Living on Netflix: VHS 2

VHS2-0

Can’t really escape it can I?  The first one was a flawed mess, but had some potential that a sequel could easily improve upon.  Not only that, but there’s a third movie coming out soon which makes this review quite relevant.  So then, do they improve on the mistakes made in the last one, or are they just going to make the same mistakes that every other horror sequel makes by making it bigger but losing the spark of originality that made the previous one noteworthy?  There’s only one way to find out and that’s to keep on reading!!

The movie begins with boobs.  Seriously.  We’re about thirty seconds into the movie and they show us a set of giant knockers.  Even Freddy vs. Jason didn’t resort to nudity that quickly!  It waited a whole three minutes before flashing some bodacious tatas.

“In case you were planning on leaving, we would like to remind you that there might be more boobs throughout this feature!”

“In case you were planning on leaving, we would like to remind you that there might be more boobs throughout this feature!”

The pervert running the camera is caught by the maid, and this alerts the dude inside who comes storming out and tries to attack the cameraman.  The guy makes it to his car though, and gets away with only minor damage to his vehicle.  We cut to sometime later where the not-pervert (he’s a private eye) has picked up his girlfriend/assistant, and they’re driving to their next job.  They’ve been hired to find this woman’s son who hasn’t been showing up to classes recently and won’t answer his phone.  The first question I have is why the fuck are they CONSTANTLY FILMING!?  It’s not like they’re going to use this footage for their job, considering they’re talking about their unscrupulous business practices (if they find the kid, they’ll take him on a ‘road trip’ because they’re getting paid a THOUSAND dollars a day to look for him).  If you’re going to do found footage, you REALLY need to sell me on why the camera is there in the first place, and with a job like theirs I can’t help but think that creating evidence of your not so legal actions (breaking and entering) isn’t good for business.  They arrive at the kid’s house (mom didn’t bother to check there before hiring a private eye?) and go inside to find a setup similar to the first one.

“Where the hell would someone even GET that many old ass TVs!?”

“Where the hell would someone even GET that many old ass TVs!?”

They check the computer first and find footage from the first movie (the douchebags sexually assaulting a random woman) which tells us that the missing kid is probably one of the victims from the wrap-around story in the previous film.  This also confirms that the first movie took place in modern day instead of in the past, but then it just raises the question of why the hell a bunch of punks in their twenties would be recording on big ass VHS cameras instead of their phones.  Whatever, the lady stays behind to look at the tapes while the guy goes looking through the house.  We also see a figure standing in the hallway behind the lady before cutting to our first short.

Phase 1 Clinical Trials (Directed by Adam Wingard)

Well look who came crawling back!  Seriously, the only guy returning to this series is Adam Wingard who was responsible for the god awful wrap-around story in the previous film.  Let’s just hope he realized how fucking bad his part was in the previous film and makes something halfway decent this time around.  He’s not devoid of talent (You’re Next is pretty decent), but he’s gonna have to knock this one out of the park to make up for the last one.  The basic premise is that a guy gets a new robotic eye because his biological ones don’t work for some reason (either he was born blind or got hurt by something).  We also learn that the eye is experimental, and that it’ll be transmitting what it sees to some scientists who will use the footage to determine it efficacy.

“If this works, we can start working on that visor thingy from Star Trek!”

“If this works, we can start working on that visor thingy from Star Trek!”

The problem is that after he gets home, he starts to see (and hear for some reason) nightmarish things such as, knocks on the door, random bursts of video feedback dead people wandering his house.

“Sup.  Uh… am I supposed to do something?  No?  Okay.  I’ll just stand here.”

“Sup.  Uh… am I supposed to do something?  No?  Okay.  I’ll just stand here.”

The guy’s acting here is a bit weird throughout this entire short.  His reactions to the ghastly horrors are over the top (as you might expect if someone saw a ghost), but he’s completely aware that it has to do with his eye transplant.  He calls his doctor up to set up an appointment to figure out what’s going on, yet he still feels the need to run away from whatever it is he’s seeing.  Either they’re there and the eye transplant is just a huge coincidence, or they’re not and the eye is simply malfunctioning.  Can you decide on one please?  The next morning, he gets a visit from a woman who was at the doctor’s office yesterday and saw him leave.  Her name is Clarisa and she knows he’s seeing dead people and wants to help him out.  Now, it’s clear that Clarisa does NOT have an artificial eye, so this isn’t something she would have firsthand experience with.  It’s possible she has a relative with the robot eye, but she’s being cagy with details at the moment.  Our hero (let’s call him Adam) let’s her into the house and then she asks for a beer.  The video feed cuts (did his eye turn off?) and we return to him getting said beer, only it’s NIGHT TIME!!!!

This is when she asks for the beer.

This is when she asks for the beer.

And this is when she gets it.

