Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Movie Review: V/H/S 2 (2013)

I'm really starting to fall in love with anthologies, and I'm so glad that people haven't forgotten about this film sub-genre, especially when it comes to horror movies. As with pretty much all anthologies, though, things are going to be hit or miss when it comes to ranking the different segments. The same was true with 2012's V/H/S which had a few shorts that I loved and the rest... eh, not so much, but the overall film was pretty awesome. And obviously popular, because now here we are with V/H/S 2 (argh, they should've stuck with "S-VHS") and it has one returning director and four new ones helming five segments, one less than the previous film.

Tape 49
Directed by Simon Barrett

Tape 49 serves as the wraparound narrative for V/H/S 2. Two private investigators, Larry and Ayesha, break into a house to look for a women's missing son. They don't find him but they do find a house full old VHS tapes and a video that the young man made. Ayesha sits down to watch some of the tapes while Larry investigates. There's not a whole lot to this wraparound until the end, but even then it doesn't make much sense and fails to really explain what is going on. As Ayesha continues to watch the  tapes, it starts to affect her in a strange way, plus a figure keeps appearing in the background of the room in which she's watching them. The ending to this segment is delightfully gruesome but all the unanswered questions (what the hell was happening to Ayesha? Why did the mother send the PIs there?) bothered me a little bit. I did like the fucked up motivation of the son's to make his own insane VHS tape like the ones he's been watching and collecting, however, this could have been fleshed out a lot more.

Phase I Clinical Trials
Directed by Adam Wingard

Director Adam Wingard stars as his own main character in Phase I Clinical Trials as a man who suffered an eye injury in a car accident and is participating in the testing of a new kind of camera eye. Though he has his sight back, the patient soon finds out that his new eye also allows him to see other things - things he never wanted to see in the first place. This short plays out like a typical ghost story with a lot of "boo!" jump scares that you can see coming a mile away. Though some of the imagery is rightfully creepy, like the shape of a body under his covers and the look of the actual bionic eye whenever the man looks in the mirror, things get weird when a strange woman shows up. She has a cochlear implant and can hear or sense the ghosts instead of seeing him like our main character can, and other than to explain what is happening to him, she doesn't serve much of a purpose. After that there's a bit of a chase leading up to a supposedly shocking climax that doesn't really manage to shock at all. Phase I Clinical Trials gets the award for figuring out a way to do the found footage in a totally new way and for the ending, but I'm still a little "meh" about this one. I would say that this short could be better if given a longer time limit but the basic premise has pretty much already been done with The Eye (no, not you, Jessica Alba... go away).

Still love both Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett though because they are so my homeboys. Can't wait to see You're Next.

*UPDATE* Watched You're Next last night and really liked it! Review hopefully coming soon...

A Ride in the Park
Directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale

I have no idea who these two directors are but now I know that I like their style. Mike is a bicyclist going out for ride through the woods and for some reason he has a camera on his helmet and somewhere on the handlebars of his bike, pointing at him. Anywho, he comes across a woman who asks him for help but ends up attacking him and turning him into a zombie. So now we get a short from the point of view of a zombie, which turns out to be strangely gruesome, funny, and sad at the same time. This is one of the best looking shorts of the bunch with many shots that are framed perfectly (the accompanying picture is my favorite) and some nice gore work as Mike chomps down on some victims - and himself - even pulling out some intestines in one scene. The funny part comes when he tries to eat the guy's wallet and spits it out. That was cute. I'm not so sure about the whole zombie-still-remembers-love thing by the end of the short but it worked on me in the moment, and made for a better ending than just somebody else putting him down with a gun. All in all, a very good little tale that I quite enjoyed. Thumbs up!

