Friday, June 14, 2013

V/H/S/2

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! There's a reason why we moved to DVD...VHS tapes are evil and invite more evil into the world.




V/H/S/ 2 – 1 out of 5

Another anthology of horror films that feels like Creepshow had a baby with a “found footage” film arrives; it’s the sequel to V/H/S, cleverly titled V/H/S/2.

"By the gods, what type of device was held in such a large and obese plastic
container?"


Two private investigators are sent to investigate (because investigating is what investigators do) the disappearance of a college student. Arriving at the kid’s home, they find an empty, dark and extremely foreboding house that would immediate make a real person turn around and flee but since this is a “found footage” movie AND a horror film, all realism and logic is fired at the speed of a cannon out the window. In the house, (where the investigators pretty much don’t bother turning on lights because, you know, ambiance) they find a stack of TVs and a bunch of old school VHS tapes; their combined worth being absolutely nothing because they’re fucking VHS tapes.

In real life, when a college student goes missing, a person just gives it time because,
eventually, their supple of Ramen noodles will run out.


When filming an interview, it's imperative that your director
can be seen in the camera focused on the journalist.
Among the TVs and ancient tape relics, they find a laptop recording a video. Playing back the clip, we see the college student talking about the tapes and how they need to be watched in the appropriate order in order to have an “affect” on you. Forgetting they are looking for the student, one of the investigators starts watching the tapes and, with each passing story (there’s the anthology part), she starts to become increasingly ill, agitated and odd.  Among the tapes is a story of a man who is given a robot-camera eye after he has an accident and finds that he can now see the dead and it culminates in a new, modern day version of that story from Bodies Bags with Luke Skywalker. Another shows an enthusiastic mountain biker who gets attacked by zombies and we are forced to watch him become and terrorize the world as a zombie; first person style! Then there’s the story of the investigation team doing a report on a cult that has a dark shadow (as oppose to those damn light shadows) dwelling in their commune. Finally, we get to witness the horror of men beyond the moon abducting (and possibly probing) a group of young children from their home.


The alien yelled "OH YEAH!" as he busted in but the kids were too frightened to
appreciate the reference.


After watching all these tapes, the investigators find out what happened to the college student and the true horror starts…or, at least, I guess it starts. I’ll be honest; I didn’t find this movie very frightening.

    **Warning, this review may contain some spoilers**

I wasn’t a fan of the first film. In fact, it actually irritated me because the entire film is filled with loathsome characters that I had absolutely no desire to watch, let alone cheer on their survival (but that’s the way horror films are going nowadays—filmmakers no longer want the innocent, charity-minded survivor to live after enduring nonstop hell). Every male in the film is a vile, slimy douche bag that, the moment a camera falls into their palms, instantly becomes a potential date rapists who either is trying to get footage of drunk women boning them, encouraging or forcing women to show them their naked parts or just doing something as simple, and equally disgusting, as filming the nearest pair of clothed boobies and butts. Only one story in the film’s anthology had a tale that didn't involve men objectifying and violating women—shit, even the film’s overall story arc doesn’t escape this as we are introduced to the group that eventually finds their way to the VHS-filled home while they attack a woman and force her top up so they can film her breasts. As I watched it, I started to realize I wasn’t watching a horror film but I was watching the writers sick fantasies come to life.

If this still was from the first film, those people behind her would be on a mission
to rape her.  Thankfully, the rape symbolism is downplayed greatly in this one.


And the women in the film were no better as there were either the embodiment of evil out to kill the douche bags (which, actually, I was okay with) or they were just incorporated into the story so they could show some tit meat. Gratuitous nudity, unlikeable characters, predictable scares and resting on the laurels of the “found footage” gimmick really made V/H/S an awful film for me to sit through. However, after watching the trailer for this one, I kind of had hoped that this would have been a vast improvement—especially the scenes with the alien abduction; that really sold me on giving this film a chance. I should have known better because I’m not a fan of “found footage” films (but there are some exceptions) and I read that the film was rushed into production last year—and rushed usually (if not always) means that they were trying to capitalize on the fame the film got thanks to social networking sites.

I bet the joke was pretty good.


And boy does this film feel rushed.

To sum up this film to the most basic human emotion I encountered while watching this, I would say this; this movie is boring. Each story in the anthology, although having very different elements like one being about a crazy cult and another about little big green grey men, all felt like they were following the same formula; and that formula being: Scary shit arrives, run, scary shit follows, more running and just keep repeating this until you come to an end that, very rarely, actually satisfied and justifies sitting through the story.

But, then again, I guess if a fat man in stained white briefs suddenly showed up
outside my house that would qualify as some scary shit arriving and I would start to run.


While I enjoyed some of the concepts these stories had going for them (something I can’t say about the first film), the execution really did smack of being rushed into production with little to no thought of the final product. For example, the mountain biker story involves zombies and I thought it was kinda cool to see a zombie rampaging and see it through a first-person perspective (or as close to first-person as you can get with a camera on the top of your head) but this novelty quickly wears off and only becomes more grating when the next story (the one with the cult) seems to also involve zombie-like beings (although, in fairness, they are demons), only this time we see the rampage from a first-person view of a man running from the death-bringing horde. Then you have the alien story that is basically just a group of kids and their dog running from the aliens. These are all basically the same story just with the ingredients changed. One has a zombie and it involves chasing, the next has demons and involves chasing and another is aliens and, you guessed it, there’s chasing. It really felt like these stories were thrown together during a late night brain-storming session over some beers and was quickly scribbled on the back of a stained napkin and then filmed over the course of a day because they forgot to brain-storm because someone pulled out the Wii and Mario Party 8. The only story that really breaks away from this formula is the one with the robo-eye and even that feels like they were just making enough changes from something they saw on Tales from the Crypt in order to avoid being sued…and then the chasing starts in that one as the ghost come for him.

