Thursday, November 14, 2013

REVIEW: V/H/S 2 (2013)

While the first V/H/S wasn’t anything intellectual, it was a fun anthology horror flick that called back to the 80s and pulled off some interesting twists with the handheld-cam format. There was a lot of energy and it was a great flick to sit back and drink a beer to. So how about we make a sequel with a bunch of short films that play like outtakes from the first collection? It’s more like the table scraps of the first V/H/S rather than a legit sequel. Let’s just get this shit over with.

Directors: Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tjahjanto, Adam Wingard
Starring: Lawrence Michael Levine, Kelsey Abbot, various others for the other shorts

So yeah, we start this off with some idiot filming people having sex in a motel. He gets caught by the cleaning lady and, at this point I realize it’s how the director of this film made excuses to his probation officer. “I wasn’t making a porno! Uh, look, I spliced in some of my friends’ homemade horror movies! It’s art! IT’S ART!!!”

We then get introduced to our main character Larry, played by Lawrence Michael Levine. Heh…yeah, I’m real sure him playing a character with an abbreviated version of his own name was such a stretch. He’s going to some house with his girlfriend Ayesha, where they’re being paid, I guess, to look into the disappearance of some kid. Larry says that “the cops wouldn’t care about some missing college kid” – heh heh, well you’re of course completely wrong and stupid, but okay. They get to the house and the girlfriend decides to sit down and watch some videos…

Badger from Breaking Bad, noooooo!

Yeah, apparently that’s supposed to be the kid they’re looking for. So what, the first movie had a relatively simple, unobtrusive wrap-around story about crooks finding some dead guy’s house with a bunch of evil videotapes. This one has a stupid hipster looking kid who probably just smoked too much weed and passed out in the basement reading Ayn Rand.

The first story we get is about some guy who’s getting a new bionic eye with a camera in it after an accident. Pretty interesting set-up. I do think it’s pretty stupid that they apparently waited until AFTER they put the damn thing in his head to tell him that they’d be watching his every move. The NSA's latest master plan! I can't wait for someone to blow the whistle on this one and then spend the next several months globe-hopping the world. Eh. Personally I’d take looking like the cover of a bottle of Captain Morgan over having a bunch of old perverts watch me take a shit every morning.

So he goes home and immediately begins to see ghosts everywhere, turning this into a low-rent version of The Shining. Probably still more enjoyable than Stephen King’s 1990s TV remake though. All I can think is how jealous I am that this douchebag has such a nice place, though:

Seriously, what the hell? What does this guy do? Is he some kind of rocket scientist? My guess is he’s probably just some rich kid who never bothered to come out from the shadow of his parents’ checkbook.

I guess the ghosts begin to freak him out until this one chick shows up at his door. She comes inside, demands a beer and then tells our main character that she has a cochlear implant that allows her to hear ghosts. If that isn’t stupid enough for you, just take a look at her idea of how to “cure” seeing all these ghosts:

Yup, her way of getting rid of the ghosts is to take off her shirt and fuck the main character, because…well, I’m guessing the director was forced to put some cheap tits in the movie just in case the audience was getting bored in the long gap between the last tit shot and this one. What a great reason to put something in a movie. Oh, did I say great? I meant cheap and useless.

“But wait,” you may be claiming, “what if it’s done for story purposes?” Well, just take a look at how well that idea worked to ward off those pesky ghosts…

...she's supposed to be drowning there, if you couldn't tell.

Yeah, the ghosts start killing them almost immediately after they finish having sex. Isn’t that just amazing? We see the main guy finally get fed up with it all and cut the eye out of his head. It doesn’t help though, and the ghosts kill him anyway. What a happy ending.

I figured out later that this guy is actually director Adam Wingard, who had nothing to do with writing this segment. He also did some good shit with the first V/H/S and made one of the best segments on ABCs of Death - keep up the good work, dude; you are cool.

Back in wrap-around land, Larry tells Ayesha to keep on looking through the tapes so the film can keep going. Oops, I mean “in case they find something about the missing kid.” Uh huh. Sure.

