On the 9th day of Halloween, a shitty camcorder gave to me: V/H/S 2 (2013)
To round out my series of found footage reviews, I chose an anthology-style horror film: V/H/S 2. While there are two other movies in the V/H/S series, the second one is the best of the trio. If you’re unfamiliar with the V/H/S style, it’s basically a feature-length film comprised of 3 or 4 short films that are linked via frame narrative. Each film (and the frame narrative itself) is done in the found footage style, each by different directors.
The first V/H/S didn’t do much for me, but I think there’s a lot of great stuff in the second one. Zombies, aliens, ghosts, you name it: V/H/S 2 has got it.
Since I’m basically reviewing four separate films, I’ll stick each short under its own section.
Phase 1 Clinical Trials (Adam Wingard, the director of one of my G.O.A.T. horror movies!)
Herman (Adam Wingard) gets a high-tech prosthetic eye after an accident, which enables him to see again. The trick is, it’s hooked up to a camera. The doctor tells him that he should expect to see some “glitches” as his new eye and old eye adjust to one another, but he certainly wasn’t expecting these glitches to look so…dead.
This is a ghost story mixed in with some body horror, and is really effective as a short. It’s like Sixth Sense with a techy twist, and brings the concept of “point-of-view” filmmaking to a new level. That said , it’s not entirely groundbreaking and relies on a lot of jump scares to create horror. Clarissa (Hannah Hughes) is sort of the manic pixie dream girl, there to warn and romance the protagonist (but not much else). It’s all kind of shoehorned in, but you gotta remember that this is a short film.
All in all, it’s a spooky ghost story with a decently innovative premise that’ll leave you scared to be in a house alone.
A Ride in the Park (Eduardo Sanchez!, Gregg Hale)
The plot of this short is beautifully simple:
Mike (Jay Saunders) goes for a bike ride in the woods, GoPro attached to his helmet. Along his morning ride he encounters a bloody woman crying for help, apparently ill. The woman bites him, and well…you can figure out the rest. Zombifying with a GoPro still attached to his helmet, the audience gets to come along for Zombie Mike’s First Day Out.
Is it scary? Not really. Would it make a good feature film? Not at all. But this concept is the perfect setup for a short: it’s a funky idea that puts a little twist on the traditional zombie film. After all, how many horror movies are from the perspective of the undead? It’s beautifully tongue-in-cheek (Zombie Mike crashes a kid’s birthday party!) but still incredibly gory. If you’re not into up-close evisceration, I’d avoid this one.
It’s a blood-soaked zom-com that is brilliant in its simplicity and its sense of humor. It even manages to pack in a little bit of heart, particularly with the ending. I’d definitely give this one a watch!
Safe Haven (Timo Tjahhanto, Gareth Huw Evans)
Four filmmakers are granted permission to film inside an Indonesian cult, housed in the compound called Paradise Gates and led by the enigmatic Father. Promising to give an unbiased view of life in Paradise Gates, the crew quickly realizes that their invitation to the compound was not happenstance. As the crew’s personal lives come into conflict, things in Paradise Gates come to a head as the Father unlocks a door- one that cannot be closed.
Cults are terrifying enough without a supernatural element, full stop. Safe Haven draws from a lot of reality- namely Jonestown- to create a horror that is entirely earthly in its origins. Of course, the gory supernatural element that the directors throw in ups the ante. When shit hits the fan in Safe Haven, it hits hard. This is by far the most intense short in V/H/S, though there is a brief moment of levity at the very end.
There is a fair bit of pregnancy body horror in this short, so if you’re not into that I’d avoid this one. It’s personally one of my biggest “YIKES” factors, so I totally get it.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction (Jason Eisner)
A group of kids left alone for the evening endeavor to create some good-natured chaos: water balloons, silly string, etc. Their mischief is suddenly cut short when some extraterrestrials make a guest appearance- and these guys are not of the ET variety.
This is the weakest short out of the bunch, in my opinion. This isn’t to say it’s bad! It’s entertaining and well made, it just feels very …standard. If you’ve ever seen any episodes of The Lost Tapes, this feels very similar. It’s a lot of jump scares delivered by very traditional-looking aliens. It’s fun, but nothing really spectacular or unique.
Also it does not go well for the dog, FYI.
Frame Narrative- Tape 49 (Simon Barrett)
Overall the frame narrative is take it or leave it- I personally would have arranged the films differently- Slumber Party, A Walk in the Woods, Clinical Trials, and then Safe Haven. There isn’t much of a “narrative” to the frame narrative, but it serves its purpose well enough.
Heads up for attempted suicide in the end, so just be aware if that’s a trigger.
Fun-sized horror films
If you’re into found footage, give V/H/S 2 a watch- you can break it up into each individual film, or just watch the whole thing in one go- either works. I love that the V/H/S format gives a big platform to short-form horror, since there are so many concepts out there that are really innovative, but really only function well as a short. Let’s be real- there are lots of feature-length horror movies that would have been better off as shorts, as they often drag out a plot that isn’t that complex enough to warrant 90 minutes.
All in all, I think V/H/S 2 is a fun watch that showcases a bunch of directors who have fresh ideas- and the talent to back them up.
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