Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
Lawrence Michael Levine
What's it about
A private detective and his assistant discover a trove of terrifying real-life videos in a missing college student's home, and find themselves in just as much danger as the unfortunate souls captured in the images.
Is it good movie?
Larry, a private detective, and his assistant, Ayesha, break into a young college student's house, at the behest of his mother. The student has gone missing, and the mother is concerned. With good reason, it turns out, as Larry and Ayesha stumble upon both a laptop containing a somewhat confessional video of the student, as well as a trove of videotapes containing highly disturbing footage of zombies, aliens, demons, and ghosts, all shot from a first person perspective, and all ostensibly real. But while the duo are watching these videos, something dreadful is lurking amongst them.
Right in the first video, I knew I was into something good. What's the best way to get POV footage? Have your character lose an eye in an accident, and get a prototype mechanical eye prosthesis inserted in his head. Such is what happens in Phase 1 Clinical Trials, and as in all the best transplantation horror stories, the unfortunate gentleman begins seeing ghostly figures and an all real girl who wants to help him with his problem. Neither fares well. In A Ride in the Park, this time the camera is mounted on a cyclists bike and another on his helmet, so that after an altercation with a bloody, bitey woman in the park we can see what he sees as he first becomes a zombies, then feasts on flesh, then poignantly becomes aware of what's happened to him.
Next up is my favorite of the piece, and the most intense in terms of pure insanity. It concerns a documentary film crew infiltrating the compound of an Indonesian suicide cult, unbeknownst to them on the very day of said cult's big day. It turns into such a crazy bloodbath that I was both giggling and gagging (it reminded me a lot of the Thai film SICK NURSES). In this one each crew member has a spy camera hidden in their clothing, so they never have the option to not catch all the demented shenanigans on tape. Last up is Slumber Party Alien Abduction, which I guess kind of gives away the plot. Anyway, a video camera is strapped to the family dog's leash so a girl and her boyfriend can get embarrassing footage of her little brother just as bright lights, explosions, and, well, aliens appear. Hint: they're not friendly.
Then there's the wraparound segment, Tape 49, featuring the aforementioned detectives. They get a lot more than they bargained for when entering the house, and it definitely caused me to drop my jaw (you'll get that joke when you watch the film). It has to have a satisfyingly gory and violent end, because for me it's the only segment that doesn't defeat the contrivance factor that abounds in found footage films: namely how to capture the footage in a convincing way. While all the movies within the movie were ingenious in their methods, the wraparound is the only one to hit a false note in that respect.
Still, pound for pound the best found footage movie I've seen yet. The writing and directing collective on board here really put some thought and effort into making the footage convincing, and barring that just making it insane. The film is poignant when it needs to be, and balls deep in gore when that is called for instead, and creepy all the way through. I've not seen the original V/H/S, but you can damned sure bet I'll be clocking it soon.
Video / Audio
Video: 1080p, 1.78:1.
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Filmmaker Commentary: This is a pretty interesting commentary: instead of collecting whatever people were around, each director recorded commentary for his specific segment, and they're spliced together appropriately. Much like the segments themselves, some are more reflective, and some more wild and fun, but all are interesting and informative. (Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard apparently tried to do their commentary four times, but they were so obnoxiously drunk they ended up having to redo it the next day, hungover).
Tape 49 Rewind: This is a quick minute and a half making-of for the wraparound segment. It's mostly candid on-set interview footage with the producer and director.
Dissecting Phase 1 Clinical Trials: This is a sit-down with director/actor Adam Wingard. He provides some interesting insight into the bionic-eyed character he portrays in this segment.
Inside Safe Haven: I was really pleased with this 3-minute interview with directors Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto. This is my favorite segment in the film, and the guys seemed pretty pleased with themselves for creating this burst of insanity.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction: Behind the Lights: This is the longest of the segment docs, and the only one concerned with behind the scenes production. In fact, there is no interview footage at all. It's all BTS and test footage stuff: predominantly the dog with the camera strapped to his collar that figures prominently in the segment.
A Ride in the Park: I Dare You: Three minutes of the crew of this segment trying to knock a tree over. *shrug*
AXS TV: A Look At V/H/S/2: This is an EPK for AXS TV, which is apparently some television channel. I don't know: I don't have cable. It's just a quick fluff piece with some interview footage with the various directors.
Photo Galleries: Each segment (including the wraparound) has its own dedicated photo gallery. They're pretty comprehensive, with lots of BTS and candid shots, which is cool considering there is no significant making-of doc on the disc.
Rounded out the disc are two trailers for V/H/S/2, and a selection of trailers for other Lionsgate film.
And one final note: you can choose between the rated and unrated version of the film, but there is only one minute's difference between the two.
I quite like this film, and that's saying something for a guy who hates found footage films. The difference here is that the filmmakers were aware of the sub-genre, and took pains to craft their segments in such a way as to make the conceit seem more naturalistic. The short films are varied in both subject matter and tone, but they're all well-done and vary from poignant to creepy to balls out gorefest. Add to that the nice collection of special features, and this is definitely a Blu-Ray worth owning. Recommended.