Thursday, October 30, 2014

30 Days of Nightmares #30: V/H/S 2 (2013)

(NOT the official poster... but too cool to ignore.  Art by Tony Moore.)
The Story: This horror anthology is set into motion when a couple of private detectives search the apartment of a video hoarder (think of him as the curator for the FACES OF DEATH series) and find dozens if not hundreds of tapes of people dying.  Watching just four of those tapes proves fatal.

Expectations: I know, I know.  I'm consciously breaking my own rule by watching a sequel.  But I figured that stories in an anthology have to be original, right?  As far as I know, no one has made an anthology where the sequel continues the stories in the first film.  (Although now that I think of it, that could be an interesting experiment...)  Also, this is the last day of my movie marathon.  I want to finish with something strong, and this is the film that friends keep telling me to watch -- even though I was lukewarm about the first film.

Reaction: Simon Barrett returns with a relatively lackluster wraparound segment.  As I said last time, wraparound segments are a thankless job.

The first segment, "Clinical Trials," is written and directed by Adam Wingard, one of the most interesting young horror directors around these days.  (The other film that everyone is telling me to watch is Wingard's latest, THE GUEST, which is still making its limited theatrical run... Unfortunately, it has already come and gone in L.A.)  He sets the tone for the whole anthology with a found footage story told via a "camera eye."  What that means, in practical terms, is that the filmmaker probably taped a go-pro to the side of the main character's head.  And that go-pro sees dead people.  Because this is an anthology segment with a short running time, the filmmaker avoids the subtlety and suspense of a good ghost story and offers instead a headache-inducing visual assault.

The second segment, "A Ride in the Park," is written by Jamie Nash and directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale (of BLAIR WITCH, ALTERED, SEVENTH MOON and LOVELY MOLLY fame).  These guys stick their go-pro on the side of a mountain biker's helmet and send him off into a forest full of zombies.  It doesn't take long to figure out where this is going... Zombie-cam!  At first this seemed groan-worthy but after a while I couldn't help myself from laughing.  This is a successful black comedy with plenty of guts. 

The third segment, "Safe Haven," is written and directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans.  This time, the camera (or at least one of the cameras) is disguised as a shirt button -- on a film crew member who goes into a compound full of crazy cultists.  Initially this reminded me of THE SACRAMENT, but then it turned into a kind of mutant hybrid of ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE EVIL DEAD.  At a certain point, things got so off-the-wall crazy that I couldn't help laughing. Judging by the final scene that was the intended effect, so I guess I have to declare this one some kind of success.

The fourth and final segment, "Slumber Party Alien Abduction," is written and directed by Jason Eisener, the man behind HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN and one of the best segments of THE ABC'S OF DEATH.  I had high hopes for this one, not just because of Eisener's track record but because one of the people who recommended V/H/S 2 to me raved in particular about this final segment.  The title says it all... this is about a series of lascivious home video hijinks that get interrupted by aliens.  Now, maybe it's because I just watched ALIEN ABDUCTION... but I just couldn't get past the fact that this one is all style and no story.  Yeah, the editing is top-notch -- if you're a gamer.  If not, just remember to take your epilepsy medication. 

I have a feeling that V/H/S 2 would have been more fun to watch with a big audience.  I tend to like to watch horror movies alone in the dark, because it's easier for me to suspend my disbelief that way... but clearly none of the filmmakers involved in this project expected the audience to suspend their disbelief.  This is not FACES OF DEATH.  This is FACES OF DEATH on mind-altering drugs.  Don't watch it sober.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: Ocular trauma is always effective. 


  1. Love this series! VHS 2 was even better than the first. Have you seen VHS Viral yet?

    1. Hey Larkin - I haven't seen "VHS: Viral" yet. Does the series keep getting better? What's on your viewing list for Halloween night?