Sunday, January 5, 2014

V/H/S 2 (2013)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

This is a horror anthology film, so I’ll do another separate synopses and my thoughts after each storyline breakdown review. Tape 49 is the main story arc and intro for V/H/S 2.

Tape 49

Larry (Lawrence Michael Levine) works as a private investigator with his girlfriend, Ayesha (Kelsy Abbott). Together, the duo accepts the case of a concerned mother, who’s looking for her missing son. The son is a college student, and his mother hasn’t seen or heard anything from him in one week.

Larry and Ayesha break into a seemingly abandoned house to search for more clues. In the living room, the duo stumble across an elaborate set up with television sets, VCRs, and scattered VHS tapes. While Larry searches the house for more clues pointing to the missing college student’s whereabouts, Ayesha agrees to stay in the living room to watch the tapes. Unbeknownst to Larry and Ayesha, a stranger is inside the house, waiting for the right moment to attack……

My Thoughts: Tape 49 is a basic and effective intro. This intro establishes Larry, as the bolder one in the duo, because he’s willing to take risks. On the flip side, Ayesha is more level-headed and quiet. Plus, there’s a funny moment, when Larry is trying to catch a cheating husband in the act. A maid blows Larry’s cover during the recording, and the cheating husband chases Larry to his car.

Phase I Clinical Trials

After a brutal car accident, Herman (Adam Wingard) needs an eye transplant, so he agrees to a clinical trial for a mechanical eye. The catch? The mechanical eyes is equipped with a recording chip to monitor Herman’s progress, and removing the chip isn’t an option.

On his first night with the new eye, Herman experiences a series of bizarre malfunctions. With some help from his glitchy eye, various otherworldly figures, including a dead man covered in blood, and a dead girl, invade Herman’s home. A woman named Clarissa (Hannah Hughes), who experienced similar problems after a clinical trial from the same company, offers a helping hand. Who are the otherworldly figures, and why are they stalking Herman?

My Thoughts: Phase I Clinical trials is a solid opener. Herman’s eye camera provides a unique and refreshing POV for found-footage films, and the nail-biting finale ends with a nice cliffhanger. Although, I’ll admit, the sequence of Herman hiding in his bathroom, checking the bed, and locking the bathroom door feels repetitive, because they repeat the same process over and over again.

How do you stop the otherworldly figures? Ignore them. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it’s kind of hard to ignore random dead people, who are standing in your living room. Anyway, Clarissa urges Herman to ignore the otherworldly figures, because consistent attention fuels their powers, and when the meter is full, nothing can stop them from attacking their victims. So Clarissa comes up with a temporary solution for a distraction: sex with Herman. Basic, but sex provides a temporary safe net for Herman.

During a brief nap, the otherworldly figures attack Clarissa. Herman tries to rescue a drowning Clarissa, but it’s too late, and Clarissa’s lifeless body is stuck at the bottom of the pool. A frustrated Herman uses a straight edge razor to cut the mechanical eye out of his head, but the otherworldly figures overwhelm him during a struggle. The dead man covered in blood shoves Herman’s mechanical eye down his throat, and the eye malfunctions inside of Herman to end the short.

The scene where Herman uses the razor to cut out his eye? Ouch. Nasty stuff. For a moment, I thought Herman had a chance to escape, but the lock on the bathroom door breaks during Herman’s last stand. As I said before, it’s a nail-biting finale, because I believed in Herman’s chances for survival.

A Ride In The Park

Mike Sullivan (Jay Saunders) is an enthusiastic cyclist. He’s preparing for his daily bike ride in the park, and Mike uses a camera attached to his helmet to record everything. Mike is feeling the heat from his neglected girlfriend, but Mike is forced to deal with a bigger problem during his bike ride. A freighted woman covered in blood pleads for help, and to make matters worse, Mike spots a horde of approaching zombies.

Mike tries to help the woman, but she’s too sick to move. Mike doesn’t have a chance to defend himself, so the zombified woman attacks. Eventually, Mike succumbs to the woman’s bites to complete his zombie transformation. Two unsuspecting bikers approach an unconscious Mike, but a simple 911 call takes a backseat to a life-or-death fight, when Mike attacks the bikers.

My Thoughts: Kudos to Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale (the directors) for providing another refreshing found-footage POV. The rough cut style from Mike’s helmet camera adds a strong sense of realism, and you see every stage in Mike’s transformation into a zombie (i.e. Mike vomiting a black liquid).

