V/H/S/2 (2013)

★★

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V/H/S/2 PosterDirectors: Various

Release Date: July 12th, 2013 (US limited) October 14th, 2013 (UK)

Genre: Horror; Thriller

Starring: Various

If 2012’s V/H/S failed to capture the adulation of those brave enough to tough it out, then there’s not much hope for this follow up. A film as uninspired as the title shepherding it suggests, V/H/S/2 has five opportunities to succeed yet, more often than not, chooses to beckon forth eternal disappointment through dullness. In fact, only via the purposeful mind of Gareth Evans does this horror outing really imbue a horrifying tingle. Otherwise, a terminal sense of ‘been there done that’ seeps from the screen, so much so that you’d be forgiven for thinking the segments in this piece are outtakes from the first film. Having been given a measly 20 minutes or so to showcase their talents, each of the seven directors (some segments are co-directed) ought to have vehemently lived by the mantra that denotes a maximisation of their minutes. Somebody inform the postal service because that memo certainly got lost in the mail.

Sewn together by a frame narrative identical both in execution and content to its visual sibling from the first film, V/H/S/2 relays four other slices of spook, apparently. To begin we see Clinical Trials, a ghost story that haunts viewers solely by way of its surprisingly lacklustre content. Next, A Ride in the Park combines the visceral sheen of The Walking Dead and District 9’s moral pickings, though would bite the proverbial hand off for either’s ingenuity. Safe Haven is the film’s saving grace, and there’s absolutely nothing safe nor graceful about Gareth Evans’ co-offering. Finally, extraterrestrials meet pyjamas in Alien Abduction Slumber Party, but this one just ain’t as fun as it should be.

Undoubtedly, the least effective short is actually the one that plays most often. Tape 49, as it is known, is like that annoying bout of buffering that occasionally interrupts whichever film you’re watching on Netflix, increasingly fuelling frustration upon third, fourth and fifth rearing. Directed by Simon Barrett, the Whac-A-Mole invariably shines a light on Larry (Lawrence Michael Levine) and his partner Ayesha (Kelsy Abbott), a pair of investigators doing some — wait for it — investigating into the disappearance of a college student. Upon reaching his last know location, a run-down and darkened house, the duo come across a series of televisions emitting static and ushering forth video tape viewing. Implemented as an anchor for the rest of the film, Tape 49 employs the exact same scare (or not) tactics as those seen in V/H/S, rendering the short exhaustingly ineffectual. Already, the remaining segments are at a disadvantage as they first must overcome the lingering cobwebs of Barrett’s effort, before advancing with their own agendas.

Admirably, Safe Haven complies in this regard. Malik (Oka Antara), news crew in tow, enters the residence of an unorthodox Indonesian Cult whose leader, the ‘father’ (Epy Kusnandar), has a severe ethics problem when it comes to the treatment of his followers. Inevitably, events suddenly go awry as the brainwashed group’s true intentions are revealed. Alongside Timo Tjahjanto, director Gareth Evans unleashes a tenacious bloodbath that supersedes every other piece of the V/H/S/2 puzzle. The directorial duo are productive in their utilisation of the found footage concept, generating an uncomfortable air of chaos through the style’s incorporation. Beginning fairly tepidly, you begin to worry that Safe Haven will conform to the generic inequalities of what has come before, but it’s not long before the horror short explodes (literally) into a viscous Jonestown rehash, carrying eerie imagery and brutal immediacy. This is what The Raid would look like if it was a horror movie: violent, relentless and utterly bonkers.

Adam Wingard’s Clinical Trials succeeds in conjuring up ghostly figures, but nothing else. Wingard was the overseer to V/H/S’s version of Tape 49, but his previous experience in the genre does nothing to aid proceedings here. The director also stars in his own segment, as a man who has chosen to take part in a social experiment that sees his sightless eye be replaced by a recording device. Upon returning home post-operation, the man is unceremoniously haunted by a ramshackle bunch of manifestations. Rather than coming across as an efficient stand-alone horror short, Clinical Trials plays more like the opening of Paranormal Activity 6. Though the eye-camera is a neat ploy in avoiding the often impractical continuous use of a handheld camera, there ain’t much to be seen through its lens. Jump-scares don’t frighten, nor do any of the creepily intended figures — conversely, one resembles the twin girls from The Shining, and another is unquestionably the overweight garden zombie from Shaun of the Dead. At one point, a woman shows up requesting a beer. Nope, me neither.

