. Now, let that sink in for a second. The man who pretty much single handedly gave the world the found footage genre made this short film. Pretty awesome. As I said before, this was a very fun short film. For someone who isn’t a huge fan of the zombie movement, I thoroughly enjoyed this take on it because it’s never been seen before. It was funny, it was fresh and it has a pretty tasty ending as well.

Safe Haven

This was probably my favorite segment of the film. It combines cult religions, the occult and foreign horror all into one deliciously violent package. A group of documentarians travel to Indonesia to interview the leader of a cult who has come under scrutiny, as it is believed that he has sex with young girls in order to “purify them”. After some persuasion, they get the leader (affectionately called The Father by his followers) to allow them to come to his compound to interview him and film the rituals of the cult. SPOILER: Mid-interview the camera’s battery beings to die, so while the interviewer is off fetching another battery a bell begins to chime and The Father beings to instruct his followers that it is the “time of reckoning” which triggers a mass suicide throughout the compound. 
Now, this is a very crude summary. I could go on for another 3 paragraphs, but I won’t, I believe this is one that is best experienced with little to no prior knowledge of the film. Up and coming Indonesian director Timo Tjahjanto (Macabre) really did a great number on this one. While it was filmed in a traditional found footage manner, I loved the mix of cult and foreign appeal that this one had. It even managed to go all occult at the end. 

Slumber Party Alien Abduction
Probably my least favorite of the four, however still not a bad contribution to the film. And another interesting filming technique. This time, while another Go Pro offering, we see it attached to a little doggy. When mom and dad go out of town for the weekend, they leave big sister in charge of little brother and his friends while they have a sleep over. For the most part, it’s an uneventful weekend; aside from the impending alien invasion that takes place that night.
While this may not have been my favorite, it still had it’s enjoyable moments. I didn’t feel the terror all that much, it seemed a taaaad played out. I did enjoy the earlier bits of the segment though, the little brother and his friends were hilarious. I will say there were some pretty tense moments, although any more elaboration would ruin the experience for any new viewers.
As I said before, could I say that this film was better than the first? No, I can’t. They’re different films, and they don’t quite follow the same rules as other sequels do. There is no congruent story line leading from the first to the second, but if you enjoyed the first film, then you will enjoy this one. Four new stories, with completely different angles than the previous five. 

If you’ve seen it, share your thoughts below and as always, keep it spooky.

- Rg Lovecraft

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