Next we get a story about some guy with a bike helmet cam for absolutely no reason, telling his girlfriend how much he enjoys riding around in nature in the morning. Of course we then see him truly enjoying nature by riding his bike to the tune of loud, disjointed electronic dance music – there is no greater way to show man’s connection to nature! None!

Then he gets turned into a zombie by some chick with a serious biting fixation. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a zombie movie told from the POV of one of the zombies? No? Well too bad.

Then they crash a birthday party. Oh no, some guy that looks like The Rock isn’t too happy that zombies crashed his kid’s party!

What are you doing with that truck? All I wanted was a slice of cake! Stop it! No! Noooooooooooo----

Oh okay, so he survives that too. He gets a call from his girlfriend which reminds him of all that he’s lost. So then we get the first ever on-screen zombie suicide. Geez, right after the first robot suicide the other day! Isn’t the world such a bizarre place?

Back in wrap-around palooza, Larry finds Ayesha with her nose bleeding and says something about how they left her medication at home. Because it’s such a great idea to leave her all alone in a house full of creepy video tapes where a kid may or may not have died, he does exactly that, going to find her some medicine at the nearest drug store. She pops in the next tape.

And okay, so this one, “Safe Haven” is the one most talked about in this entire collection. I gotta level with you though. It’s really not that good. I know people like this one quite a bit, but I don’t know. To me it just comes off as a long, boring, self-indulgent trudge. But far be it from me to get ahead of myself; no no – let’s go through this whole thing step by step. Get your pill boxes and glasses of wine ready. You’ll need ‘em.

So it’s about a bunch of journalists, I think, after some story about a weird Indonesian religious cult. They talk to their leader at a café and find out that yes, he really is every single cliché you could think of with a character and plot like this. Mousy little dude talking crazy about how there is a literal afterlife to which he will lead his followers like sheep across a valley? Check. All that’s missing is anything of interest.

So they convince him that they’re REALLY OBJECTIVE JOURNALISTS, and yes that does need to be in all caps, and so they can come into his crazy temple of insanity and film shit. And that’s what they do. Even though right away they set about showing exactly why they’re not objective by asking questions about why everything is so crazy. But how can you blame them when the little girls at this place talk about how this cult leader guy is actually just a creepy pedophile? It’s not like there’s anything to be said for actually being truthful and just showing no bias when doing a report like this, right? Fuck it. We need to show off how morally superior we are!

So objective. You're the master of journalism.

Hell, most of these bungholes don’t even stick closely to the interviewing for long enough for it not to devolve into a soap opera. Two of them go outside and end up arguing about how they got pregnant even though the girl is with one of the other guys in the crew. Isn’t this just the perfect place to argue about this shit? And oh yeah, we gotta have the fucking camera on when arguing about it, just so the guy the chick is actually dating can overhear them while out getting some batteries! Hey, weren’t we making a movie about an evil religious cult? Nah, that was too fucking boring. The soap opera shit, though; THAT’S where the money is! Genius filmmaking.

"You're just mad because I'm an exact replica of M. Night Shyamalan!!!"

That’s the thing, too – the first V/H/S mostly stuck to one camera to tell the stories, resulting in some very clever set-ups. This one has multiple cameras and switches between them like a regular movie would. So what’s the point? The only interesting aspect of the style of the first V/H/S film was the one-camera element. Without that, it’s just a bunch of hackneyed shit. Are you seriously telling me that these people all died horribly and bloodily and then some asshole took the time to splice together the footage from their cameras into one home movie? Give me a break.

So yeah, the whole place just goes insane and turns into a really lame haunted house ride, like something you’d see at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights. The one stoner moron of the group is stuck with crazy religious psycho while he pauses the interview to begin the apocalypse.

No, seriously. He begins the fucking apocalypse. He says some magic voodoo horseshit over the loudspeaker and then everything goes crazy. When stoner moron tries to interrupt, crazy religious psycho doesn’t like that, and rips off his shirt and stabs the guy in the throat on camera, just like that.

The Hangover did it better.

