IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2450186/
Starring: People, various and sundry, some better known as directors or “Misc Cast & Crew” of other films. Sometimes even the segments they star in! And speaking of directors, the men who brought us “The Blair Witch Project” and cinema tour-de-force “Hobo with a Shotgun” are responsible for two segments. But for me, the real star was Epy Kusnandar, the second most interesting man in the world.
Review in a nutshell: While I also felt that the original V/H/S was a “better than expected” bit of creepy, sadistic weirdness, the sequel wasn’t what I was hoping for. While it follows the formula of a haunted video tape anthology (complete with half-assed frame story and completely unlikable characters), and the individual segments are fewer and better budgeted, they’ve lost an important part of the premise by featuring digital video: While this is even a clever plot point in some segments, it results in significantly less creepy factor. But the biggest change is in tone; I wouldn’t call the original “dignified”, exactly, but it took itself seriously, and had a consistently bleak, unsettling feel that the sequel lacks. The clear HD video and zany, gleeful tone make it feel both cheaper, and less genuine, despite better production values. And the acting is even worse, if you can possibly believe that.
Reviews By “Tape”
Tape 49: The frame story of the sequel involves unlikable jerks who watch a series of mysterious VHS tapes on a pile of monitors in a creepy old house. If that sounds just like the first film, well… um… This time they’re reporters, or detectives or something? Oh, and one of them is a girl who can’t act. And there is frontal male nudity.
The Money Shot: Instead of the original’s creepy, dead old man whose corpse doesn’t stay where you left it, the tension of this frame story comes from a stoned college kid with a mac laptop and a hoodie. Who is a zombie, I guess? Maybe not. He might have invisibility powers, or maybe a detective just failed to look in a closet after searching a three room apartment for 90 minutes. Oh, and someone turns into an upside down walking exorcist puppet for a few glorious seconds, but it is not enough to redeem the segment.
Tape 1:“Phase 1 Clinical Trials” ~ One of the better segments, in which an unlikable jerk-dude (director Adam Wingard) receives an experimental implant to restore sight in his left eye; As an added bonus, it also records HD video, (for science!), and allow him to see terrifying and awkwardly posed ghosts in his apartment. Fortunately, a Deus Ex Goth Girl arrives, as if by magic, to teach him a valuable lesson: Ghosts are afraid of boobies. But the ultimate lesson is that once the ghosts in your apartment know that you can see them, cameras get glitchy and everyone dies.
The Money Shot: After a series of confusing events, a character named Clarissa appears and explains it all. Then a guy tears out his own eye (in first person perspective!) while an unkempt ghost in his underwear looks on. And… Scene.
Tape 2: “A Ride In The Park” ~ An unlikable man straps an HD camera to his head, continuing the sort-of-found-footage theme, before going for a ride in the park on a GHOST BIKE! Actually it’s just a regular bike. But after taking it off some sweet jumps, he meets a lady who needs help! In the first of several lessons on how being a good Samaritan is for chumps, the lady vomits up fountains of black ichor, turns into a zombie, and bites him: Hilarity ensues. This segment features extremely graphic 1st person zombie violence, but with a strangely zany, almost upbeat tone, right up until the tearful suicide at the end. (er, spoiler alert, or something.)
The Money Shot: A zombie horde tears through a young girl’s outdoor birthday party, as seen from a first person zombie-cam perspective, with a barbecue fork bobbing around at the edge of the frame, leading to the most awkward product placement shot in the history of western cinema. (At this point, I was starting to think that each segment would include a head mounted camera and eye trauma, but I was wrong!)
Tape 3: “Safe Haven” ~ Probably the best of the set, we join a group of unlikable documentary filmmakers as they visit an Indonesian religious compound. The “Father” of this group, a sometimes goofy, sometimes hilarious, increasingly naked and terrifying cult leader, is played by the scene stealing Epy Kusnandar. (Imagine a David Koresh documentary starring Ken Jeong in “Senor Chang” mode, and you’re starting to get the general idea.) It begins with bickering, ominous scenery, Blair Witch stick figures, and implied child molestation, but gradually escalates into a Rosemary’s Baby plot twist, mass suicide, zombies, evil nuns, and full on Evil Dead 2 style chase camera sequences. In another possible nod to early Sam Raimi films, the final shot involves a wobbly monster mask on a stick that may have been intended to be scary. (Or possibly a rejection of Evil Dead and shoutout to Siffyl and Ollie? Not totally clear on that.)
The Money Shot: Just when it seems like we’re about to get the Big Monologue, the character who was about to deliver it Just Plain Fucking Explodes(TM), Monty Python style. No wafer-thin mint, or particular reason at all, really, aside from the wow factor. And that’s only the kickoff to the finale…
Tape 4: “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” ~ An insufferable group of kids and their dog are left alone for a weekend with their unlikable sister and her douchebag boyfriend, at a house on a lake. (Spoiler alert: Read the title of the segment.) While it’s one of the shortest segments, you will also probably wish the Aliens would get just freakin’ get on with it, already. Especially after the first time they fail to abduct the kids, and the second, and the third. Fortunately, everyone dies. Sadly, so does the dog, the only character in the entire segment who doesn’t deserve it. (Not counting the Aliens, who are doing our planet a service.)
The Money Shot: Gangly, creepy-ass aliens appear, accompanied by blinding light and a loud honking sound, not entirely unlike that of Jack Burton’s Pork Chop Express. (Then repeat the scene three or four times, until it stops being scary and just gets old.)
The Verdict: I think I would give this film two head-mounted cameras (with traumatic eye injuries) out of five. Or one less than the original, whatever it was measured in. While I enjoyed the unrestrained, non-stop gory roller coaster of “Ride In The Park”, and the gleeful insanity at the end of “Safe Haven”, I can’t help but feel that the sequel failed to deliver the same kind of experience as the first film. (And given how weak the frame story of the original was, building an even worse one is a special kind of achievement.)
Where I found it: Amazon.com Instant Video, the last refuge of late weeknight movie watching.
How much I paid for it: $3.99, and another sliver of human dignity that I will never get back.
The Blair Witch Project
Evil Dead II
Sifl & Olly
Does the Dog Die?THE most important movie question.
You know what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like this? “Who?” “Jack Burton. Me!”