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V/H/S/2 (2013)

Magnolia Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/24/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/23/2013

In my review for V/H/S, I wrote about the legacy of the horror anthology movie and how that film was trying to bring the genre back to life. Apparently, it worked as the very similar The ABCs of Death showed up not long after the release of V/H/S. And now, here we are, less than a year later, and we are offered V/H/S/2. It's clear that there is a group of young horror filmmakers out there who are very excited by and interested in the possibilities offered by the anthology structure. If only they could channel that energy into making better movies.

As with V/H/S, V/H/S/2 offers a wrap-around story and a series of shorts, all of which fall into the first-person photography/found-footage genre. The wrap-around segment here is entitled "Tape 49" and it deals with a couple, Larry (Lawrence Michael Levine) and Ayesha (Kelsy Abbott), who collect (?) underground VHS tapes. They break into the house of a known collector and, finding the house seemingly empty, begin going through his collection, watching tapes at random. These tapes make up the four stories included here.

"Phase I Clinical Trials" -- Having lost his eye in an accident, Herman (Adam Wingard) is fitted with a bionic eye, which includes a chip to record everything he sees (hence, the existence of the tape). Herman returns home and immediately begins to see strange things, such as people in his house. He is confronted by Clarissa (Hannah Hughes), a woman who has information about the strange phenomenon which Herman is experiencing.

I wonder if writer Simon Barrett has heard of a Korean film called The Eye, which was remade in America with Jessica Alba, as this segment totally rips off both of those movies. Director Adam Wingard manages to get some interesting visuals out of the piece, but the lack of originality in the story stymies this entry from the get-go. And given Clarissa's method for distracting Herman from his visions, Barrett was apparently aiming for the 12-year old boy crowd.

"A Ride in the Park" -- Mike has come to a greenway area to do a little mountain-biking. He has a camera mounted on his bike and on his helmet. He's only bee riding for a few minutes, when he is attacked by zombies. Mike gets away, but not before he's bitten. As he makes his way through the forest, a change begins to come over him.

This segment comes from Eduardo Sanchez, who co-directed The Blair Witch Project, but has never been able to re-produce the success of that film. (Note that I said "success" and not "quality") This may explain why. Does "A Ride in the Park" have a clever idea? Yes, a zombie movie shot from the zombie's perspective is inventive. However, in reality, the idea gets old very, very quickly. And yet, we are stuck in the camera on top of Mike's head as he shuffles around attacking people. This segment just went on and on with the story never changing or becoming interesting.

"Safe Haven" -- Documentarians Malik (Oka Antara) and Lena (Hannah Al Rashid) convince cult leader "Father" (Epy Kusnandar) to let them come to his compound to capture what life is like there. Father agrees, so the pair, along with technicians Adam (Fachry Albar) and Joni (Andrew Suleiman), arrive at the secluded area. They are welcomed and shown things like children in a classroom and men praying. They meet with Father who begins to explain his beliefs, when Lena begins to feel ill. As the interview progresses, the group realizes that the happy commune is actually a doomsday cult.

This entry was co-directed by Gareth Evans, who made the over-hyped The Raid: Redemption. Not unlike that film, I've read some glowing reviews for "Safe Haven", but I think it only further highlights Evans limitations. The man knows how to stage and shoot an action scene, there is no doubt about that, and this piece is full of action. But, it all begins to run together and there's no concrete explanation for what is happening. Is that important? Yes, actually it is. We know what happens to Lena, but the why is very fuzzy. The camera-work here is impressive and as many have pointed out, it does feel like your watching someone play Doom, but the piece needed more substance in order to be successful.

"Slumber Party Alien Abduction" -- Having the house to themselves, Jen (Samantha Gracie) invites her boyfriend over, while her brother has a group of his friends spend the night. Once it's dark, a group of alien invaders attack the group, chasing the kids through the house.

Jason Eisener's entry may have the least amount of story (other than what I've written above, there is little else other than the shenanigans the kids pull before bedtime), but definitely excels at kinetic action. The alien attack begins with a jarring, loud noise which is followed by non-stop chase scenes. The camera-work here is very impressive, as it must have been difficult to stage the various elements which occur during the long-takes. Also, there is a great shot early on of one of the aliens in the water. But, as with "Safe Haven", the lack of a detailed story hurts this piece.

V/H/S/2 is an improvement over its predecessor, mostly because there are fewer stories. Still, this film typifies the problem with this genre -- inconsistency. The first two entries here are fairly forgettable, while the last two are at least entertaining. I don't mind anthologies and I hope that filmmakers keep making them, but I would love to see one which is good from beginning to end.

V/H/S/2 made me concerned about the peripheral vision of the characters in "Tape 49" on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. Given that the movie is meant to be made up of videos from VHS tapes, the image quality varies wildly here. For the most part, things are sharp and clear, with grain and defects added for artistic purposes. The colors look fine and the image shows a nice amount of detail. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Outside of the intentional pops and scratches, this is a solid track which provides detailed surround sound effects, most notably during the last two segments, and excellent subwoofer action.

The V/H/S/2 Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from the various filmmakers involved with the project. There is a making-of featurette for each segment: "Tape 49 Rewind" (2 minutes), "Dissecting Phase I Clinical Trials" (2 minutes), "Inside Safe Haven" (4 minutes), "Slumber Party Alien Abduction: Behind the Lights" (6 minutes), and "A Ride in the Park: I Dare You" (3 minutes). All of these are brief and contain comments from the filmmakers. The A Ride in the Park piece is somewhat useless, as it simply shows the crew attempting to push over a tree. "AXS TV: A Look at V/H/S/2" (3 minutes) contains clips from the film and a few comments. The extras are rounded out by "Behind the Scenes (sic) Photo Galleries" for all five segments and two TRAILERS for the movie.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.