Blair Witch (2016)

★★

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Blair Witch PosterDirector: Adam Wingard

Release Date: 15th September, 2016 (UK); 16th September, 2016 (US)

Genre: Horror; Thriller

Starring: Callie Hernandez, James Allen McCune, Valorie Curry

Netflix, for all of its cultural zeitgeist curating — yes, Stranger Things is wonderful and, yes, we should ramble on about it forever (or at least until the next new series hits in a few weeks) — is at its best when fulfilling the promise of its roots. In other words, when it functions as a library of untapped gems. I watched one of those gems a few weeks ago, a found footage film with a science fiction setting and horror proclivities, and a good one at that. Aside from strong performances and an increasingly eerie atmosphere, Sebastián Cordero’s Europa Report champions a found footage style that minimises the head-spinning amateur wobbliness we often have to endure, but which also maintains the unsettling sense of privacy invasion that found footage, at its best, should enact. Europa Report, released in 2013, struggled to find a theatrical audience.

Yet, here we are. Another found footage horror release towing the subgenre line, another mainstream commodity (though surprisingly not another box office victory). Filmmaking team Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett have cultivated, certainly in my eyes, an admirable reputation for undercutting genre tropes and flavouring their films with semi-satire. You’re Next isn’t perfect but it does throw bombs at horror clichés with amusing success. Even better, The Guest upholds taut thriller tendencies as it encourages us to revel in the villainy of its not-so-cookie-cutter lead. Therefore it is odd that Blair Witch, the duo’s newest offering, often falls so far by the witty, intelligent wayside.

We’ll start with the story: a group of nice-looking adventurers with age on their side travelling somewhere they shouldn’t because they reckon it is a good idea when everyone sat in the screening room and standing in the foyer knows it isn’t. The GallowsAs Above, So Below. Area 51. That sort of thing. Blair Witch sees the brother of The Blair Witch Project’s Heather Donahue head to the forests of Maryland in search of his missing sister whom he reckons is still alive. James (James Allen McCune) is joined by documentarian pal Lisa (Callie Hernandez) and their friends Peter (Brandon Scott) and Ashley (Corbin Reid).

The film revisits the final moments of The Blair Witch Project at the beginning, instantly alerting us to the grainy aesthetic of the original horror; in fact, one of this instalment’s redeeming features is its occasional use of an old camcorder to document events, a visual reminder of what came before. Elsewhere, the film uses up-to-date high-definition technology including earpieces embedded with mini cameras and a drone to shoot from above (the drone is never used to its full potential, barely fluttering above the forest foliage). Very little happens for half an hour, the characters merely learning how to work their equipment before heading to their destination. Although this isn’t time spent particularly interestingly, these minutes do at least paint those on-screen in a fairly genial light. James and Lisa are particularly amiable, neither pushy nor arrogant, both a far cry from genre caricatures.

It’s not until we the reach the Burkittsville creep-land that things begin to take a turn for the haphazard. The group arrange to meet with a couple wielding knowledge of the area in the hope that they will lead them to their desired location and then depart. But of course Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry), indiscreetly hiding their collective kookiness, want to stick around as part of the deal. Because every scary excursion has to accommodate someone (or some people in this instance) willing to spout his/her supernatural inclinations at every opportunity. I should also note that by this point we’ve already heard one member of the party poke fun at the idea Heather is still alive. And shortly thereafter, another member of the party injures her foot. Which effectively means no running from The Bad Stuff.

There are spooky campfire tales, noises in the night, Wicker-Man-esque stick symbols, and folks wandering off alone. The inclusion of so many blatant tropes would be fine if the film then countered with either some brazen self-awareness (like in You’re Next), or at the very least a handful of genuine scares. But it’s not scary, in part because the camera contorts too violently in moments of would-be tension, disorientating us — yes — but never affording us the chance to engage with or understand what is happening on-screen. And I don’t think there is an awful lot of self-aware hilarity going on either. When the proverbial hits the fan, Lisa et al. appear much too freaked out for any of streaks of amusement to stick. I suppose the actors do offer the infrequent helping of light relief (Scott’s reaction to an infected cut), but in truth there is nothing for us to be momentarily relieved from.