And this is when she gets it.

Come on dude.  Your better than to make mistakes that fucking huge.  CONTINUITY IS IMPORTANT!!  She explains that she was born deaf and got a cochlear implant when she was sixteen.  Since then, she’s basically been able to hear the dead.  Okay hold on.  Is this movie trying to say that people who get implants to overcome disabilities have the potential to see ghosts!?!?  So what, does this mean a ghost could haunt someone’s prosthetic arm?  Also, I’d like to point out that she DOESN’T HAVE A COCHLEAR IMPLANT!!!  After some basic research, it appears that every cochlear implant has a part on the outside that is usually placed above the ear.  At no point do we see the implant, so maybe it’s some super advanced SCIENCE one that doesn’t require a microphone to be OUTSIDE OF THE EAR!  She also goes on to say that being able to perceive them means that they can start to interact with you.  Small ways at first, but over time they can do some serious damage.  Adam decides that this whole “vision thing” is no longer worth it because SCIENCE can lead to death by ghost apparently, and plans to have it removed tomorrow.  Clarisa seems skeptical of this working (FORESHADOWING), but doesn’t say much about it.  Okay Ms. Know it all, how have YOU survived this entire time?  Seriously, you have to be in your twenties, yet you still haven’t been killed.  WHAT’S YOUR SECRET!?!?  Before Adam can ask these questions, he notices a fat dude standing outside on his patio.

 “I’m not a ghost.  I just do a lot of meth.  Could I borrow a few hundred dollars?”

“I’m not a ghost.  I just do a lot of meth.  Could I borrow a few hundred dollars?”

Turns out that creepy dude is her uncle (she can hear him) who was “not a nice guy” apparently.  Adam is concern about a dead fat dude outside with only a glass door to separate them, so Clarisia informs him of one of the ways to keep the ghosts at bay.

 OF COURSE!!!  Boobs are their one weakness!

OF COURSE!!!  Boobs are their one weakness!

As pointless and gratuitous as this scene is, I guess it could be taken as a twist on what is normally expected from horror movies.  In any other horror film, sex would mean certain death.  Here though?  It’s the only thing keeping the ghosts back (apparently).  Adam wakes up some time later and it turns out that uncle creepy has backed off.  He then goes to the bathroom, looks in the mirror, and demands that whatever scientist is viewing the footage better get him a copy of the sex scene.  Nice.  Good to know what our hero thinks about consent when it comes to recording others when their being intimate.  Remember!  They can’t say no if you don’t ask them!  Fuck this guy.  I guess the ghosts must have heard him being a dick and decided to up their game to teach him a lesson, because shit starts going bad for the two of them immediately after that.  Something drags Clarisa into the pool (for some reason we can’t see whatever the hell it is that’s dragging her) and Adam tries to go in and save her.  Unfortunately, they can’t get the fuck out of the shallow ass puddle he has in his patio and the girl ends up drowning.

“Damn it!  Now it’d be creepy if I jerk off to that sex tape!”

“Damn it!  Now it’d be creepy if I jerk off to that sex tape!”

Adam SOMEHOW makes it out alive, and then goes to the bathroom to cut out his fake eye.  Too bad that doesn’t fucking work because it looks like it hurt like hell!  The short ends with Adam getting dragged away by some ghosts who are going to do god knows what to him.

“We don’t want to kill you, we just want to play Scrabble.  Okay, we’ll probably kill you AFTER, but hey!  Scrabble’s still fun, right?”

“We don’t want to kill you, we just want to play Scrabble.  Okay, we’ll probably kill you AFTER, but hey!  Scrabble’s still fun, right?”

This could have worked.  The idea of having a character’s vision controlled by a machine can lend itself to some real scary situations.  Maybe there’s someone who can control what they see and tries to drive them insane.  Maybe there is something that human eye can’t percept that an electronic eye can show you.  Hell, a game called Saya No Uta deals with such a premise and from what I’ve played it pulls it off really well.  The problem with this short is that it has no fucking clue what it wants to do, and having an unfocused narrative can really kill a short film.  You only have so much time to get your story across, and if you dilly dally with random details here and there, it’s just going to leave your audience confused.  Why did they tell us that scientists were going to be watching the footage if that never comes into play?  If this woman has had some sort of super science implant for years now, why doesn’t anyone else know that this kind of technology can make you see ghosts?  What about the fact that she’s been able to deal with this for years, but not even 24 hours after SOMEONE ELSE gets one, she ends up getting killed along with the other guy?  We’re his ghosts just that much more badass? The effects are fine, but none of it is particularly scary, and the poor story just gets in the way of everything which makes it hard to enjoy.  You’re not off to a good start here movie!