Seeing everything through the eyes of a zombie is a GREAT idea for a short. A zombie POV found-footage film has a legit wow factor to it, because it’s a rare occurrence. And a short time frame is the best option for a found-footage short with a zombie POV, because the constant groaning and shuffling would reach a too tedious or boring point after thirty minutes.

As a zombie, Mike attacks and turns the two people, who were trying to help him. There’s a weird sequence, where Mike and the girlfriend of the male victim eat the man together. Yeah, it’s pretty bizarre.

Things pick up again, when Mike and the other zombies invade a little girl’s birthday party in the woods. After a nasty brawl, Mike receives a phone call from his girlfriend, because he accidentally “butt dialed” her. For a brief moment, Mike remembers his true identity, and he’s forced to accept the murders as a zombie. Mike can’t live with the guilt, and Mike realizes he’ll never enjoy a healthy and normal relationship with his girlfriend again, so Mike uses a shotgun to commit suicide.

All hell breaks loose at the birthday party, when the zombies attack. It’s a hellacious scene, and the gruesome sight of Mike’s dismembered head after the shotgun? Nasty stuff.

Safe Haven

In Indonesia, an investigative news team plans to expose a satanic cult with a documentary and hidden cameras. Malik (Oka Antara) is the lead reporter, Malik’s best friend, Adam (Fachry Albar) is a cameraman, and Malik’s fiancée, Lena (Hannah Al Rashid) provides a helping hand as an interviewer.

Father (Epy Kusnandar) is the sadistic leader, and he’s under fire for horrible and unspeakable crimes against the children of Safe Haven. Eventually, the team unravels the dark and evil mystery behind Safe Haven, and Father’s master plan comes full circle during his final announcement……

My thoughts: Incredible. Safe Haven is loaded with so many shocking twists and turns, and the diabolical cliffhanger provides a great jaw-dropping moment.

The first shocker? Lena is pregnant………with Adam’s child. Malik accidentally overhears an argument between Lena and Adam with some help from Lena’s hidden camera, because Lena can’t live with the guilt anymore.

But Malik doesn’t have any time to digest an unexpected pregnancy and Lena’s infidelity. After a speech from Father, everyone in Safe Have commits suicide at the same time, and you can forget about running, because Father’s more obedient servants will hunt you down with a shotgun.

After a while, Adam is on a short list of remaining survivors. Malik is dead, Father murdered another cameraman with a box cutter, and a group of women kidnapped Lena. And Adam runs into another wall of trouble, when the dead (including the children and Malik) are resurrected as feral creatures.

Meanwhile, an abducted Lena is the victim of a satanic ritual. Before a desperate attempt at a rescue for Lena, a deranged Father stands in front of Adam. He’s smiling and babbling about something, and in a matter of moments, Father literally explodes in front of Adam.

Adam fights off a group of women surrounding Lena, and he notices a series of symbols on Lena’s stomach. Suddenly, a winged monster with a giant horn emerges from Lena’s stomach. Lena is dead, and Adam tries to escape, but the monster catches Adam in the car. In the wreckage, the monster refers to Adam as “Papa.” Here, it’s revealed the monster is Adam’s child. In the end, a confused, delighted, and frightened Adam is laughing and crying with drool and blood running from his mouth, as his child is perched on top of the wrecked car.

Mind-blowing stuff. Safe Haven hits in you the face with so many shocking haymakers, and this short includes everything a horror fan could ask for. Tons of blood, disgusting gore, brutal deaths (i.e. a cult member’s head exploding after a point blank range shot from a shotgun), and devilish carnage. When Safe Have kicks into high gear (after Father’s announcement), you won’t be able to pull yourself away from the screen. I guarantee it. Safe Haven is easily the best short in V/H/S 2, and for my money, it’s better than every short in the original V/H/S.

Also, Safe Haven doesn’t use subtitles. Lena rejecting Adam is the only scene, where you’ll hear consistent English dialogue, because the characters in Safe Haven speak Indonesian. You’ll hear a few words of English every now and then during the chaos, but 95% of Save Haven is spoken in Indonesian. Safe Haven looks and feels like an authentic undercover documentary, and the decision to omit subtitles is the icing on the cake.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction

Randy (Cohen King) and Gary (Rylan Logan) are determined to ruin their big sister’s date night with some help from their friends Shawn (Zack Ford), Danny (Josh Ingraham), and the family dog, Tank.

