Tuesday, October 25, 2016

31 Days, 31 Horror Movies: V/H/S 2

I didn't like the first V/H/S very much. There were moments, and I liked the last segment okay, but the shoddy story/production/characters in most of them didn't inspire interest. The overwhelming misogyny stinking the joint up was also the most horrifying thing about it. (It's a horror movie and there's almost always a level of that, it was just... worse than usual.)

Needless to say, I wasn't keen on watching a follow-up in the series, despite folks telling me it was much better than the first. (There's yet another, V/H/S: Viral, that I've been warned away from several times.) However, I realized I've watched neither a found-footage nor an anthology movie this year, and this recommendation ticks both those boxes.

So, was V/H/S 2 better than the first? Let's find out.

The Medium
Streaming on Netflix.

The Movie
Breaking it down by the individual segments. There are fewer of them (by one) than in the first film and you might think this would help by giving each segment a little more time to play with. Unfortunately, this installment is about 24 minutes shorter, so not so much. On the other hand, nothing drags on too long, either.

"Tape 48/Framing sequence"
A private detective, Larry, and his assistant Ayesha are hired by a mother to look into the disappearance of her son, Kyle. They break into the young man's house and find an array of video monitors, a laptop and a stack of VHS tapes next to a player. The laptop is still recording video and there are files showing Kyle talking about collecting the tapes. Larry asks Ayesha to look at some of the tapes while he searches the rest of the house. The tapes Ayesha watches are the individual segments of the anthology.

"Why don't you stay here in the dark and watch these creepy tapes while I leave?"
"How about I just quit?"

I like this quite a bit more than the framing sequence in the first VHS. For one, the characters aren't complete assholes and for another there are hints of a bigger story. The clips from Kyle indicate there's a large online group dedicated to finding these weird videos and that there's something that happens if you watch them in the correct sequence.

"Should NOT have started off with Oasis of the Zombies."

 Ayesha starts exhibiting weird symptoms as the sequence progresses - trance-like state, nosebleeds and migraines. Because the camera on the laptop is still on (as well as other cameras) we can see someone or something creeping around in the background as she watches. Relatively decent, if standard, found-footage stuff.

I liked the buildup better than the denouement, as it didn't quite pull together for me. Going from creepypasta videos that screw with your head to scuttle zombies is a bit of a jump. No thumbs up from me - sorry Kyle.

"Phase 1 | Clinical Trials"
Herman gets an experimental optical implant after losing his eye in a car accident. Doctor warns of glitches as it's still experimental. Seeing dead people is a hell of a glitch, doc. Clarissa, a girl he sees at the doctor's office, shows up to warn him - she's had an ear implant that lets her hear the dead -  the more you pay attention to them the more they can interact with you. Things go predictably pear shaped and Herman forcibly removes the implant. Unfortunately, while he can no longer see the ghosts, they can still see him perfectly...

Nothing about this screams 'let's have sex.'

Ah... I wanted to like this one. And I like the concept okay, even if it's been done before and better. However none of the character reactions seem at all believable - you see someone in your house and you don't call the cops? Creepy underwear uncle is hovering around, but you still have sex? There's also almost no buildup of suspense, so the rush of ghost attacks seems to come out of nowhere and loses most of its possible pop as a result.

"A Ride in the Park"
Zombie apocalypse as seen through the eyes of a zombie! Biker goes for a ride with a GoPro on his helmet, gets bitten, wakes up hungry and goes on zombie rampage. Not a bad concept, but it doesn't have a lot of places to go, plot and character wise. Luckily it's a short vignette and we even get a little zombie pathos as the zombie seems to still maintain a bit of his former personality. Short as it is, it's still a little too long and definitely not something to watch if you don't like to see kids in danger (actually, that's a good warning for the next two segments as well). It's the only segment with something like a sense of humor.

"On your face. You've just got a little something... you know what, never mind."

"Safe Haven"
My favorite of the bunch. A documentary film crew manages to get permission to film inside the compound of a doomsday cult. Unfortunately for them, turns out TODAY is doomsday. I think this is the longest piece and it uses the time to actually build some characters and situations. There's a love triangle in the crew that's complicated by a pregnancy. The leader of the cult is both weird and at times disarmingly normal.  the cult itself is nicely ominous and creepy - with Blair Witch type iconography and classrooms full of glassy-eyed children.

"I'm not saying it's the apocalypse. But it's the apocalypse."

I lost track of who had what camera and why, but it didn't seem to matter. The buildup to the action was great and when things went wrong they went oh so very, gorily wrong. There are shootings, suicides, an exploding guy and at one point a creature tears itself up and out of a woman's stomach. That was awesome and nausea inducing. Good acting, pacing, special effects and sound set this a bit above the rest. The final shot is, unfortunately, a little goofy, which deflates the mood considerably. Goat-headed demons should definitely be out of focus before talking.

"Slumber Party Alien Abduction"
Parents go away for the weekend, kids have a party - older kids drink and screw around, younger kids make videos and prank the older kids. Then aliens show up and try and abduct everyone. Much of the action is shot from POV of a small dog with a camera attached to its back.

Wet Dog Cam!

You know, it is what it is. An extended alien attack, found-footage style. I liked the buildup - the kids and their situation - but the actual abduction sequences were loud, bright, frenetic and near incomprehensible, visually. Sometimes the aliens are stealthy and fast, sometimes they're Romero zombie slow. And they killed the dog. Never kill the dog.

Bottom Line
Much better than the first V/H/S! This sequel has much less in the way of sexual predation and douchebaggery actually trys out some interesting ideas. They don't all work, but each segment has at least a few things to recommend it and "Safe Haven" is really good.

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