For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, and a list of previously featured films, please go here.
V/H/S 2 (2013)
Albeit a new film I figured it’d make more sense to cover this here as opposed to in the Mini-Review Round-Up Post. As you may be aware, the first installment of this film series was not one I was fond of in the slightest. However, one of the perks of an anthology film series is that as each installment rolls around there are more variables that can make the quality of one to another quite different. This film overall is an upgrade in technical and narrative terms.
While still a bit lacking, one thing this film improves on from the first is the handling of the frame. There is a bit more thought and effort put into it, and most importantly purpose. Now it’s not impeccable, however, it is not an encumbrance to the film. It’s productive rather than counterproductive.
Most of the tweets and reviews I’d seen to date singled out one particular story in the film for special mention, and that would be “Safe Haven”. That title definitely deserves all the praise it’s getting. However, part of why I decided to feature this film this way was to give the other chapters their due.
In a way, the four main stories that form this film are kind of like a sandwich. The first and last film keep things in place, and aren’t as good as the middle two but serve their function. It’s the first segment (“Phase 1 Clinical Trials”) that had me thinking I was in for another long haul. That’s another thing that made this film better, it runs shorter and has one less segment. “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” deals with a man who when given a prosthetic eye (with recording capabilities, which is clever) can now see ghosts. It starts out a little slow and has its unfortunate patches, but the segment does pull through and makes itself entertaining in the end.
With a helping hand from the Eduardo Sánchez, director of the The Blair With Project, “A Ride in the Park” is a great first-person real-time look at beginnings of a zombie apocalypse. And though the glitchy-ness of VHS-recording is still a little too present throughout, it’s downgraded and accompanied by really good camerawork throughout in this piece especially.
“Safe Haven” is a tandem project from Gareth Huw Evans, writer/director of The Raid, and Timo Tjahjanto that takes you behind the scenes of a cult compound in Indonesia. And that’s as much as bears saying plot-wise. This particular segment, as much as a short can, takes a slow burn approach and then really ratchets up the intensity and the events to nearly unfathomable levels. Answers to questions are not quite all given, some are implied, some are left somewhat mysterious, and that only ramps up the horror. There are some truly jaw-dropping moments in this one that make it very memorable indeed.
“Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” seems at first like it may be an unfortunate way to end the film. However, after a perhaps overly-long stasis things do pick up and it becomes a far more intriguing and well-executed tale than the first one and it has some very good, natural, funny and convincing performances from its young cast. The end of this one it likely the most memorable.
V/H/S 2 is the kind of horror anthology I wanted the first one to be. It’s a good step for the genre, and quite honestly the frequently under-thought found footage approach. I’d be glad to see the series continue now and can only hope The ABCs of Death rebounds this well.
With most 61 Days of Halloween posts I’ve refrained from scoring films so I can discuss themes more, since this is a shared Mini-Review Round-Up post, and those usually are scored, I will give this title a 7/10.