January 31st, 2014

V/H/S/2 (2013) **

Here’s the sequel to the Found Footage anthology horror movie, V/H/S. It suffers from a feeling of “more of the same” that plagues the Found Footage genre. But thanks to a shorter running time and a heaping of gore, it goes down smooth enough, I suppose.

Tape 49 (**): This tale acts as our wraparound story. A private investigator and his assistant break into an old house while looking for a missing student. They find a bunch of old videotapes and watch them in horror.

Directed by Simon Barrett, there isn’t a whole lot to this tale. It adds nothing to the movie and the ending is pretty lame. I will say that it is light years better than the nearly unwatchable wraparound scenes in the first movie.

Phase I Clinical Trials (**): A guy gets his eye replaced with a robotic eye equipped with a camera. Everything he sees gets broadcast back to some scientists in a lab. Before long, he’s seeing ghosts and shit around his house. But are they real or just glitches in the eyeball?

Directed by Adam (You’re Next) Wingard, this segment has a decent enough gimmick that keeps it from being the typical camcorder shaky-cam stuff you’d see in a V/H/S movie. Like most V/H/S segments, it has a decent set-up, but the payoff is rather abrupt and unsatisfying. I did like the scene where Hannah Hughes “fucks the ghosts away” though.

A Ride in the Park (**): A guy goes riding his bike in the park with a camera strapped onto his helmet. He encounters a sick woman in the woods and tries to help her. She winds up being a zombie and bites him. He quickly turns into a zombie and starts munching down on random people.

This segment, from Gregg Hale and Eduardo (The Blair Witch Project) Sanchez is pretty basic. Like the previous tale, it relies almost solely on first person camerawork to tell its story (which makes we wonder why they didn’t just call this flick “P/O/V” and get it over with). It’s not bad per se (there’s a gory gut ripping scene); it’s just that camcorder zombie movies have been pretty much done to (ahem) death and this one doesn’t offer up anything new.

Safe Haven (** ½): A film crew is making a documentary on a cult leader in Indonesia. After some hesitation, he allows them inside of his compound for an interview. Once inside the compound’s walls, the cult leader orders his followers to commit mass suicide. Then some female members kidnap a pregnant camerawoman who they believe will give birth to their goat man god.

Directed by Gareth Huw (The Raid) Evans and Timo Tjahjanto, Safe Haven features an eclectic use of camerawork. In addition to the POV cameras, we also get footage from the documentary crew as well as footage from the compound’s security cameras. Because of that, it opens things up a bit and makes the segment feel more cinematic. Too bad it suffers from poor CGI, a half-baked premise, and the inclusion of zombies for zombies’ sakes. But while this story definitely has its flaws, at least it delivers on the gore. We get a gnarly death by Exacto knife, a juicy shotgun blast to the face, and a guy literally explodes right in front of our eyes.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction (* ½): Some kids are left alone by their folks for the weekend. They film themselves tormenting their older sister and her boyfriend. After a lot of jerking off (both literally and figuratively), some aliens show up and abduct them.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction comes to us courtesy of Jason Eisener, the man who directed the instant cult classic, Hobo with a Shotgun. And it’s a disappointment on so many levels. First of all, it somehow manages to find a new low in Found Footage horror: Attaching the camera to a dog. Half the time the dog’s shaggy hair obscures the action and the camerawork is expectedly worse than any of the other previous segments. Secondly, the flick really drops the ball when the aliens show up. The creature designs lack imagination and the attack scenes are all pretty much botched. And it’s a shame too because this premise had a lot of promise. If Eisener made it like a “regular” horror flick instead of a “Found Footage” movie, it would’ve worked a lot better. Having some non-shitty aliens in there certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

Overall, I think V/H/S/2 is slightly more polished and enjoyable than its predecessor. Although this flick doesn’t have anything as cool as the 10/31/98 segment from the first film, it’s more consistently “not bad” than that flick. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but if your tolerance for Found Footage horror films is stronger than mine, you’ll probably enjoy it.