No doubt thanks to monetary success of the Paranormal Activity franchise, the found footage genre has exploded within the last decade. I confess: I’m not terribly versed in the subgenre, having only seen the first Paranormal and not its forefather, The Blair Witch Project. However, the format has been used in so many other film genres (superheroes in Chronicle, monster movie in Cloverfield) that despite being a relatively new subgenre, the shaky cam footage nearly instantly loses the edge or intensity it inherently brought and instead requires the filmmakers to be creative in their use of the format. Luckily, V/H/S/2 does this in spades.
V/H/S/2 is an anthology film that follows two private detectives who stumble upon a cache of video tapes, with each tape devolving further and further into madness and the unknown. Four different stories are directed by four directors, and each are given different material to give life too. It’s a neat setup, and I really enjoy horror anthologies, so I’ve been eager to see this movie since it’s release. As a failure on my own part, I have not seen the first V/H/S, but since it’s an anthology and not a franchise with a set story, I felt it was alright to watch this film and not see the other one.
So, let’s get right to it: I really liked this movie. It’s not a perfect film, but what it does well, it does so wonderfully. It’s difficult to talk about this movie without mentioning the superb third short film, “Safe Haven.” Director Gareth Evans vision of an Indonesian cult bringing about the Apocalypse is downright terrifying, That sense of dread and unease is there from the get-go, but it’s a natural sort of dread, as we get to see life in this religious compound and all of it’s disturbing implications brought up by the presence of children in the compound. There’s nothing particularly supernatural about the first arc, but it’s no less terrifying. It’s real world horror as we see how the cultists choose to live in a compound where sexual and physical violence happen regularly. The story then shifts to supernatural horror once the cult leader delivers his final proclamation to usher in the end of the world. Coupled with the fact that the story takes place in the day (a great twist and subversion of horror tropes), and it’s easy to see why this film is the clear standout.
The other three stories (and the frame narrative ‘Tape 49″) are also good, but much less so than “Safe Haven.” “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” was a decent prologue film, but most of the horror came from typical jump scares, which weren’t particularly effective. “A Ride in the Park” was neat, because even though zombies are extremely popular right now, the film showed that there are still interesting things to do with the genre. It’s almost like a ‘Day in the Life of…’ type story, and a great mix of pathos, comedy, and zombie violence. I wasn’t too impressed with “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” because, well, you get everything right there in the title. There’s a slumber party… and alien abductions. Still, it wasn’t a total waste, and putting the camera on the dog was a pretty ingenious method of capturing the chaos.
Speaking of the camera, that’s where my biggest complain lies with the film: the use of Shaky Cam. It creates a cool image, with the intent being that it adds ‘realism’ to your story, but more often than not, it’s distracting, and forces the writers to constantly come up with reasons as to why the camera is even still recording if this is happening to people (and even scarier: who’s editing it?). Another minor flaw: I thought the placing of “Safe Haven” and ‘Slumber Party” should have been reversed: “Slumber Party” suffers from being after “Haven,” because all Slumber Party offered was jump scares.
Regardless, there’s not enough flaws in the film to outweigh the numerous successes of the film. It succeeds as a horror anthology, and especially with “Safe Haven” as an apocalypse film. This one was definitely worth your time.
Whispers from the Beyond
- I’m going to start adding minor tidbits to the end of my reviews, which I’ve titled above. I think it’s a good way to get in minor details or musings I had about the subject, but nothing substantive enough to bring into the final review.
- The official Redband trailer for V/H/S/2
- Apologies on being gone so long. Life happens.
- I didn’t really care for the frame narrative either, although there was a real good scare right before “Safe Haven.” It just ended too predictably. Oh well.
- This film also filled my quota for gore viewing for the week. I’m not going to update the Body Counter because frankly, there were way too many deaths to keep count.