The best scene actually involves said cut and, you guessed it, an unhealthy serving of oozetastic body-horror. Kudos to the prop masters and makeup artists for provoking legitimate yelps of disgust (at least that’s how the scene played with most of the audience in my screening). Elsewhere, a tree-climbing sequence places Foley workers in the foreground, branches creaking and murmuring to delightful effect, part of an OTT noise-fest that would make Toby Jones proud.

As the story advances, Blair Witch adopts more of a monster movie mantra, distinguishing itself from the paranormal tensions of its predecessor. We see glimpses of the creature, removing the disconcerting veil of uncertainty that covered the original and boosted its chilling potential. The ingredients fail to click, or maybe they just aren’t strong enough. Any potshotting nods, instances where the filmmakers look to knowingly nudge their well-versed audience, translate poorly. Besides, the film’s overabundant use of familiar genre commands would almost certainly render satirical swipes moot (see Deadpool). Wingard and Barrett will doubtless be back with something devilishly sweeter. This one just irks because it is a sequel to the prototypical found footage horror, the one that reinvented the game for better or worse, and it is timidly generic.

Blair Witch - Valorie Curry

Images credit: IMP Awards, Collider

Images copyright (©): Lionsgate

The Gallows (2015)

The Gallows PosterDirector: Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing

Release Date: July 10th, 2015 (US); July 17th, 2015 (UK)

Genre: Horror; Thriller

Starring: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford

Remember the days when movie titles made use of inanimate objects and animals to induce a sense of clinical creep? The Birds. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Alien. Those are probably bad examples given chain saw massacres are far from inanimate and aliens aren’t technically animals, but the point is The Gallows could have been one of those movies with a creepy title backed up by creepier content. It’s not, as it transpires, and that becomes fairly obvious fairly quickly.

We’re back in the found footage dimension — you know, the black abyss of modern horror — and in the company of cameraman Ryan (he’s really a high school footballer but for the purposes of this film he’s also a cameraman), his girlfriend Cassidy, pal Reese, and Reese’s crush Pfeifer. The foursome find themselves locked in school after dark and, unsurprisingly, are drawn into a sinister game of cat and mouse opposite the ghost of tragic history. Moral of the story? School finishes at 3:30 pm.

A common problem with the found footage design is it tends to hinder character development because it limits how we literally see those on-screen, often from the same angle and same perspective, while hiding the person behind the camera. As such, the characterisation here is pretty sub-standard: “Hey Reese, can I borrow your blouse?” are some of the first words Ryan says to his mate after a dodgy drama rehearsal (Reese has decided the most effective route to Pfeifer’s heart is playing opposite her in their school theatre production). It’s a bland, easy introduction to a bland, easy set of students and one not at all aided by the rest of the football team’s boyish insults that follow.

This is the stereotypical, grating, douchey high school behaviour Richard Linklater mercifully avoided in Everybody Wants Some!! and the sort of behaviour that serves only to undermine any care we have for those on-screen. Even the drama students are unbearably caricature: geek attributes maximised, ‘dorky’ glasses abound, lead actress buoyed by more positive energy than the Sun. The film has only been on for around 10 minutes by this point but even by the 70th minute the same broad strokes are stifling people. At least in this version of high school the drama geeks manage to dish out some prank revenge on the football douches.

The actors use their own first names because it’s all real and they are not really actors. (On a serious note, aren’t we past the point of trying to pretend this found footage stuff is in any way authentic?) Their performances are fine, though Ryan — the guy hauling the camera around — oscillates between high-pitched wailing and incomprehensible whispering a little too often. Another thing that’s odd: the play that the students are rehearsing is a rerun of the same one that killed a child many years prior, and given people still seem traumatised by that event, why even do a rerun? Sure, it’s the 20th anniversary of the tragedy. But wouldn’t a memorial service have sufficed? It’s especially grisly when you consider the child died via accidental hanging.