The remaining two slices of horror pie are equally average. Eduardo Sánchez of The Blair Witch Project teams with Gregg Hale and together they offer A Ride in the Park, or, The Walking Dead-lite. After trading dialogue more grotesque in its shallowness than any of the limb crunching about to occur (“You ride that bike more than you ride me”), a cyclist gets bitten by a zombie and subsequently becomes one. There are a couple of noteworthy elements to this piece: the directors’ twist on the found footage point of view, and an intentionally hilarious exchange of glances between a trio of undead — though, this humorous moment does jar with the tone of destitute dread set throughout the entire film. Jason Eisener’s Alien Slumber Party is comparable in delivery to A Ride in the Park, but rather than zombies attacking people, it’s aliens. While the creatures from outer-space do proceed broodingly, the segment is hampered by way of a retreat back to outdated scares through loud trumpeting noises and reddish-green flashing lights.

V/H/S sprung from the horror basements of talented pretenders to Craven, Lynch and Romero’s dark throne, and is a justified piece of cinema in that regard. Despite boasting a similarly talented array of budding directors, V/H/S/2 suffers from an overabundance in sameness. The effort is clearly there and, technically, most segments are delivered with verve. However, only the duo of Evans and Tjahjanto have something substantial to offer. Put simply, it’s not enough.

V/H/S/2 - Safe Haven

Author: Adam (Consumed by Film)

I'll be at the cinema if you need me.

17 thoughts on “V/H/S/2 (2013)”

  1. Better than the first and made me feel as if the found-footage genre really could have a new life, if people just decide to get even more and more bizarre with the form. Rather than just sticking to the same stuff the Paranormal Activity franchise has been doing. Good review.

    1. I agree that there’s a madhouse nature to it all – the maddest segment was Safe Haven and I really enjoyed that – but I was a bit bored by the rest of it. Glad you enjoyed it more though, cheers Dan!

    1. I’ve never been a big fan of the found footage gimmick (I’m one of the few who dislike Cloverfield) so there’s undoubtedly a preconceived struggle there. Though, when they get it right, à la Safe Haven, it can work really well. I do think this one was technically more efficient than the first. Thanks Joseph!

      1. I didn’t like Cloverfield either. I think only a couple of movies have gotten found footage right; Lake Mungo and The Den. Seen either?

        1. Thank you Eric, I feel vindicated in my – now not solo – dislike of Cloverfield! I haven’t seen those, only heard of Lake Mungo, so I’ll definitely give both a watch and report back.

  2. I was so unimpressed with the first one that I’ve avoided this one. But I am a huge fan of Gareth Evans and keep hearing that his segment is absolutely the best. I’m sure I’ll end up checking it out by means of his reputation alone. Great review!

    1. Big fan of Gareth Evans too, and his part is certainly the best of pretty average bunch. Neither film really works for me, but then again neither film is as bad as The ABCs of Death. Jeez. Talk about an unsubstantiated mess. Thanks mate!

      1. OMG the ABC’s of Death was just awful! So was Scary or Die. I don’t know what it is with the industry’s current fascination with anthologies, but I think we’ve well established that they don’t work.

        1. I shan’t dare venture anywhere near Scary or Die, ha! I guess the anthology is a tough one to crack as its success requires each individual ingredient in a film to comply with the next ingredient, and often that’s not the case.

  3. A lot of people have been recommending this to me after it failed to feature in my recent foundf ootage horror top 10. Neither did VHS for that matter. However, by the sounds of things I won’t be rushing out to see it. My most anticipated film in the found footage canon is Willow Creek which is out on DVD next month.

    1. It’s not one I’d go out my way to recommend. The segments don’t really connect, so maybe try and see Safe Haven, if any. I haven’t heard of Willow Creek, but will be sure to check it out next moth, cheers Dan!

  4. I actually have a weird fondness for the VHS films. I didn’t think much of the first or particularly the last segments in this, but I actually thought the two middle segments were great–the zombie one for its mix of humor and, toward the end, sadness, and the cult one for its creepy weirdness. Shame that you didn’t care for this one, but I do completely understand why. Lol. Great review!

    1. The zombie part is quite fun, but I just wonder if they could’ve done a bit more with it. I definitely reckon the cult segment is the best over the two films though. The thing that annoys me most is how both films connect each of the segments – the dark, haunted house thing just feels lazy to me. Thanks again Cara!

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