Thursday, July 11, 2013

Another five-part horror opus V/H/S/2: Lightning, it seems, does not strike twice.

The below review first appeared as this film was making its VOD debut last month. TrustMovies is posting it again, as the movie opens tomorrow theatrically.

Last year's six-part horror surprise V/H/S provided a nasty jolt of bizarre, hand-held scares from a few of our favorite independent filmmakers, some of whom had not ventured into this territory previously. Its follow-up, V/H/S/2 -- other than the genuinely scary and original mid-sectioned Safe Haven by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans (who gave us last year's action hit The Raid: Redemption) -- is a disappointing potpourri of repetition and, god help us, zombies and aliens, with another not-so-hot, wrap-around section (which was the original's weakest part, as well).

Safe Haven, about a couple of journalists trying to discover the truth behind a little-known Southeast Asian cult with a taste for suicide that could lead to something, well, uh... bigger has the the kind of documentary feel and narrative flair that could give Jim Jones nightmares. In addition to being the best of the five works cobbled together to make one full-length film, it is also the longest and most assured piece of movie-making.

Low-budget, it nonetheless smacks of creativity in everything from story to performances to production values, which is more than can be said for most of the other sections -- which reply on jiggly, hand-held scares which, often as not don't arrive because you really can't figure out WTF is going on. This is not true of A Ride in the Park by Edúardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale, in which you can figure most everything out. This short film returns us to zombieland once again but doesn't provide much that's new (other than the POV) yet seems to go on and on and on.

The wrap-around, Tape 49 by Simon Barrett (above), is another of those break into a house and discover a bunch of videos, which of course must be played and then paid for rather drastically. The usual suspense and little surprise ensues.

Phase 1 Clinical Trials (above) by Adam Wingard does The Eye kind of thing in OK-but-so-what? fashion, while the final segment, Slumber Party Alien Abduction (below) by Jason Eisener, is the roughest-hewn of the five and also the least compelling. The low-budget here wears its heart on its sleeve, doing nobody any favors.

So, when the movie -- from Magnet Releasing, The Collective and Bloody Disgusting and running a too-long 95 minutes -- opens theatrically on July 12 (it's actually opening tonight, 7/11/13, in West L.A. at the NuArt), go for the Asian cult number. Or better yet, as the movie made its VOD debut on June 6, stay at home where you can fast forward when necessary. If you prefer the theatrical exper-ience, you can find V/H/S/2's scheduled theatrical playdates here.

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