That’s the other thing with this story. Were they just planning to do this all along, even if the journalists did remain objective and treated them fairly? What’s the point of even having these people even come in if you’re just going to kill everyone, even your own followers, that same day at apparently a very specific time? “Hey, this is our judgment day in which hell will take over the Earth, but I think I’ll invite some stupid kids with cameras in!” It’d be one thing if this was some kind of elaborate set-up, but it’s not – at the beginning of this mess, the crazy religious guy was reluctant to let them in because the media usually portrays the religious cult in a negative light. SO WHAT THE HELL IS THE LOGIC OF PROVING THEM RIGHT? Isn’t going insane and stabbing people exactly the kind of negative stigma you didn’t want? There’s really no way of making this logical in any form. There’s no excuse.

It’s just so odd of a time frame – this is the day we’re going to end the world and kill ourselves; let’s invite journalists to do a TV interview? What if the journalists had scheduled things a day later? What would the crazy religious cult’s calendar look like then?

But hey, fuck it, who needs things that make sense? Let’s have a bunch of guys shoot themselves for no reason.

That's just what (insert Indonesian stereotype here) does to you after too long! PS, I apologize in advance to the country of Indonesia.

And let’s have an execution-style lineup that one of the main characters stumbles upon, and the guy just lets him live for no reason – or just because the film needs to drag on and on forever.

And I mean it DRAGS. This thing never seems to end! I’ve watched two and a half hour films that go by faster than this! Ugh, so what, they strapped the pregnant girl to a table and let her give birth to a demonic black goat? How utterly unexpected! Maybe she wasn't just cheating on her fiance. Maybe she she had some, erm, extracurricular interests in terms of who she was sleeping with on those lonely week-nights...

What happens on the farm, stays on the farm.

Some other shit happens, but who really cares? I don’t. Next scene.

Back in Everybody Loves Wrap-around, Larry returns and finds Ayesha unconscious on the floor. Being a genius, he of course shouts for help in the house they’ve broken into; the one that has already been established to be empty. I’m sure that will do you plenty of good, you imbecile. So then he takes her to the hospital and saves her life.

"Hmm...nah, I don't really care. I feel like watching some movies!"

HA HA! Just kidding, he sits down and watches another videotape. What a worthless piece of crap he is. There are no words for how much I don't understand any of this right now.

But hey, at least the next short is so stupid it will numb your brain to any perceived inconsistency in the wrap-around’s plot…

You know what was wrong with the rest of this movie? The camera work was too visible. It wasn’t nauseating and shaky enough to make you feel like you were trapped in a dice box in a game of Dungeons and fucking Dragons or something. I’m so glad the final short decided to rectify those mistakes!

This one is about…aliens or something. There isn’t much to be said for it because not a lot happens. Bunch of kids play pranks on each other like a rejected 1980s comedy sequel, and then aliens show up and kill them. Some of this could have been effective, as they have a nice setting and the colors and lighting are pretty cool. But you can never actually SEE anything going on – it just becomes a bunch of shaky-cam nonsense, making Cloverfield and [REC] look like masterpieces of calculated and well-paced cinema.

Jesus, this is annoying. And the wrap around segment ends with that kid Larry and Ayesha were trying to find becoming a zombie and, I guess, killing them or something. He gives a goofy thumbs up and then a crappy punk rock song plays over the credits.

You know, I think that last bit sums up the movie; it really does. The first one, while campy, at least didn’t have any outright silly moments like this, practically winking to the audience in that lame self-aware mode. Horror got lame when that kind of thing was introduced. And the ending of this one sums up the entire tone – jokey, hokey and lame as hell.

I mean, OK, it’s not unwatchable or anything. Despite its problems, there was still actual effort put into this, even if it seems pretty minimal overall to me. But it’s just so weak. The writing is a pretty half-assed attempt at horror comedy, and while it’s not all bad or anything, it’s not very good either, coming off as insecure and insincere – these kinds of “self aware” horror comedies always seem like the makers would be embarrassed to be caught watching any of the movies they’re parodying.

The only exception is “Safe Haven,” which isn’t goofy at all, rather just boring, poorly written and overly long, riddled with plot holes the size of minivans. It’s just a piece of shit. I know people like it and all, but I really can’t get behind that one at all.

Well, that's V/H/S 2. Aren't you just looking forward to the endless run of less and less interesting and well produced sequels in the next few years? Ugh. I'm just going to bury my head in the sand now, and pretend the first one was a stand-alone film.

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