Regardless, it’s an inevitable part of the plot therefore you’re left hoping for something to differentiate the film from the usual genre pack. Writer-director duo Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing dabble in the superstitions (“Break a leg”) of stage performing without reinventing them, or at the very least provoking any new connotations — maybe by not having the characters angrily coax the dead or leave an injured mate behind. Everything goes belly-up: open doors become locked (apart from the large brick one with an eerie cross engraved on it); the group start blaming each other amid ensuing relationship drama; the gallows’ noose, previously removed from its perch by Ryan, saunters back up there unassisted.

Of course, the school does bear windows that the group could break open and escape out of at any moment. The dialogue and situational development are both so poor you wonder whether the filmmakers are actually embarking down a purposefully satirical route — for instance, at the start of the movie Ryan discovers a damaged door primed for after-dark entry. See, Reese needs to destroy the play’s set because it is the only way he can get out of a would-be terrible performance. The only way. A performance, incidentally, that he agreed to deliver because he fancies Pfeifer and it is the only way Reese can initiate a relationship between the pair. The only way. That’s high school for you.

There are a handful of quiet-quiet-bang moments that give us a fright, but these are frights without substance. You won’t remember any of them because none of them hold any weight: they aren’t emotionally or audibly or visually scary (that’s not true: there is one suitably unsettling visual during a red-tinted scene that revisits the hauntingly quiet manoeuvres of the Babadook). But otherwise the attempted scares encourage a human reaction as natural as visiting the toilet during a three-hour Tarantino film.

Look, this is cheap horror, and worse, cheap found footage horror, made for popcorn audiences searching for an easy cinemagoing escape. I don’t doubt the people involved in the process put in a lot of hard work and effort, and perhaps for some of them The Gallows conveyed genuine promise. But it should be held to the same standard as the best outings, films like The Blair Witch Project, and there simply is no comparison. It’s another case of dollar bills over quality. Lo and behold, The Gallows made $43 million — so who cares?

The Gallows - Cassidy Gifford

Images credit: IMP Awards, Collider

Images copyright (©): Warner Bros.

Unfriended (2015)

★★★

Unfriended PosterDirector: Levan Gabriadze

Release Date: April 17th, 2015 (US); May 1st, 2015 (UK)

Genre: Horror; Thriller

Starring: Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm, Will Peltz

Sitting in the cinema, half regretting my decision to see another potentially uninspired scare-free jaunt, half suppressing those cynical emotions, it became impossible to avoid the endless stream of horror trailers. Insidious: Part 3 — Even More Insidious (I think). A Poltergeist remake (Poltertwice, I think). There were probably others. To judge a film before seeing it is unfair and ultimately pointless, however the trailers all shared that annoyingly familiar ‘quiet, quiet, quiet… BANG!’ effect. It was obvious then that Unfriended needed to bring something fresh to an often exploited genre.

Much like The Blair Witch Project was back in 1999, Levan Gabriadze’s film is, for the most part, refreshingly different. Not afraid to embrace its target audience, the entire 83 minutes are relayed to popcorn-crunching teens and young date-nighters via computer screen. As a result, Unfriended is able to manoeuvre around the usual formalities and upload some genuine moments of terror. The monitor format is a novelty but it is one that surely reverberates with many viewers who feverishly delete search histories and spend far too long formulating replies to mates.

The computerised approach neatly ties in with the overarching theme too: cyber bullying. A group of high school students reconvene over Skype for what appears to be common nightly arrangement. It is Blaire’s (Shelley Hennig) screen through which we gaze, making her the central character and also the least offensive. She is online with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm), and three others — Jess (Renee Olstead), Ken (Jacob Wysocki) and Adam (Will Peltz).

As the insufferable clan — for once, it looks like they’re supposed to be insufferable — banter back and forth, an unknown caller joins the conversation. Unable to fend off the uninvited, the group grow increasingly wary. As it turns out, this is the first anniversary of the death of Blaire’s childhood pal Laura Barns, who committed suicide after a bout of bullying. Is the appearance of this immovable online intruder a coincidence? Unlikely. Bad stuff is about to go down.

