Wednesday 4 December 2013

V/H/S 2

There is something spooky about VHS2 even before watching it. Since the days of ghosts coming through the TV in Poltergeist via after broadcast static, and then the battered, grainy, degraded quality of the final moments of the victims in The Blair Witch Project, there is something creepy about an analog signal. In these dying days of analog signals, there a some out there who won't even know what a VHS tape is, and while it certainly won't diminish any enjoyment they could get from this film, I'd imagine knowledge of that era adds an extra little something.

VHS2 builds on the interesting premise of the first film, features short films from a first person point-of-view, and generally betters the original in every way. However, that isn't to say VHS2 is great though. Much like VHS, VHS2 is a collection of short films, viewed by characters whose own story bookends the film. The story that holds the film together is bland, boring and completely unnecessary. The true fun is found in the four tapes watched during the film.

Note- Some spoilers ahead.

First up is Phase I Clinical Trials, a short that is the absolute worst of the bunch. It's a cliché ridden tale about a guy who receives an eye transplant, and along with it the ability to see ghosts in his house. Now that he can see them he's suddenly a target, so the danger escalates very quickly. I know what some of you are thinking, and yes, it's basically a rip-off of The Eye, the 2002 Pang Brothers creepfest. It's like that but absolutely awful. Jump scares, screaming girl ghosts with long black hair and a crowbarred in sex scene. Yawn. It should have been named “The Horror of Google Glasses!”

The second film is called A Walk in the Park. Directed by the guys who made The Blair Witch Project, the film depicts a young man being bitten by a woman, leading to him turning into a flesh-eating zombie. However, as expected in the VHS series, the real innovation and interest here is that all the action happens from the perspective of his biking helmet. First person zombie film! Yeah, I know, awesome right? No, it isn't bad, but it's hugely disappointing despite the great concept. I expected more from the directors that made The Blair Witch Project, but sadly it doesn't offer much new in terms of real substance.

The third film is Safe Haven, directed by Gareth Evans, director of last year’s best action film, The Raid. This is where I was suddenly snapped out of my increasing dislike for VHS2 and took notice. Simply put; Safe Haven is fucking terrifying. Set in Indonesia, the film follows a documentary crew as they try and document a bizarre cult, led by a man only known as Father. With rumours of sexual abuse towards the children in his compound, the crew are wary of what they might find. Father wants to bring about a new plane of existence on Earth, and says that the time is near for his group’s ultimate goal. What happens next is... well... I won't say. I can't spoil the best part of the film for you. What I will say is that it is genuinely scary, and the sense of urgency and fear is incredibly clear and present. This is the only one of the short films that could have been successfully extended into it’s own film. It's pulse pounding, highly disturbing and makes the first two films look like child’s play. Brilliant.

Lastly there's Slumber Party Alien Abduction, a film that's about, well, an alien abduction during a slumber party! Directed by Jason Eisener of Hobo with a Shotgun fame, most of this film takes place from a camera fixed to the head of a dog, and features a bunch of teens spending a night in an adult-less home. Compared to the other films, there's a great sense of realism here, especially when it comes to the camera movement. Things get nasty quite quickly though, as aliens start to abduct the children in a loud, frantic flurry of screams and shrieks. It's quite unsettling, especially when the aliens themselves are seen and the viewer is given a brief, yet startling glimpse of their pale bodies, thin limbs and grotesque faces. Exceptionally well done when it comes to a sense of sheer panic, Slumber Party Alien Abduction caps VHS2 off with a bang.

Overall VHS2 is two parts a complete disappointment, and two parts a must-see experience. While the first to films will bore you, the last two are truly fantastic pieces of horror. If you're looking for a mixed bag that delivers a gut punch in its second half, be sure to check out VHS2. If only for the last two films, it's absolutely worth it.

VHS2 gets a watchable 6/10

Denis Murphy

VHS 2 at CeX

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