December 10, 2013
MOVIE RELEASESThursday, August 29, 2013
V/H/S 2: a fun-thrill ride complete with gore
Definitely one of the best horror anthology films to come out in years
Among horror cinema sub-genres, the so called “found-footage” films have had quite a following (as well as many detractors) in recent years. V/H/S, which was released last year, could have easily been would yet another found-footage film, but it luckily has a twist to it, a flair all of its own. And provided you buy the concept, there is much to enjoy: good scares, ghostly images, unnerving and maddening sounds (get ready for lots of screaming), a good dose of violence, quite good F/X used only when necessary, and a few memorable findings that give an overworked genre something different. And the gimmick of who’s filming it all and why he or she is doing it is pulled off with some wit — for the most part, that is.
The twist here is that this is an anthology of short films made by somewhat novel and moderately promising young filmmakers (so you get six short stories for the price of one full-length feature film). Actually, this new premise is cool enough to get you immersed in a different experience, and most of the stories are also appealing and effective. They make up a compendium of well-known topics of horror movies, but rendered under a different light. Some images, more than a handful, are frightening and hard to forget. And the stories do make sense — in their perverted logic, of course. On the minus side, this is a film that needs more tension to make it more gripping and compelling. Nonetheless, V/H/S was indeed a novelty that brings something good to a territory in need for renewal.
So, having really enjoyed the first V/H/S, I was more than eager to see what a sequel could entail. If you didn’t like the first one, chances are you won’t like this one either. But if you did like the original film, then you will most certainly be blown away by V/H/S 2, a marvellous sequel unlike any I’ve seen in recent horror cinema. To begin with, it improves over V/H/S in every way. It has way better production values, less shaky camera work (one of the main complaints about the first outing), much better visual and special effects, more and more gore, and even more jumps and scares, too. In other words: it has all it needs to surprise viewers that thought they’d seen practically everything there’s to see in the realm of horror cinema.
As with the first film, we are introduced by the wrap-around segment, which tells the story of two private investigators who are sent to look for a missing teenager. When they arrive at his house, there seems to be no one home but they do find a pile of TV screens and VHS video recorders surrounded by various tapes in his living room. The investigators decide to watch some of the tapes, and as was the case with the first film, the rest of the movie is based around what disturbing stuff lurks on these tapes. And in between each tape, we get to see the events in the teenager’s house, with the investigators realizing that maybe they are not alone. We get to view four tapes in all (plus the wraparound segment), each one directed by a different horror genre director. The segments are as follows:
Clinical Trials (directed by Adam Wingard). A man gets fitted with a bionic eye after a car accident and this story is told directly through his vision from this implant. As soon as he returns home, he starts to see an array of ghosts that seem too bent on getting his attention. This is the weakest of the four stories since it relies on a too well-trod concept and does not add anything new. Moreover, though it’s kind of creepy, it feels a little rushed and lacks a genuine source of horror.
A Ride in the Park (directed by Greg Hale and Eduardo Sanchez). A surprising zombie movie with a true difference. A guy is on a bike ride through the woods with a camera attachment on his bike helmet. He comes across a screaming woman and jumps off of the bike to try to help. Too bad she turns out to be a zombie and bites him. The rest of the story is told through the helmet camera and follows our main character, as he himself changes into a zombie and then goes on a rampage to quench his bloodlust. One of the best segments in the whole film, A Ride in the Park succeeds at delivering a completely new take on the tired zombie genre. You get to see how zombies infect one another, a chain reaction, if you will, but one shown with both much humour and gore aplenty. It’s edgy, very well shot, the FX are awesome and it’s even somewhat threatening in its raw realism.
Safe Heaven (directed by Gareth Evans). This is the longest segment, and it spins the tale of a documentary film crew that gets the chance to enter the sacred grounds of an Indonesian cult and interview their leader. Once inside, all hell breaks loose and you see things you’d never expected to see. Perhaps the second best segment (the first one being A Ride in the Park), Safe Heaven does blow you away with its blend of tension, shocking blows and extreme gore. True horror is attained by building up suspense upon an interestingly unusual story. It may need a bit too long to take off, but when it does it’s just like being on a rollercoaster, non-stop, for some thirty minutes. It could even be shown on its own and it would still just as compelling.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction (directed by Joe Eisener). A group of obnoxious kids who like to play pranks on their older siblings realize that they suddenly become the targets of alien beings, which are hell-bent on abducting them all. A segment with many good moments and an occasionally a great one, here and there. Plus the fact that is all filmed by a dog (yes, a dog) turns into some kind of a novelty too. Luckily, the alien beings are also quite scary. But the shaky camerawork is frankly off-putting since there isn’t a real need for it. Yet, you still get to be sufficiently engrossed in the unfolding event.
Overall, V/H/S 2 is definitely one of the best horror anthology films to come out in years. It’s gory and gruesome, scary in parts, funny in others, has some great ideas and is a complete fun thrill ride. What else could you ask for? A decent horror movie is hard to make, let alone a daring one as V/H/S 2, which takes the bare essentials of true fear and delivers blow after blow with clockwork precision.