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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

V/H/S/2

WORTHY
V/H/S/2 - Worthy

There are certain things in life that you can count on; death, taxes, and numerous sequels to horror films.  Trust me, it's inevitable once a studio smells money, not to mention the fact that horror films are normally the cheapest genre films to make, especially when those horror films are of the "found footage" variety.  Thankfully, it seems that this horror genre is starting to wind down, but when its done right and provides a story and narrative that is not only scary but provides just enough humor, it can be tolerable.  This brings me to the sequel to 2012's "V/H/S" entitled what else, "V/H/S/2" a worthy sequel to the sleeper hit.

To start, if you haven't seen "V/H/S" there really isn't a need.  Sure, it's entertaining and when watching the sequel you might catch a few Easter eggs from the first film, but aside from that nothing really carries over aside from the format, which features a wrap-around story and four segments that play out over VHS tapes viewed by our "protagonists." The stories run typical horror movie tropes like ghosts, zombies, demons, and aliens, but it's how the stories are told that really make "V/H/S/2" better than it's predecessor.

Part of the fun of "V2" (yes, that's what I'm calling it the rest of this review because of sick of typing three /) is knowing that the people in charge are fans of the genre themselves.  From Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale, the team behind "The Blair Witch Project" the harbinger of modern "found footage," to Jason Eisener, the genius behind "Hobo With a Shotgun."  And while the stories have their ups and downs, namely the wrap-around story, there is just enough freshness injected into the genres that we've all seen before, where they seem fresh again.

The basis of "V2" revolves around two private detectives searching for a missing person.  Their keen detective skills take them to an abandoned house that, surprise surprise, is filled with VCRs and piles of VHS tapes.  Of course its only a matter of time before we get to see what's on the VHS tapes, and while the stories all have their own niche, some are better than others.  The first tape "Phase 1 Clinical Tests" is a strong start, but if you've seen the segment from "John Carpenter's Body Bags," Eye, you've seen this story before.  But the strongest story, Safe Haven, sets the bar pretty high if there are going to be more editions of "V/H/S" in the future.  Gareth Evans, the director of "The Raid: Redemption," pulls what he knows about Indo-China and puts a horror/religious cult/zombie/Apocalypse spin on it.  It might seem like a mish-mosh of multiple genres, but it works really well with plenty of suspense and a funny little twist come the end of the story.

One of the weaker segments is "Slumber Party Alien Abduction."  Sure enough, the title of the segment tells you everything you need to know;  there's a slumber party, and aliens invade.  While the story is weak and you see everything coming a mile away, the introduction of the aliens works well, along with some decent scenes of suspense, but the fact that you want the characters in the segment to all die/be abducted, takes away from the overall feel of the segment.  Yes, all the characters pretty much all talk like they walked off the set of "Hobo With a Shotgun," but that doesn't make it good.

If you've become as jaded as I have with the horror genre, "V2" is a shot in the arm once again.  Thankfully, the "torture porn" era has been ushered out, but it's been replaced with "found footage porn," which just sounds like an film you'd go buy down at your local XXX Emporium now that I think about it, and personally I much rather see Sasha Gray getting filled out like an application by Evan Stone than see another "Paranormal Activity" sequel, but I digress.  "V/H/S/2" is a sequel that takes what was best about it's predecessor and expands on the visuals, storytelling, and overall feel.  There is a greater sense of dread in each story, maybe because if you're a fan of anthology horror you always know that there is a twist.

What's been missing from the horror genre for the past decade is that sense of dread.  Yes, the gore has gotten better and the body count has gone up, but if your sole purpose as a horror director is to simply gross the audience out and not provide any "horror," than what's the point.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good gore-fest, I mean I loved the "Evil Dead" remake and that was a blood-spewing extravaganza.  My point is that while studios and directors stick to the same tropes in horror that sell, when is the genre allowed to grow?  "V2" shows that the genre still has some fresh ideas, and when you get enough creative people together that love horror films, new ideas can be milked from an already tired sub-genre, namely, zombies, in the segment "A Ride in the Park."

Bottom line, take "V/H/S/2" for what it is; an all-around solid horror flick that has some staying power.
Considering the fact that website, Bloody Disgusting, is involved, there are some good minds behind possible sequels, and I'd personally like to see a few more established horror directors hop on board, such as Adam Green, Eli Roth, and maybe some old school types like Stuart Gordon or (just wishing here) Guillermo del Toro.  Blockbuster Video might be gone, but make it a "V/H/S/2" night.

Fun Fact:  VHS tapes typically record using three formats; SP (Standard Play), LP (Long Play), and SLP (Super Long Play).

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