Sunday, June 16, 2013

V/H/S/2 Should Be Rewound and Played Again: A Movie Review

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Directors/writers: Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sánchez, Timo Tjahjanto, John Davies, Jamie Nash and Adam Wingard.

Cast: Kelsy Abbott, Hannah Al Rashid, Fachry Albar, Oka Antara and Devon Brookshire.

There is something to be said about horror anthologies of late; they are short and sweet. The ABC's of Death (2012) offered dozens of tales in a short time frame, late last year. Now, V/H/S/2, the sequel to 2012's V/H/S, brings five tales in under ninety minutes. The longest in this feature clocks in at thirty minutes ("Safe Haven") and each story has something unique to offer. Shot found footage style, via several creative ways, V/H/S/2 manages to be uniquely compelling, while including several scare worthy moments.

It would be best to discuss each episode from best to worse. The best short is titled "Safe Haven." Interestingly enough, the director of "Safe Haven" also participated in The ABCs of Death. This time Timo Tjahjanto and teammate Gareth Evans (The Raid) bring one of the best spectacles in film, in some time. "Safe Haven" is a film that follows a cult as it reaches zero hour (a suicide pact). Several documentarians show up to record events at an isolated commune. Instead of filming the hum-drum, these filmmakers roll cameras as cultists drink the Kool-aid, kidnap a young pregnant woman, execute other cultists and prepare for the birth of an evil god. These are only a few of the events that occur, in this well paced and well shot short feature film. "Safe Haven" will blow most viewers away.

The second best feature of these five tales is "A Ride in the Park." Essentially, filmakers Gregg Hale and Eduardo Sánchez's (The Blair Witch Project) deliver a zombie tale. But, it is much more than that, also. The film, here, is shot through a GoPro camera and the transformation of a mountain biker to a flesheater is all caught through the protagonist's point-of-view. This biker tastes his own flesh, pukes blood and destroys a young girl's birthday party. All of this chaos is captured in a compelling fashion. Sánchez, who arguably birthed the found footage style of filmmaking with The Blair Witch Project, is here in excellent form again.

This viewer's third favourite film was "Phase I Clinical Trials." This short reminded this watcher of the film The Terminator (1984). In each film, one of the main characters has a robotic eye and everything is being recorded through this electronic device. In this short, the main character has recently received an ocular transplant. Unfortunately, he can now see ghosts. A young woman comes to his aid, but she is quickly dispatched by the paranormal. This short is sexy, grisly and often scare worthy. Though, "Phase I Clinical Trials" utilizes a few too many horror tropes: ghosts and a new gift to see the paranormal plane.

Finally, this viewer's least favourite of the four main shorts was "Slumber Party Alien Invasion." This title pays homage to some of Steven Spielberg's earlier work, such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Aliens emerge and they look a little too cute to be disturbing or scary. Canadian director Jason Eisener seems to be sleep walking through this venture, despite bringing one of the better tales to The ABCS of Death ("Y is for Youngbuck"). The thrills are missing here as strobe lights try to make events compelling; they are not.

The wraparound for these four main features is too short to really review. Essentially, two private investigators are searching for a missing college student. They find a treasure trove of VHS tapes, instead. And, once the tapes are played, the characters are changed forever and for the worse. Simon Barrett's work here acts as an interlude, for the other films and it should not be compared to the other four features above. Still, "Tape 49" offers a solid conclusion to this horror anthology.

V/H/S/2 is an expertly crafted sequel. The found footage style of filmmaking remains strong in this series. And, this film makes this critic believe that this subgenre still has some life, or some death left to offer. Horror anthologies have been a favourite of this film fan and other horror fans will find lots to be thankful for in this outing. Compelling, well shot, quickly paced and thrilling, V/H/S/2 will leave a lasting bloody impression on most watchers.

Overall: 8 out of 10 (lots of action, plenty of thrills, "Safe Haven" is a smash, lots to enjoy).

This title will be in select theatres July 12th. Details on the theatrical showing are here:

V/H/S/2 at Magnet Releasing

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