Festival Review: V/H/S 2

A movie review article by: Nate Abernethy

 

Festival season is in full swing in the summer, so we naturally wind up with a plethora of film reviews from various festivals around the country, even after the festivals are long over. We've chosen to dole them out to you individually, and today Nate Abernethy brings you a look at V/H/S 2, the sequel to last year's surprise hit horror anthology V/H/S, which seems to have kicked off a horror anthology resurgence if ABCs of Death is any indication. Nate saw this film at this year's SXSW Film festival, which Nick Hanover and Dylan Garsee reported on daily. 

 

S-VHS VHS2 Title

 
The first V/H/S was a late night drunken Netflix find for me and I loved it. It scared the shit out of me in ways that found footage films never have, and kept me entertained even during its weaker points. So feeding off my genuine love of the first and some good buzz coming out of Sundance I headed into V/H/S 2 full of anticipation. The good news is that V/H/S 2 looks and feels drastically more cinematic than its predecessor. Sadly though, some of the charm of the first installment is gone.
 
V/H/S 2 is essentially a collection of horror shorts disguised to look like a movie. I’m torn on whether I despise it for this or applaud it for tricking the general movie-going audience into horror shorts. As with the first film, it achieves this by using a wraparound segment, “Tape 49” directed by Simon Barrett, to tie-in the remaining unrelated segments. It’s easy to critique “Tape 49” as it’s significantly weaker than the other segments, and feels entirely forced and just plain unnecessary. On the other hand you have to give credit to Barrett and fellow director Adam Wingard for finding a way to gain an audience.
 
VHS2 Zombie
 
The four remaining segments are a mixed bag. Adam Wingard’s “Clinical Trials” is wholly forgettable, focusing on a man with an ocular implant who begins seeing ghosts. It relies heavily on the “jump scare” tactic that is all too common with found footage films, and does so little to hold your interest that you can’t wait to move onto the next segment before the end of it. “A Ride in the Park” from Eduardo S├ínchez and Gregg Hale of The Blair Witch Project fame is a fun ride that isn’t afraid to embrace its utter ridiculousness as we witness a zombie apocalypse from a zombie POV. It’s a short based almost entirely on a single gimmick, but is a nice breather between the darker shorts.
 
No surprise here, the best of the bunch is Gareth Evans’s “Safe Haven”. Evan’s brings the same ferocity and intensity that he did to The Raid:
Redemption and crams it into a fifteen-minute segment. Evans and co-director Timo Tjahjanto take us into the depths of a bizarre occult as they build the tension throughout the dark twists and eerie turns “Safe Haven” takes. The scares are genuine, the action is taut and well paced, and the slow build allows you to be invested in its characters. No small feat for a horror short. If V/H/S 2 ended right there I would have walked out amped up, with the fresh memory of “Safe Haven” sending chills down my spine. Unfortunately it doesn’t.
 
VHS2 Body Cut Up
 
The final segment, “Alien Abduction Slumber Party” did absolutely nothing outside of annoying the hell out of me. Directed by Jason Eisener, whose Hobo With A Shotgun is one of my absolute favorite guilty pleasures, it’s a Close Encounters-vibe effort that fails miserably. The action consists almost entirely of blinding flashing lights, a high-pitched screeching noise, and a shaky GoPro camera attached to a dog. I found myself wishing it would just go ahead and give me an epileptic seizure just so I wouldn’t be so fucking bored. Its numbing repetitiveness drags on and on to the point that I couldn’t tell you how it ended even if you put a gun to that little dog’s GoPro strapped skull.
 
Perhaps I’m being too harsh on V/H/S 2. After all “Safe Haven” is a thrill ride of the bizarre, “A Ride in the Park” provides some of the heartiest zombie-related laughs since Shaun of The Dead, and it could be argued “Tape 49” is a necessary evil. At a certain point you have to accept V/H/S 2 is what it is: a rebellious but flawed horror effort that strives to entertain. While some moments are unimpressive and the final segment left an incomparably bad taste in my mouth, there’s no doubt that I’m still drawn to what Wingard and Barrett have created and will be back for the inevitable next V/H/S installment to see what a fresh batch of directors have to offer.

Nate Abernethy is a magical sprite we captured and forced to do film reviews. He somehow also wound up with a twitter account @NateAbernethy

 

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