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Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Movie Rewind: V/H/S/2 (2013)

Directors: Simon Barrett , Adam Wingard , Eduardo Sánchez , Gregg Hale , Gareth Evans , Jason Eisener , Timo Tjahjanto
Starring: Lawrence Michael Levine, Kelsy Abbott, Adam Wingard, Hannah Hughes, Jay Saunders

After V/H/S received somewhat of a following, a sequel was naturally rushed into production. This should come as no surprise as we are talking about the horror genre. Like its predecessor, V/H/S/2 is comprised of "found footage" and is also part of the sub-genre of horror known as anthology films. Anthology films are typically made up of smaller short films/segments that may or may not center around the main storyline. Try not to get too confused or spend too much time trying to connect the dots.
The main film “Tape 49” serves as the center narrative of the movie. Two private investigators are called in to search for a missing college student. They enter his abandoned house to find a mess of a place. Television monitors and laptops have been left on. VHS tapes are scattered all over various tables and floors. They uncover footage on his laptop of the college student giving notes and warnings regarding the VHS tapes.

Both the first film and second have its hits and misses. Maybe that is the point. The segments offer a chance to showcase a variety of horror directors. They feature a mix of styles and scares by some amateur directors and some who are more experienced filmmakers in the genre. I was a bit skeptical about watching the sequel as I was not overly impressed with the first film. It was too long, some of the segments were awful, and there was not a strong enough flow to it. I wanted more of a connection to the main narrative.

As a whole picture, I must admit that this horror sequel vastly improves on the first film. It is a rarity in the horror genre where the sequel is better than the original. V/H/S/2 has four additional shorter segments instead of the overly long five segments that the first film had to offer. I do not include the main narrative in each of those. I did not love every segment, but I found three out of four of them enjoyable. Director Adam Wingard is the only returning director from the first one with his segment “Phase 1: Clinical Trials”. “A Ride in the Park” is the scariest of them all and will appeal to any zombie lovers. It is disgusting, funny, eerie, and not for the faint of heart. It is one of the strongest segments as it is directed by Eduardo Sánchez who co-created The Blair Witch Project. If you love copious amounts of blood, “Safe Haven” will be right up your alley. They do not skimp on the blood flow there. The weakest segment is “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”, which is the last of the four tapes the investigator watches. The story feels incomplete, and the special effects are quite amateurish. Maybe I was expecting too much from a short film with that title.

Both films really cater toward lovers of the horror genre. I cannot decide if that is a good thing or not. When you make a movie, is it okay to narrow down and focus on a very specific audience base or should you always try to appease the masses. I feel like you would have to have a strong appreciation for the wide variety of styles found in the horror genre to like each of the segments and enjoy the film as a whole. Movies like this would never make a lot of money if they were given a wide release. If I remember correctly, V/H/S/2 was only open for a very limited, one weekend run in Minneapolis. It may have only been a “midnight movie” at the Uptown Theater. I wonder if this series will continue. There are plenty of mysterious VHS tapes lying around, so theoretically, the material is there for it. There is definitely room for improvement. It helps to have a shorter runtime with fewer segments. The audience does not feel as removed from the main narrative as I felt with the first one. I still think there could be a more cohesive and connected feel throughout while still maintaining this concept of found footage in an anthology storyline.

Now Available on DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix, your local video store...

RATING: *** (3 out of 5 stars)

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