Looks like we’ve hit the summertime slump here at Mildly Pleased. The days get warm as the posts dry out. Though something unusual that always seems to happen about mid-July is the rekindling of my love for horror movies. It’s probably because this is normally when I start watching films in advance for “Shocktober” (a 31 day celebration of horror movies in October.) Anyways, I decided to take my renewed interest in the genre and watch V/H/S/2, the found-footage anthology sequel to 2012’s V/H/S. If you’d asked me a year ago, “Do you think V/H/S needs a sequel?” I would have told you you’re dumb. Yet not only was a sequel not a dumb idea, it took the opportunity to improve upon the former.
V/H/S/2 like its predecessor follows the same format; a collection of horror shorts by different directors all brought together under a filmed framing device (all found footage style). In this case the framing device (directed by Simon Barrett) revolves around two private investigators searching for a lost college student. Their investigation leads them to a house filled with TV’s and VHS tapes. The investigators find a recording of the student on a laptop where he informs them that watching the tapes in the correct sequence will “affect you” in a mysterious way. The female investigator begins to watch and the shorts begin.
Phase One Clinical Trials
The first segment is about a man who has his eye replaced with an untested cybernetic eye. The eye is installed with a camera to test the eye’s functionality but is also prone to occasional glitches. The man goes home but immediately starts seeing what appear to be dead people. He soon discovers that these aren’t glitches but are in fact ghosts! The short is simple but scary and ends in a grisly fashion, setting the tone for the rest of the film.
Phase 1 is directed by Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die and the upcoming You’re Next, a film with a lot of festival buzz) and is an exciting, out-of-yer-seat opener. It certainly has the most BOO! moments and I enjoy the clever setup. It’s a little lean on plot and the ending isn’t much to speak of but it’s fun nonetheless. With an anthology you want to open and close with a bang and this is a good enough bang to get the heads rolling.
A Ride in the Park
A Ride in the Park is directed by indie horror trailblazer Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project) and Gregg Hale, who produced The Blair Witch Project. The segment is shot almost entirely on a GoPro camera attached to a bicycler’s helmet. The cyclist goes for a ride in the woods only to encounter a gang of ravenous zombies. The short takes an interesting turn when the cyclist is attacked and becomes a walking corpse himself. Leaving us with a mindless zombie protagonist (and I use the term lightly).
I like the old school style Romero zombies and especially the “twist” of having our main-man becoming a pile of dead man meat. Though after the first few minutes the segment doesn’t really go anywhere. Essentially, it’s the same-old, same-old zombie story in new packaging. Fine, but nothing that’ll stick with you. Though I must give props to the GoPro, “Be a Hero” and go pro.
Wow, not only is Safe Haven the best segment in V/H/S/2 (by a great deal) but it’s also better than any segment from the first film. Directed by Gareth Huw Evans (The Raid: Redemption) and Timo Tjahjanto, Safe Haven is a horrifying depiction of “cult” brought to its most extreme.
Set in Indonesia, Safe Haven is about a camera crew following a mysterious Indonesian cult and its short-tempered leader. What begins as the most grounded segment in V/H/S/2 quickly escalates to the most ridiculous short in either film. This one makes it all worth it and could’ve easily stood alone as its own movie. The cult is undeniably creepy in their quiet, brooding disposition and you actually care about the fate of the characters. I tiptoe around this one only because it deserves to be seen. If you like demonic stuff and are scared of stern, southeast Asian men, this is your film.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction
The name pretty much sums it up. Directed by Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun), a group of rowdy pre-teen boys, a slutty older sister, and their dog are attacked at a lakehouse by a group of grimacing greys. Conceptually, it’s the weakest and doesn’t really do much out of the ordinary. What does work in its favor is how it’s photographed. A majority of the short is photographed by a camera strapped to a terrier, which is surprisingly effective. In addition, the various puffs of smokes and flashing lights make this one a strange visual trip (easily the most nauseating.) Most important are the aliens, retaining the classic black eyed stare with just the right amount of slithery lankiness. It’s nothing to write home about but it has some out-of-this-world scares.
The overarching film ends with a bit of whimper, opting out for a cheap scare instead of a real resolution to the missing student’s whereabouts. Though overall I had some freaky fun with V/H/S/2. It’s refreshing to see what filmmakers can come up with when they have to deal with the limitations of found footage. I equate the entrainment value of V/H/S/2 with that of a spook house. There’s not much when you look under the surface, but there’s just enough skin-crawling scares to keep you away from delving too deep. Only time will tell if V/H/S/2 returns for my “Best Horror Films of 2013” list in October. Happy Haunting!