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Review: V/H/S/2

V/H/S/2
06.06.2013by: Jake Dee
7 10

PLOT: A shady P.I. and his girlfriend are tasked with finding a missing college student, only to stumble on an abandoned apartment littered with stacks of VHS tapes. They decide to watch the videos, and end up witnessing everything from extreme ritual suicide to sudden alien abduction.

REVIEW: V/H/S/2, the anthological sequel to last year's tepidly received V/H/S, is back as a 4-part mélange of assorted horror tales with an asinine wraparound narrative tying them altogether. And while no one story has anything to do with the next outside of that, every segment features a shaky, first-person-POV camera that is acknowledged in, and integral to, the plot of each story. In other words, to those who always complain about the logical absurdity of why a found-footage camera is even present in the first place, this movie should appease you in that regard. As for the stories themselves -they span the work of repeat offenders Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard, as well as series newcomers Eduardo Sanchez & Gregg Hale, Gareth Evans & Timo Tjahjanto and Jason Eisner - and come together to form a parabola of entertainment. That is, the flick starts slow, quickly escalates in the middle, then ultimately falls back down to Earth a little.

The first videotape the investigative couple pop in is called "Clinical Trials," directed by Adam Wingard. Easily the weakest segment of the bunch, the short involves a young man (Wingard) whose eye is severely mangled in car accident that left two others dead. Subjected to a new form of medical technology, the man is implanted with a bionic eye that allows him to see in a way his biological one can no longer. Of course, there are "glitches," and by the time the dude gets home at night, he's increasingly wracked by ghastly images that chase him around his place. It's essentially a first person haunted house tale, replete with subpar visual effects and amateurish acting. A once deaf girl shows up, who now also channels frequencies of the dead after reconstructive hearing. But when she shows up in the morning, asks for a beer, and we then cut to the guy giving her a beer...and it's suddenly NIGHT TIME, you know the film has issues. Honestly, this segment feels little more than a chintzy student film, and it was at this point I was starting to think I was in for a long night. Pretty disappointing considering the promise Wingard has shown with A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE and YOU'RE NEXT. Thankfully things got better in a hurry!

"A Ride in the Park" is the second entry, easily the most amusing and flat out enjoyable one of the film. Eduardo Sanchez, fresh off the genuinely chilling LOVELY MOLLY, with which he reinvigorated the found-footage motif he made famous with BLAIR WITCH, here teams with co-director Gregg Hale to create a very simple, very funny, very gory zombie tale. When a cyclist enjoys a ride through a wooded park on a nice sunny day, he's suddenly run into a by a frenzied woman. She claims her boyfriend has been attacked, and the cyclist quickly gets on his phone for help. Suddenly the woman has morphed into a zombie, and attacks the cyclist. The cyclist is then found by another bike-riding couple, who are completely caught off guard. They call for help as well, but before the call is completed, the cyclist himself turns into a zombie and attacks the couple. And this goes on in perpetuity, to hilariously violent results. It's kind of hard to explain, but suffice it to say, the success of the segment comes from its simplicity and sureness of tone. It's meant to be silly, and is, and once you realize the intent, it becomes a lot of fun. It's good to see Sanchez again making his mark, especially with a technological advent he help popularize.

Batting third is no doubt the most disturbing, balls-to-the-wall portion of the flick. To those who've seen THE RAID: REDEMPTION and know full well it's heightened excesses, well, director Gareth Evans is back and nastier than ever with "Safe Heaven," which he co-made with Timo Tjahjanto. Man, this one f*cked me up! The setup has a documentary film crew out to film a controversial cult leader's teachings of salvation...an alternative ascension to paradise. The cult leader, played by Epy Kusnander, has a skepticism about the film crew that comes off as humorous at first. But once the documentarians shows up on this guy's domain, shite gets really hectic, really fast. I won't spoil it from there, but trust me - everything from profound brainwash, mass ritual suicide, violent rape, grotesgue demon birth - to gallons of grue and gore are on full display. Evans and Tjahjanto hold nothing back. In fact, this segment more than any ("A Ride in the Park" being second) is the reason I'd recommend the movie, especially to hardened horror fans who feel the need to see something new. Seriously, this shite rocked!

Jason Eisner, of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN fame, closes out the quartet of shorts with "Alien Abduction Slumber Party," which is exactly what it sounds like. Problem here is the whole alien abduction, not to mention the rote alien design, which clearly adheres to the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS visual aesthetic...tall, slender, hairless, long-fingered bipeds. I liked this segment better than the first one, largely because of the kids' activity prior to the abduction. Young tykes having a good time, water fights, pranks, spying and videotaping the older sister having sex, all around adolescent hijinks. That felt fun and honest. And in an even longer film, maybe those traits would have made us care more when the abduction finally went down. Here though it happens so rapidly, so suddenly, not to mention so unconvincingly...there's no way any dramatic effect could take hold, never mind overtake what just happened in "Safe Haven." A lot of blinding light, jarring cam sways, indiscernible action...seen from a home video cam strapped to the family dog. It just felt too low-rent, too unbelievable to be scary. Simply put, I'd rather continue to watch the slumber party than the alien abduction.

All in all, I score the film a 7 out of 10, rounding up based on the aggregate breakdown: CLINICAL TRIALS (5/10), A RIDE IN THE PARK (7/10), SAFE HAVEN (8/10), SLUMBER PARTY ALIEN ABDUCTION (6/10). As you can see, the flick starts a bit slow, finds its groove in the second segment, soars to its peak in the third, then falls back down toward mediocrity in the final frame. As for the wraparound narrative involving the detective and his girlfriend (directed by Simon Barrett), it borders on the ridiculous, and really only serves as a binder between stories. It doesn't make or break the film by any means, but isn't particularly inspiring either. As it is, it should be no surprise that the best entries come from the most esteemed filmmakers of the bunch, Sanchez (with Hale) and Evans (with Tjahjanto). It's their work we can assuredly look forward to in the future.

Extra Tidbit: V/H/S/2 hits VOD this Friday (June 6th) before hitting theaters on July 12th.

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