Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Adam Wingard, Hannah Hughes, Lawrence Michael Levine, Kelsy Abbot, Jay
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 96 Minutes
Release Date: September 24, 2013
The “found footage” sub-genre of horror has produced quite a few sleepless nights for film fans, from The Blair Witch Project to Cloverfield, from Paranormal Activity to the first V/H/S. There’s just something about taking the macabre and showing it to us in an amateurish way that makes the experience seem so much more real.
V/H/S 2 doesn’t purport to be anything more than another serving of what we got in the first film. The original used the excuse of some young guys hired to find a specific videotape as a way to link together “tapes” of “real” horror events, each with a different cast and director…no other real link between them.
Like its predecessor, the sequel follows the same route, and with the same results. When you have essentially a collection of shorter films making up one big one, the results will always be mixed…you can’t help but compare one to the other.
Here, we have a pair of detectives trying to find a missing college student. In his home, we find his computer, his recorded confession…and, of course, his videotapes. Hit ‘play’, and away we all go.
The first segment is the strongest. In it, a young man who lost an eye is given an amazing experimental electric version for free, as long as he agrees to a recording chip for a trial period so that the manufacturers can test their device. All seems well until the eye starts seeing some menacing figures. A young woman with a similar device, except in her ear, finds him and explains: just like he’s seeing things he never saw before, she is hearing them. It’s not completely original, but done in a compact and impactful way that delivers some real scares.
Nothing that follows it quite measures up, which is probably the major strike against this movie. There is one sequence that gets points for cleverness…we’ve seen more flesh-eating zombie films than we can count, but this one manages to tell the tale from the zombie’s point of view. A nice twist.
The next best segment shows a documentary team attempting to make a film about a religious cult in Indonesia. The way that story unfolds is truly shocking.
Finally, for good measure, we have a story about alien abduction. The most interesting part about it is that the camera is frequently attached to the family dog, meaning we get the canine point of view of events.
All in all, the segments are all well done, and offer their share of real scares, but there may be only one or two out of the group that I would really take the time to watch again. There is talent on display here, but the format chosen to deliver the work naturally lends itself to a bit of unevenness.
But you have to give credit: in our age, with cameras on every device, YouTube and Facebook, people are always filming. It only stands to reason that these kind of events, if they ever did happen, would be preserved by some amateur and getting millions of ‘likes’.
This category is interesting…after all, much of the footage is designed to look like analog tape. That being said, there is some good high definition material here, and the cinematography manages to be quite amazing despite going for such an on-the-fly feel. High marks.
Sound is all-important in horror, and this uncompressed surround track is one of the best of the year for the genre. The dynamic range is powerful, and the occasional (purposeful) electronic interference serves to keep you unnerved. Some of the bigger scenes really utilize all stages with imagination and potency. And there’s virtually no music to speak of, so this earns four stars just on the strength of its effects and mixing!
The extras include featurettes on each of the individual vignettes, plus filmmaker commentary, trailers, a photo gallery, and a featurette on the movie as a whole.
If you want to be scared, V/H/S 2 will deliver. Just be prepared, as some segments are definitely more memorable than others.