We go back to the wrap-around story where the girl has no real reaction to what she just saw (par for the course for this franchise), and the other guy hasn’t found anything either.  I don’t think the movie has actually addressed them by their real names, but IMDB says they’re Larry and Ayesha so I’m gonna call them that.  On the computer, they see the kid talking about the tapes having some sort of power or something, but the two of them never think to take this new information into account.  Because of this, Larry tells Ayesha to watch more tapes and she just confusingly capitulates.

“Why don’t you watch more tapes?”     “Why?”     “Because there might be info in them.”     “Really?  What kind of info?  Is this copy of Grumpy Old Men gonna have secret code that tells us his current location?”

“Why don’t you watch more tapes?”     “Why?”     “Because there might be info in them.”     “Really?  What kind of info?  Is this copy of Grumpy Old Men gonna have secret code that tells us his current location?”

Once again we see someone (or something) watching her as she puts the next tape in, and then we cut to the next short.

A Ride in the Park (Directed by Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale)

Now THIS is an interesting one!  The directors of this one are the co-director and producer of The Blair Witch project!  Neither of them have been particularly active since that movie came out, so it might be interesting to see what the (debatable) originators of found footage can do with the format.  So what’s their big idea?  First Person Zombie.  Huh.  That’s it?  Alright, before I get too snarky let’s back up a bit and start at the beginning.  Someone is his riding his bike in the woods (no name, so we’ll call him Jay after the actor playing him) and he has two GoPro cameras; one on his helmet and one on his bike.  At some point he comes across a woman running from a group of shambling dudes and neither of them recognizes the groaning, slow walking, flesh chomping, group of dudes as a pack of zombies.  She’s clearly sick and unable to go much further, so Jay tries to scare the zombies off with a big fucking stick but they are unimpressed by his improvised weaponry.

“I’m sure this piece of dead wood is strong enough to take out all you assholes!!     ...     I don’t think they believe me.  SHIT!”

“I’m sure this piece of dead wood is strong enough to take out all you assholes!!     …     I don’t think their buying it.  SHIT!”

Realizing his un-pointy stick isn’t gonna make them flee, he rushes back to the girl to see if she’s okay.  Bad move on his part because the lady bites the crap out of his neck.  Our valiant hero responds to this by brutally beating the poor zombie lady to death with a rock.  At this point the group of zombies has almost caught up with Jay, so he tries to escape by running deeper into the forest.  Just like the lady, he eventually gets sick (specifically they both started puking up black stuff) and doesn’t make it much further before collapsing in the middle of a trail.  Moments after that, a couple comes by and tries to help him, but at this point he’s gone full zombie and bites both of these unlucky bastards.  The lady is able to run off, but the guy was more severally injured and is unable to move.  Jay begins to feast on the dude’s insides which seems to be enough to get the now zombified lady to return and join in on the meal.  The guy who’s getting munched on eventually goes full zombie himself and there’s this amusing little moment.

“Bitch, did you just eat me?”     “Maybe…”

“Bitch, did you just eat me?”     “Maybe…”

My biggest problem with this short is that it’s just uninteresting to me.  Zombies in general aren’t my thing, but even if they were, this short is boring because they focus on the ONE THING that most zombies movies never actually focus on.  Think about it. Most zombie movies don’t actually focus on the zombies themselves.  They’re not designed to have personality or to be thought of as individuals.  They’re supposed to be an oppressive force that’s constantly weighing on the minds of the survivors, and are rarely ever characterized.  I mean how many zombies you can name that are given characterization AFTER they’ve turned?  Evil Ash from Army of Darkness?  Other than that, I’m pretty much stumped.  That’s not to say that you CAN’T make a movie about zombies specifically.  Warm Bodies is a great example of doing just that, but the reason it worked is because THEY MADE THE GUY A CHARACTER!!  This short just relies on you standard run of the mill Romero Shamblers, and following them around just isn’t all that interesting.  The short continues with us following the three zombies (one of which is missing a few internal organs now) and they eventually make their way to birthday party.  It’s exactly what you’d expect.  Some live, some die, and the only thing to differentiate this form any zombie attack scene you’ve ever seen before is that we see it from a zombie’s point of view.  Now towards the end of this, they try to do something interesting.  During the attack, Jay sees a reflection of himself and has a brief introspective moment.

“Yuck.  You think that neck bite will get infected?”

“Yuck.  You think that neck bite will get infected?”

Okay, he’s not COMPLETELY gone, and while it’s not an original idea, at least it’s SOMETHING.  Not soon after this moment though, he gets shot and eventually run over, neither of which affect him too much.  What DOES bring about his downfall is that his girlfriend calls him on his iPhone (apparently he can still work one in his zombie form).  Realizing what he has become, he drags himself over to the shotgun from earlier, puts it in his mouth and pulls the trigger.  The short ends with his helmet flying off and landing next to the body so we can see in full detail what happened to the dude’s skull.

