Fast Forward to Fear: V/H/S/2
After a failed film experiment to find the perfect movie, Patrick Emmel’s mind fractured into two opposing parts: Jekyll, the film study critic, and Hyde, the critic who wants eye candy. These are his/their film reviews.
V/H/S/2 continues to breathe new life into the found-footage medium of movies like the preceding film in the series, aptly named V/H/S. By the looks of it, they will probably be back to complete a trilogy at the least.
When we last left the V/H/S series, there was some confusion over what the connecting plot was all about. The premise was about a group of filmmakers who record their real-life crimes getting hired by a mysterious party to steal a tape. As they break into a house to find it, they disappear one by one when curiosity leads them to watch a series of unmarked VHS tapes documenting 1st-person perspective horrors. At the same time, there was a dead old guy. By the end of it, we still had no idea what was going on.
If there is one thing that V/H/S/2 does to surpass the original, it gives this plotline a better explanation. It doesn’t give away the whole “oh s#!t” answer. We still have people watching VHS tapes, but we learn a little bit more about what happens to them after watching them. It’s a small piece of the puzzle, and begs for a third installment, if only to tell us the endgame, or at least what psycho is behind the mayhem. I’ve heard it’s Satan, but there’s probably more to it.
Dr. Jekyll (the film critic)
One of the most interesting things about the V/H/S series so far has been the films’ ability to use found-footage to tell horror stories from a different perspective. Movies like Paranormal Activity, Rec, Quarantine, and The Blair Witch Project only use found-footage to tell a story. V/H/S uses found-footage to not only scare you, but to give a totally different outlook on the feelings of the subjects and, in the case of V/H/S/2, even the monsters.
This time around, the segments cover more interesting ideas in horror. We have science fiction and technology meeting ghosts in “Clinical Trials Phase 1,” which gives me reason to wince when thinking about my eyes. We have the zombie dramedy “A Ride in the Park,” one of the best segments in the movie because of how it sets up life in the eyes of a recently dead, walking corpse. We have “Safe Haven,” the story of an Indonesian cult that follows a stereotype, only to break what we know apart in brutal fashion. Lastly, there is “Slumber Party Alien Abduction.” While this segment could be considered the weakest of the group, the final scene is one of the most powerful for your average pet owner.
This time around, most of the segments use multiple cameras to create the found-footage. It’s an interesting change, but it brings up questions like, “So who’s editing all of this footage into a single tape if everyone’s dead?” It could be a hint at how the puppet master of the continuity plot operates, but we don’t get an explanation about the madman that is editing the videos of dead people in order to trick other people into watching them and meet a fate worse than death.
Grade: 3-1/2 out of 5 John Drydens.
Mr. Hyde (the film fan-boy)
When it comes to horror movies, there is one surefire way to tell how awesomely bloody a movie is: how many people walk out of the theater after a violent scene. One person next to me left at the climactic scene of the first segment of V/H/S/2, “Clinical Trials Phase 1.” They might as well have had a sign on them that said, “I didn’t know this was going to be a horror movie.”
I, on the other hand, can’t get enough of horror. With four separate stories connected by the story of a private investigator searching for a missing student, I got plenty of horror. not only in a blood-and-guts way, but a smart approach to a version of film that has gotten lazy in the past.
“Clinical Trials Phase 1” uses medical technology that isn’t even available yet to tell a new version of a ghost story. It had blood, it had nudity, but was it good? Well, I found myself touching my eye over and over again to make sure it was there. I think that’s a good indicator for horror.
“A Ride in the Park” had me laughing and grimacing at the same time, a good sign for a story about zombies. The segment felt a little ridiculous by the end, but that’s because I embrace the zombie stereotype that they’re all mindless abominations. V/H/S/2 goes a different route, with emotional, and bloody, results.
“Safe Haven” and “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” were odd because of how they worked against each other in style. “Safe Haven” took us behind the scenes of an Indonesian cult. Cult movies are usually creepy, considering what members are willing to do because of their faith in their leader. Unfortunately, things get a little campy when a guy in a bull mask starts chasing the hero of the story. “Slumber Party Alien Abuction” works in the exact opposite way. The story of a group of kids being chased by people in spandex alien costumes is kind of goofy, until the absolute final scene that will have PETA members writing furious letters to the filmmakers and everyone looking to give their dogs a hug.
Grade: 4 out of 5 fist-pumps.
Do you dare gaze upon our interview with ‘V/H/S 2′ writer Simon Barrett?
Patrick Emmel has been a horror fanatic since he started shooting home-made, no-budget horror films when he was ten years old about a serial killer who wore a “Happy-Face” mask . You can see more of his work at The Critics Den, Sports Jeer, and The Inept Owl, or heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.