Saturday, September 21, 2013

DVD Review: V/H/S/2 (2013)

V/H/S/2 (2013)

Label: Magnet Releasing
Release Date: September 24th 2013 
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Duration: 96 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 with Optional Spanish and English SDH Subtitles
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1) 
DirectorS: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, EdĂșardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale,
Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener

Here we have another entry in the found-footage anthology series, a sequel to V/H/S (2012) with a new set of directors taking a stab at things, I wasn't completely enamored with the last entry and was down right disappointed with a few of the vignettes (lloking at you Ti west) so lets see what we have this time out. 

We begin with 'Tape 49', a very familiar framing device as two private investigators on the trail of a missing teen unlawfully enter a house and come upon a bank of TV monitors and stacks of VHS cassettes. The female investigator is tasked with pouring through the videos while the man searches through the seemingly empty house for clues to the missing teens whereabouts, this is our introduction to the shorts, much like we saw in V/H/S and it's just as weak here as it was then. The warp-around is directed by frequent Adam Wingard collaborator Simon Barrett whose written some good material previously with the creepy Civil War-era chiller Dead Birds (2006) and the recent You're Next (2011) but this just didn't do much for me unfortunately, it's a shame this is your first and last impression of the film. 

Up next is Adam Wingard's 'Phase 1: Clinical Trials' with Wingard in he staring role as a video game designer who has lost an eye in a car accident, we catch up with him just as an experimental camera-eye has been installed in his eye socket and he's returning home post-surgery. As night settles in begins to see strange things happening around his house, it's pretty much a variation on what we've seen previously in the j horror film The Eye (2002) or the underrated Body Parts (1991) with Jeff Fahey, this is a pretty effective entry and infinitely more fun than any of the Paranormal Activity (2007) entries in my opinion, plus we get a bit of nudity, too. 

The Godfather of Found Footage Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project) offers up 'A Ride in the Park' a novel take on the zombie genre, featuring a mountain-biker with a Go Pro cam mounted-to his helmet as he hits the dirt trails for some extreme off road action until he happens upon a woman is distress, she's bloodied and vomiting. Dismounting his mountain bike  he attempts to offer aid when she attacks him, tearing out  a chunk out of his throat, he stumbles though the woods a short distance and bleeds out. A few moments later a coupe happen upon his corpse when he is suddenly reanimated as a flesh-chomping zombie, the remainder of the short plays out following his zombie exploits captured on the Go Pro camera set-up, it's definitely a novel idea with an interesting POV. I enjoyed the gore and some interesting POV shots - like when he's run over by an SUV, it made for a fun entry. 

Up next is what I think is one of the stronger entries co-directed by Timo Tjahanto (The ABCs of Death) and Gareth Huw Evans (The Raid) which features three documentary filmmakers gaining access to an Indonesian doomsday cult compound, while interviewing the cult leader he suddenly announces to his followers that the end is here, that the glorious event they've been waiting for is upon them... and it's pretty great vignette. We get a bit more character development than what we've seen up to this point including a love-triangle, but nothing too distracting as to take us away from the apocalyptic matters at hand, one of the documentarian's unplanned pregnancy actually plays into the proceedings, in fact it may have spurred the apocalypse. A blood-soaked and frantic affair, the chaos that ensues is fantastic and it went places I was not expecting we have Jonestown-style mass suicides, zombie ghouls and a horned demon unleashed up the world, I loved this entry and felt like it could have easily been expanded upon into a feature length film, I wanted more but what we get is just enough, this one really opened up the scope of the found-footage entries on the disc, it felt like a new take on the sub-genre an is handled quite deftly, these guys had a vision and it's a brutal bloodbath of fun. 

The segment I was most anticipating is from director Jason Eisener who directed the fantastically entertaining a violent retro-grindhouse romp Hobo with a Shotgun (2009) and the creepy 'Youngbuck' from The ABC's of Death (2013) anthology and it didn't disappoint me. Entitled 'Slumber Party Alien Abduction' it features a brother and sister left alone at their lakeside home for a weekend, the older sister's horny boyfriend arrives and the young brother invites a few of his naughty friends over, pretty soon it's a party. The young boys love to prank the horny older teens and capture their shenanigans on video, including, at night the boys bust into the girls room at catch her topless while straddling her boyfriend, enraged she chases the boys outside and it's then that the kids notice some strange lights hovering over the lake, bit don't pay much notice. As things settle down the vengeful sister notices that the boys are watching porn in the front room and turns the camera on them, catching one of 'em wanking it to the dirty movie, and that's when the shit starts to happen, an alien abduction scenario is underway as the teens are bombarded with noise and piercing bright light, slender armed alien greys are out to get 'em! I thought this was a really effective entry, it's fun and ratchets up the suspense right up to the end, this is great stuff and the ending was startling sad.

The film finishes up with the end of the wrap-around story which as I said up front was quite a let down, but overall V/H/S/2 is a step-up in pretty much every way from the first entry, the stories are better, more consistent, they're creative and have a broader scope plus it's executed deftly. 

DVD: The single-disc DVD from Magnet Releasing presents the film in 16:9 widescreen (1.78:1) with English Dolby Digital 5.1 with choice of Spanish or English subtitles. The DVD features both the unrated theatrical cut and the R rated version, not sure what the differences are, I watched the Unrated cut and it's the exact same length as the rated. There;s a nice compliment of extras including behind-the-scenes featurettes, trailers, galleries and a running audio commentary from the filmmakers, it's a very nice package from Magnet. The movie is also available on Blu-ray and as a DVD/Blu-ray/VHS combo, very cool. 

Special Features:
- Tape 49 Rewind (1:39) 
- Dissecting Phase I Clinical Trials (2:28) 
- Inside Safe Haven (3:34) 
- Slumber Party Alien Abduction: Behind the Lights (5:56) 
- A Ride in the Park: I Dare You (3:06) 
- AXS TV: A Look at V/H/S/2 (2:58) 
- Behind the Scenes Photo Galleries
- Filmmaker Commentary
- 2 Theatrical Trailers (3:56) 
- Magnet Trailers: Hammer of the Gods, Europa Report, Prince Avalanche, Syruo  (8:39) 

Verdict: A fun found footage anthology that improves upon the first film in nearly every way.  I went in with tempered expectation having been a bit bummed by it's predecessor but I walked away having had quite a bit of fun, a definite recommend and a fun watch with a few good scares and some interesting ideas that are executed quite well. 4 Outta 5