When mom and dad leave the house for a vacation break, Jen’s (Samantha Gracie) date with her boyfriend, Zack (Jeremie Saunders) is disrupted by a barrage of pranks, but Jen gains the upper hand with some help from Zack during a sneak attack. But the feuding siblings are forced into a truce, when a group of Grey aliens show up…………

My thoughts: Stupid. It’s one word you can use to describe this short. Why should I care about characters, who are too dumb to react to OBVIOUS warning signs? The most obvious warnings signs? Blaring horn noises in the background, flashing lights from a flying saucer, and during an underwater scene, you can see the hazy image of a Grey alien reaching towards the camera. Of course, Jen decides to call the police AFTER the aliens attack. Ugh.

The finale? Again, stupid is the only word I can use to describe it. Zack is toting a rifle, but a Grey alien snatches him. After Zack’s abduction, the Grey aliens abduct everyone else one by one, and Tank suffers a brutal death after a LONG fall from the sky.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction is the worst short in V/H/S 2, easily. And it pains me to say that, because Jason Eisener directed Slumber Party Alien Abduction. He’s the same man, who directed Hobo With A Shotgun, and Hobo With A Shotgun is one of my all-time favorite exploitation films.

The laundry list of problems includes moronic characters, annoying horn noises, nauseating shaky cam garbage, and the Grey aliens? Please. They’re a joke. Sorry, but the Grey aliens don’t inspire fear, they’re not intimidating, and the lumbering movements are laughable. There’s a chance the Grey aliens in V/H/S 2 wandered out of a botched slapstick gag, because they don’t belong in a horror film.

Tape 49 Conclusion

Ayesha is still watching the tapes, while Larry searches the house for more clues. After the second tape, Ayesha is suffering a nosebleed, and she complains about a severe headache. Eventually, Larry returns with some painkillers, but Ayesha is laying on the floor without a pulse, and Larry starts a tape with “watch” written in big red letters across the top.

Suddenly, Ayesha awakes, but she’s a different person. As a ferocious and feral creature, Ayesha tries to attack Larry. Larry hides in a closet for protection, but he’s not in the clear yet. In the closet, Larry comes face to face with the stranger…….

My Thoughts:
So who’s the stranger?

**Drum roll**

It’s the mother’s son. Yep. He’s the mystery man, who recorded the introduction at the beginning, and he’s the same guy, who stalked Larry and Ayesha. Why? Because the college kid wanted to make his own tape for the VHS collection.

After Larry finishes the last tape, he watches a recording of Ayesha and himself entering the house. On the same recording, the college kid uses a revolver to shoot himself in the chin (nasty, NASTY stuff). Larry is out of options in the closet, so when Ayesha lunges at him, Larry uses his gun to shoot and kill the evil Ayesha. But Larry is caught off guard, when the deformed college student attacks. The college student gains the upper hand, he strangles Larry to death, and to close out the movie, the college kid gives a thumbs up to the camera.

Revealing the college kid as the attacker was a nice surprise, but in the grand scheme of things, Tape 49’s conclusion can’t measure up to anything in Safe Haven. Unfortunately, Safe Have set the bar high for SHOCKING surprises, so when you compare the two, the overall quality for Tape 49’s storyline is so-so at best. On top of that, Slumber Party Alien Abduction was awful, so the conclusion for V/H/S 2 was doomed from the start. After the preceding abomination, perfection was necessary for a shot at redemption, and Tape 49 didn‘t have a chance.

Summary: When it’s all said and done, V/H/S 2 isn’t terrible, but I had bigger expectations for this. Without Safe Haven, V/H/S 2 is mediocre film at best, because Slumber Party Alien Abduction almost drags this one into the dumpster. Yeah, it’s that bad.

Still, V/H/S 2 deserves credit for using refreshing and inventive methods to justify a found-footage POV (Phase I Clinical Trials, A Ride In The Park, etc.), and V/H/S 2 should satisfy the more extreme and bloodthirsty horror fans. Nudity, an overflow of blood, and disgusting gore. You name it, and you’ll see it in V/H/S 2. V/H/S 2 is more darker and sinister than its predecessor, and Safe Haven is a must-see. If Phase I Clinical Trials and A Ride In The Park bore you, just fast forward to Safe Haven for an unforgettable experience.

Also, I hope we’ll learn more about the people collecting and making the tapes in V/H/S 3. Why are they doing this? Who are they working for? It’s time we take a trip into the rabbit hole to learn more about the tapes. As a fan of V/H/S, I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because I’m hoping V/H/S won’t fall into the Paranormal Activity trap: a runaround storyline (storylines for V/H/S) with no real pay offs in the end.

Rating: 5/10

If you're interested, you can follow this link to read the spoiler review for V/H/S (2012)-

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