"Hi, I'm the ghost, the director is telling me to chase you..."


The only aspect I was able to walk away with enjoying was many of the camera tricks they used in the film that helped it feel a little more realistic than 99% of other “found footage” films that come out each year (that is until the realism is completely destroyed but I'll get to that later). For the most part, clever edits are hidden well throughout the stories and some effects really looked amazing—for example, in the robotic eye story, the film’s protagonist finds a human form under his sheets but when he pulls back the covers, there’s nothing there and it look flippin’ seamless and amazing. But then there’s the other moments where the film goes back to that rushed feel and we have really bad edits hidden in the obvious “let’s shake the camera around a lot so we can do a jump cut to the next scene”—and they plague the fuck out of this film—or the cheap looking alien costumes. I swear I could see the zipper on the jumpsuit but you would never know because they go overdrive on the shaking with the camera to hide how silly the suits really look.

"Seriously Doc, stop laughing and answer me.  How does the robo-eye look?"


Like all “found footage” films, this movie has all the elements that make me hate this specific genre in the horror world. I realize that “found footage” films are all the rage and are not going anywhere soon, not to mention, that they are sold on the idea they are suppose to be more realistic than your average horror film your grandparents grew up watching and groping each other to. The problem I have with them is there are a certain set of questions that are never answered, or even considered, that end up stripping all possibility for realism for me.

Another thing that stripped all realism away:  The idea that there are actually
VHS tapes still out there and not in a landfill.


I could go on all day about how people in “found footage” films never drop the camera when in danger (which is what we all would do) or the fact that, very often, the excuse for the continuous filming is flimsy at best—reasons for the constant camera use is not even really considered in this one. Why are the investigators constantly recording at all time? Why is the mountain biker filming his ride? Maybe to make a YouTube video? That’s the excuse that’s kinda/sort of thrown in on the alien one. The only one that actually makes sense is the guy with the camera eye and even then it only sort of makes sense.  That one, the eye is an experimental one donated by the lab that manufacturers them and as long as you don't stop to think about all the hours of footage they are going to end up with the man masturbating and taking dumps, you should not end up insane from that story.

"What?  No, as a private investigator, having a dashboard mounted camera
pointed directly at me makes perfect sense."


Instead, the one thing that bothers me—and ultimately destroys all potential for realism in these films—is the question of who is editing the footage. Each story is conveniently edited where the characters are established, the threat is clearly estimated and all the action is thoroughly framed and visible (or about as visible as it can be when there’s not shakiness going on). I have found I actually have to work to suspend disbelieve because it won’t happen naturally with just the whole idea that everything just so happens to occur in frame of the camera lens—despite that the odds are in real life the action would happen off screen because the law of averages does not say that a camera will always fall so we can see what is going on.

Just like in real life, "found footage" films feature people filming all the fucking time.


The thing that I can’t ultimately wrap my head around in any of these films is who the fuck is editing them? The whole concept is that the footage you are watching was found; hence the title “found footage” but am I suppose to believe that after they found it, someone uploaded it to their computer and eliminated all the fluff (unless it’s a Paranormal Activity film, then all the fluff makes up the first hour and 15 minutes of your film) and made sure to edit together something to make a somewhat coherent story? But if that’s the case, why do edits suddenly show up in the middle of the story and are often just cuts to the next terror scene? To me, it just makes the film feel even more ficticious—faker than if it was just your standard, “fly on the wall,” third-person perspective film. For me, to make a “found footage” film feel truly real, there would be absolutely no context. No plot devices of people introducing themselves to each other (when they already know each other) or people explaining their jobs to other characters that they should, theoretically, already know and have given all the details of their life to, and, more importantly, no playing with the audio track to cement the scares.

Strangely, the footage of the mountain biker with his camera attached to the bike
was the smoothest shots in the entire film.


The editing of the audio track in this film immediately took away all realism this horror subgenre is suppose to have and only further made me ask the question, “Why were this films of horrible things occurring edited by a mysterious person in such a cliché horror film way?” For example, in the cult story, the cult leader is on one camera broadcasting the message to his people and we see the action unfold on several cameras and each one of them has the audio from camera pointed at the cult leader playing over them. So, I was instantly thrown out of the story because I started to question the film and ask things like, “Who is editing these four cameras together into one story and why did he/she/it take the time to pull the audio from the one video track and put it over the others—meanwhile, deleting the erroneous audio from the other four cameras?” It felt like a lot of needless work just to make something that looks and feels like a horror film cliché come to life. This film also had me bogged down with loud noises always coinciding with scenes that are supposed to make the viewer jump. For something that is meant to look like it is really happening, was I really suppose to believe that the alien’s spacecraft timed its loud noise with the exact moment when they looked directly at the camera?

Okay, this is kinda creepy.


I fully realize that this is me just looking way too deep into the film and the “found footage” genre as a whole but there are ways that these questions aren't even considered when viewing this subgenre. That is when the “found footage” film is presented in an investigation journalism or documentary format; this style was used very successfully in films like Noroi: The Curse, [Rec] and Lake Mungo and they still stand as some of the only “found footage” films that I’ve actually found to be truly frightening.

This one, not so frightening...and sometimes I wondered if it was a comedy.


V/H/S/ 2 may be getting some good reviews from audiences and critics alike but, I’ll be honest, I don’t see or understand the appeal. The film, while easier to endure than the first film, is just a hurried project of predictable scares, far too similar stories that stick to a very obvious formula within its anthology, unrealistic acting and an ending that culminates in more of a whimper than a yell. I think the directors of the film confused scares with boredom but, on a high note, the movie acted as a fantastic sleep aid for me.

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