Safe Haven
Directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans

Okay, let's all just stand up right now and applaud these guys, because Safe Haven was beyond words awesome. Perhaps that is a little unfair seeing as how this is the longest segment of the five and therefore had a lot more room to develop and show us lots of cool stuff, but damn, did it ever deserve it. The story follows a news crew as they film and interview the "father" of a cult called Paradise Gates. After entering their compound and getting deeper into the community, things soon get seriously out of hand for our characters. I was definitely expecting something weird to happen with the whole cult thing, but not anything like this. There are so many amazing moments that happen here - the throat slashing (which I both love and hate at the same time), the body exploding, the room of guys who commit suicide, not to mention the full-grown fucking demon climbing out of a woman's stomach. Effects work is fantastic all the way through and looks so realistic that the VHS quality actually makes it look even more awesome, you know? Safe Haven is pretty much an all around amazing little bit of filmmaking right here. The acting, the story, the fantastic effects that just get more surprising with each new scene... all leading up another great conclusion that actually had me laughing my head off from pure enjoyment.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction
Directed by Jason Eisener

As the last segment in this anthology, Slumber Party Alien Abduction is severely misplaced. Knowing the title before I saw it kind of ruined the surprise for me but there's still a lot wrong with this segment. A group of kids are making mischief and filming it while their parents are gone, when, duh, aliens land and come after them. Yawn. Despite being young and innocent kids, the characters are all unlikable and annoying. The camera mounted on the family dog is no doubt inventive and a good way to explain how they are still filming while being chased by aliens, but it's still weird. The aliens themselves are your typical grey boys with bald heads and long limbs, so there's nothing new or fun there. The short is also too short! There's a little bit of a set up and then most of the exciting stuff is just a quick chase sequence where not much else happens. I'm bored. Order is definitely important in an anthology, people, and this one did not deserve to be last.

V/H/S 2 is a step up from its predecessor in a few ways, with more likable characters and bringing the number of segments down by one so that some of the better shorts have more room to breathe. Two of the shorts are fairly weak (Tape 49 and Slumber Party Alien Abduction) while the other three are much more successful. Is V/H/S 3 coming soon then? Well, technically this series could go on forever because they are only linked by format instead of story, and I'd be more than happy to see more of this kind of stuff in the future.


  1. I actuallly liked ALien Slumber PArty! But yeah, this was an enormous step up from the first one... except for Tape 49, which I found didn't tie the segments together as well as the first film's narrative. The segments themselves also didn't have the VHS vibe as much as the original segments did though...

    1. You're kinda right about the segments not having the same VHS vibe... but I think that was one of the things I complained about with the first movie! All the times that the video cut out or distorted got so annoying after a while, I'm glad they didn't do that with the sequel.

  2. Yeah~! I knew you'll love this! So far, not much had bad mouthed this flick so I'm glad that you're glad that you find this film glad-worthy! And you know what else makes me glad? You being glad for loving You're Next! ...Glad!

    1. I haven't seen much bad press either, so it looks like this is a win! Fingers crossed for V/H/S 3 being just as great.

  3. Glad to read you enjoyed this, I really thought this was a much better entry than the first VHS which I liked as well. Eduardo Sanchez was part of the tandem that created Blair Witch. Strongest entries were definitely in the middle portion, I think Safe Haven deserves a full on film treatment.

    1. Safe Haven was no doubt the best one. I was thinking the same thing about it needing a full film treatment because it would make a really cool story.

  4. The framing segments and the first episode were meh, but I loved the other episodes, especially the absolutely insane Safe Haven and the hilariously awesome Slumber Party. Wouldn't mind a third V/H/S

    1. Slumber Party Alien Abduction would have served better probably as the first segment, then things would have only gotten better! Really expected more from the first segment, so disappointing.

  5. I think one of the issues with the relatability of the first segment was that not everyone has to think about their eyes that much. What I mean by this is that I have been wearing glasses most of my life. I have to think about my eyes several times a day. I tried doing contacts a couple years ago and had worst time getting them to settle in place. And, I had a certain level of freakiness that comes with poking your eyes on a daily basis. That being said, I still dream of the day when I can be rich enough to get corrective eye surgery. So, my eyeballs are part of my day/monthly though process. So the first segment of this movie was more real for me because I can connect with eyeball experiences.