From the moment we log into proceedings there is a sense of unease. The Universal Pictures logo freezes up, doing that pixely thing your laptop screen does when you’ve left Netflix on pause for too long before eventually pressing play again. Avoid the impulse to charge out and complain about more shoddy projectionist work though — Unfriended is simply getting into its techno-distortion mentality. There is a lot more pixel interference to come.

This is a film aimed at the younger audience, and its attempt to relay an anti-bullying message is noted (though the chat in class tomorrow will probably be about blenders and Blaire’s iffy iTunes content). For a while it does feel like an R-rated public service announcement; like one of those road safety talks in school where you know the speaker, having finished flagging up things you shouldn’t do when behind the wheel, is about to reveal a harrowing true story involving a nearby accident. In Unfriended the thing you shouldn’t do is be a bully and the harrowing accident(s) is shortly forthcoming. Fortunately, by then PSA-mode is on the back burner.

We Millennials are an easy lot to scare — “Laura Barns” has unsurprisingly become a top YouTube and Google search — but the disconcerting atmosphere that lingers throughout Unfriended is authentic. Though this is still a Scream-esque roulette of death, the delivery unique. The computer screen framing method is overcrowding, leaving nowhere to look as group members are set for the chop. The first casualty is the most unsettling — this person’s still image left to linger on screen, subsidised by an oddness and a feeling that something isn’t right. As the evening wears on, Gabriadze incorporates a few subtle elements that bolster the drive for believability. For instance Blaire’s mouse cursor becomes an indicator of panic, moving more rapidly when she feels threatened.

Sadly, annoyingly, the generic pitfalls are there: dumb characters (they aren’t initially aware that it’s the anniversary of their friend’s death) and lazy scares. Blaire, despite her apparent internet savviness, doesn’t know what an online troll is. In 2015. And why don’t these people just simultaneously scamper to a nearby neighbour’s house for help? Perhaps the idea is that they’re all too sucked in by the grisly online culture to remove themselves from it, but even that seems a bit far-fetched in a life or death scenario. They also all appear to live alone, though to be fair that isn’t unrealistic given their prevailing lack of personableness.

It is entirely likely that the characters are supposed to be somewhat lame — they are bullies after all — however the shift towards lazily constructed frights is disappointing. A death involving a blender does pang you right in the sternum with a dollop of discomfort, but it is only momentary. Only brief and unimaginative, scaring you in the same way a random fire alarm blaring would. The aforementioned creepy images lodge into our headspace because they’re given more time to fester on screen, and because there often is something alarming about peculiarity.

The actors, who essentially spend an hour and a half manufacturing disturbed faces and loud shrieks through webcams, are perfectly fine. One asserts, “What we’ve done here will live forever,” capturing the film’s ethos in a nutshell. It is a pertinent message. Don’t be a bully, period. Don’t stock up on future regret through social media misuse either. In that sense Unfriended is scary, but it is also- ah, hold on. I have an incoming Skype call.

Unfriended - Cast

Images credit: IMP Awards, Collider

Images copyright (©): Universal Pictures

The Sacrament (2014)

★★★

The Sacrament PosterDirector: Ti West

Genre: Horror; Thriller

Release Date: June 6th, 2014 (US limited); June 8th, 2014 (UK)

Starring: AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz

The horror genre’s latest aficionado Ti West is back with another vibrant take on spook-ville. The director employs a seemingly ever present found footage style that gives his film an engaging intimacy, but that ultimately struggles to uphold much legitimacy. West is an intriguing prospect, someone who will doubtless see his name hurtling towards the annals of scary cinema before long. The filmmaker’s outings are always at least partially efficient and that is once again the case here. It’s not that The Sacrament is half cooked — the movie is better than that — rather, what opens promisingly soon flounders at the mercy of the found footage Kool-Aid and never quite musters the strength to bounce back.

