Saturday, August 24, 2013

V/H/S 2


  V/H/S 2 is a really cool movie. It's the second installment in the V/H/S series, in which each movie is a found footage anthology that is tied together by a single setting in a pair of bookend and transitional scenes. (I say series, cause a third is being made, and well... you know horror movies. They never stop at three.)
I'm not a huge fan of found footage movies. They tend to either be cool, like Cloverfield (step off haters) or just shitty like some I won't even grace with a mention. I've heard reactions about the initial V/H/S, and they ranged from "It was cool" to "AWFUL" and doing a bit more digging, I found many people to be disappointed with it. Fortunately, the sequel was getting all kinds of good buzz. Even from some friends of mine. So I figured I'd give it a shot.

  Really glad I did too, this movie is indeed really cool. I don't wanna say great, because being an anthology with several segments, not all of them are actually that good. Yet some are fantastic. One, specifically, but we'll get to that later. There is so much potential in anthology films, one of my personal favorites, Heavy Metal, pulled it off rather well. In Heavy Metal which is animated and in general is worlds apart from V/H/S 2, save for the fact they're both anthology films... in Heavy Metal, you have a variety of art styles, animation techniques, and the like. You get something different from each segment. Most are really cool, and some you just kinda... sit through. Another anthology film I liked was the Animatrix, same bag essentially. Speaking of variety and quality, V/H/S 2 falls right in line. There are some segments which are just cool enough to keep you watching, and others which are sheer awesome.

  The key to V/H/S 2's success is that it puts the clips in the right places. In terms of quality especially. To break it down, I'll review each segment and then review the film's worth as a whole.

  Tape 49 is the framing narrative that ties all the clips together. I thought it wasn't that bad, it was appropriately creepy for the most part, and overall served it's function if nothing else. Ye be warned, arr, thar be spoilers in these waters, arrr. Okay, so, Tape 49 is about a private investigator and his girlfriend(?)/assistant/partner who're hired to find a missing young man by his mother who apparently hasn't heard from him in a while. So they go to the guy's house and break in at night, only to find some pretty weird shit. A bunch of old TV's and tape decks, VCRs, and stacks of recording VHSs.  While the guy goes around looking at other shit, the girl sits down to look through these tapes for evidence. Plausible.
Okay, this is where I have issues with it. Each tape is apparently what any sane person would think, is some of the outright goddamn freakiest shit ever...

  Yet! She barely reacts to them, and after each segment, the little narrative finds some reason to have her play the next one, until she actually passes out due to their 'supernatural' effect I guess. Then her boyfriend rushes in to see what happened, he's holding her, checking on her... and instead of, I DON'T KNOW, getting her to a fucking hospital, what does he do...? HE PUTS THE NEXT TAPE IN.  I audibly shouted "Bullshit!" at that moment. Seriously. Not to mention the theory that the tapes have some effect on you, doesn't apply here, because he conveniently never SAW any of them. Somehow he was out of the room, each damn time, and for the WHOLE time she watched these segments. I won't spoil the ending or the mini plot about what happened to the missing guy, which is pretty neat actually, so it makes up for it. Almost.

  Anyways the first segment she watches is called Phase 1: Clinical Trials, which I think was okay overall, I think it was creepy, and well made, but far from mind blowing or anything. It's basically about a guy who gets a new prosthetic eye which is a camera that actually jacks into the optic nerve, allowing the guy to see out of that eye. However, shit gets messy when he starts seeing dead people that night at home. The plot actually has a few neat twists in it's limited run time and actually surprised me more than I thought it would. It even has a little bit of humor in there, which is never unwelcome if done right. The acting was solid and it made good use of the first person perspective angle, but how the digital video signal relayed from his camera eye to the hospital or whatever, made it's way onto an obsolete video format is beyond me. This is actually something that bugged me. For a movie that's central motif is VHS tapes, you'd think their one requirement from these segments (all written and directed by different teams) is that the story would have to have a plausible way of winding up on a VHS tape. Not all of the stories have this problem, but some definitely do and it's annoying as all can be.

  Following that one was the much better segment, A Ride in the Park. This follows a cyclist, who's attached some P.O.V. cameras onto his helmet and bike for a joy ride down the bike in the park. This of course goes terribly wrong when zombies come into play and he becomes one himself. A horror short from the perspective of a zombie? Even if I'm not a total fan of how it ultimately played out, kudos for one hell of an original angle. I liked this just for the creativity if nothing else. Not to mention the fantastic makeup effects. I won't spoil anything else about this seeing as how it's one of the better ones, but keep in mind the movie is only baiting you for it's awesome centerpiece.

  That piece of awesomeness is titled Safe Haven, and it's easily the best segment in the movie. Probably also the best thing about the movie period. Yeah. So it follows a film crew in Indonesia who convince a new-age cult leader to allow them to come to his compound and interview him about his beliefs and some rumored controversy. Eager to get his word out, he accepts. However, if weird vibes were road blocks, the crew never would've made it up the mountain to the compound. The atmosphere in this one is so gritty and realistic that you know whatever is going to happen is going to be horrifying. Cults are scary as is, cults in movies, moreso (sometimes).  This segment goes all out in every horror department, and scares up a near perfect score  from me. I haven't seen anything as intense as the last part of this segment in ages, my heart was in my throat, and I was legitimately unnerved. Which says alot seeing as how I consider myself to be a fairly desensitized viewer. Safe Haven shows alot of things head on, but doesn't need to rely on shock effect alone to scare you, it's haunting atmosphere, frantic pacing and amazing acting really sells the story and situation. Also, I can totally understand how this might actually end up on VHS which makes it creepier all the more.

  Lastly we have Slumber Party Alien Abduction which I hate to say is not one of the stronger ones. No use trying to hide the fact it's about Aliens or anything. I'll just say it, the story is balls. I didn't like it. Parents go away on vacation or something leaving their irresponsible teenage daughter (who's just gonna shack up with her boyfriend. Tch. Cliche.) in charge of her younger brother, and his buddies who're having a sleepover. Then Aliens show up and start abducting everyone. The Aliens are cool and this reminds me of something X-Files might've used as a cold open in one of their episodes, unfortunately the characters are so plainly annoying, cliche, and ill-introduced that when certain ones get abducted or attacked, you don't really care. Following Safe Haven, I can't imagine anything not being a disappointment in some manner, but this one wasn't really good. I mean, not to say it was bad, but it had no twist, it was paper thin, and full of unlikable characters. It's easily the most uncreative story in the bunch and that's sad because the visual treatment of the aliens was really scary and effective. I dunno how they managed to make a segment about alien abductions, not have it be amazing, and use it to cap off the film? Lame. But not a total tragedy. I've seen worse.

  We then come full circle back to Tape 49's conclusion, ultimately wrapping up the film in a neat way that I really enjoyed. On the whole, the movie is fun and unique and at times, scary. What it occasionally lacks in quality, it makes up for with sheer creativity and fun. If not for the couple weak links, V/H/S 2 might've been a bona-fide genre classic. It's certainly one of the better found footage films I've seen, and along with it's use of practical effects, I can say I'm a fan. Looking forward to more as well. Sign me up.

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