Under the topical guise of VICE, reporter Sam (AJ Bowen) joins cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg) and photographer Patrick (Kentucker Audley) as they venture to the home of a mysterious cult hoping to find the latter’s missing sister. Upon arrival, the trio discover apparent serenity embodied wholly by said sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz) whose sparky demeanour is overflowing with positivity. The group soon wander into an air of uncertainty and, unsurprisingly, all is not quite as it seems.

It should come as no surprise to viewers that West’s film is accomplished in a technical sense. The director knows how to work with mood and setting and here he combines the two with deft touch, even if the overall outcome is not completely satisfying. The Sacrament looks good, which is no mean feat given the gritty and sometimes turbulent parameters set out by the found footage genre. Those who have previously seen West’s segment in V/H/S will already be privy to his work alongside the eternal shaky cam — his Second Honeymoon narrative was arguably the best of a mediocre bunch — and that experience has paid off for the most part.

Where The Sacrament struggles is not in technical execution but instead when caught in the limited web of its shooting style. Sure, the simplicity surrounding found footage inherently induces a somewhat unlimited scope. Yet the genre has never really ascended beyond those conventions set out by The Blair Witch Project. Contrivance is abound and the usual questions rear their aching heads. Why are they still filming? Where does the second camera come from, and why wasn’t it used up until the point of necessity?

West and company attempt to get around these issues by inducing an added layer of realism. Something that gives off a more justifiable air. Our characters adopt the increasingly popular VICE tag, one supposed to lure us into a false sense of authenticity. It doesn’t really. The adoption of a company banner that we know of as genuine, in a film that we know for sure is fake, strikes as rather misguided. Events not caught on camera are textually narrated and the time occasionally flares up on screen in a documentary slant, by which point we’re calling out for a normal horror outing and not another flagrant attempt at pseudo-realism.

The shooting style can — and probably does — draw attention away from scares. Regardless, for a solid 50 minutes this is quite unnerving. The filmmakers successfully manipulate an obviously eclectic tone, one that is really quite odd. Sam and cameraman Jake, who we follow around for the most part, conduct everyday discussions with the cult residents when we’re instead expecting some form of kookiness. The landscape is usual and calm when it shouldn’t be and thus there manifests an offset nature, a decentralising vibe that is suitably unsettling.

The introduction of Father, the cult leader, also signals a swift switch away from normality. Played squirmingly well by Gene Jones, Father is eerily charismatic and utterly captivating. (“Everything just got caught up in this weird energy, I couldn’t think straight… he had a way about him”, recoils interviewer Jake). The man prescribes a nonchalant edginess, as if he is disconnected from those around him and too focused on the tainted greater good; the way he replies to Jake, his drawling laugh, that knowing grin — we are well aware that he’s up to no good but the residents are lost in his gaze. It is certainly not an inspired narrative, but Jones’ scenery-chewing execution is simply so fun to watch.

When we’re not enraptured by Father’s spell — he almost ventures into Scooby-Doo villain territory with his preemptive warnings (“You boys have a nice evening…”) — West shifts focus away from the haunting atmosphere to one fuelled by social commentary. Though in other hands this manoeuvre could be troubled by indulgence, West manages the informative titbits well without ever lecturing his audience. He’s an intelligent guy and gets his points across without condescension, choosing to single out our over reliance on technology and inability to be self-preserving.

It is a shame that the final act falters. Rather than capitalising on the creepy mood, the film turns towards gross out gore and action-influenced sequences. A prerogative that was previously guided by admirable restraint is quickly caught up in an unnecessary need to get things done, and therefore the subsequent end result is too generic to be impactful. An attempt at a shock-fest appears to infiltrate proceedings; it’s almost as if the outing substitutes Ti West for producer Eli Roth.

The Sacrament never quite usurps the constraints laid out by its choreography — in truth the genre is becoming increasingly stale. Despite this, and notwithstanding its blanket conclusion, the film is a superbly delivered piece. AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg and Amy Seimetz should be noted for their ever welcoming screen presences in a movie that is really quite hair-raising for an hour.

The Sacrament - AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg

Images credit: IMP Awards, Collider

Images copyright (©): Magnolia Pictures, Magnolia Home Entertainment

V/H/S/2 (2013)

★★

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