“Why couldn’t I get bitten by a vampire?”

“Why couldn’t I get bitten by a vampire?”

There’s really nothing wrong with this short.  It’s well executed, the effects for the most part are quite good, and the story is in and of itself competently told.  I just found it dull as dishwater and nothing we haven’t seen so many god damn times before.  The found footage gimmick works I guess, but for me, it didn’t film anything of particular interest.  Still, if you’re someone who loves themselves some flesh munching action, you’ll probably get a kick out of this one.  It just did absolutely nothing for me.

We go back to the wrap around story where something interesting actually happened.  Larry returns to the room with the tapes to find that Ayesha is stuck in some sort of trance and that her nose is bleeding.  He wakes her out of it and asks her if she’s okay.  Rather than doing something like say… LEAVING or watching the tapes HIMSELF or even watching it WITH HER, he just pisses off to go buy some aspirin while she stays in the room to watch more freaking tapes.  We also see that once again some scary dude is watching her while she puts in the next one.

“Can I watch too?”     “NO!”     “Aw…”

“Can I watch too?”     “NO!”     “Aw…”

The wrap-around in this movie is still better than the last one, but it’s also the weakest part of this movie as well.  There’s at least a LITTLE bit going on with the whole “tapes are driving her crazy” thing, but Larry is so fucking ineffectual and clueless that I don’t want to root for him to succeed.  Is there NOTHING about this situation that tells you to do this some other time, or to maybe give her a break from the tapes?  Whatever, let’s just move on to the next short.

Safe Haven (Directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans)

If one of those names isn’t immediately familiar to you, then I am VERY ashamed of you!  Gareth Evans is the guy who directed BOTH Raid movies, and if you haven’t seen them you are SERIOUSLY missing out!  Naturally, this means I’ve got some major expectations for this short to kick serious ass.  FIRST PERSON KUNG FU!!!  So the short starts out with a film crew (who have a crap tone of cameras) checking their equipment before they begin an interview with the lead of an Indonesian cult.

“Dude… it’s like, a camera filming itself.  An infinite loop of footage.  Dude…”

“Dude… it’s like, a camera filming itself.  An infinite loop of footage.  Dude…”

The interview though is just a pretense to try and convince the guy (who is referred to as Father) to let them on their compound to film.  The leader is hesitant at first, but eventually agrees to let them in.  First of all, this is a REALLY long short.  The average length of a short in the last film was twenty minutes, but this one right here is a little over thirty.  Also, while the last movie was about two hours, this one is only an hour and a half.  Basically, it seems clear that this movie was practically built around this one short by a currently popular director and that the rest are kind of ancillary (each one being about fifteen minutes long).  While that in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, I feel that having one big short be the centerpiece kind of hurts the anthology concept, and that none of the shorts feel the right length (at least so far).  The others felt too short and kinda half-baked while this one feels a bit bloated.  The first ten minutes of this are somewhat interesting as we see the inside of the compound and the barely concealed seedy nature of the whole situation.

“He said the gates of heaven will only open up if I open mine to him!”

“He said the gates of heaven will only open up if I open mine to him!”

The crew gets plenty of footage of the compound (using both regular and hidden cameras) which gives us plenty of opportunities to see the bizarre nature of these cultists.  Did I say bizarre?  I’m sorry, I meant COMPLETELY PAR FOR THE COURSE!!  Does everyone speaks in a manner that belies their sense of superiority while still sounding like total wackjobs?  Yup.  Are there children who are brainwashed into the lifestyle and are there for the audience to feel sympathy for?  Yup.  Are there men on the compound who don’t know the difference between right and wrong and are basically slasher killers in training?  Yup again.  Even if I wasn’t completely tired of this trope, it doesn’t do anything particularly unique, so the first ten minutes are pretty bland.  Still, in a very standard and overdone way, the movie is able to build that right kind of tension where the main characters are surrounded by people who may or may not snap at any moment.  Even the worst of these kind of films are able to do at least that much (*cough*Wicker Man*cough*) and while this is by no means bad, it’s nothing particularly unique or interesting.  The woman in the group (Lena the producer) starts feeling sick and has to leave the interview to find the bathroom.  Along the way, she visits one of the children’s classrooms and tries to talk to them.  They’re not really giving her much heed, but she still ends up getting busted by the main woman at the compound who gives us some cryptic foreshadowing.

“Did you ever see The Omen?”     “No, why?”     “Nevermind!”

“Did you ever see The Omen?”     “No, why?”     “Nevermind!”

Alright fine, we’ve got yet another overdone aspect of the evil cult trope which is the demon baby (Rosmary’s Baby, The Last Exorcism, Children of the Corn 5) but this can lend itself to some pretty dark and disturbing moments.  Wait, who the hell did she sleep with that will cause her to give birth to an antichrist!?  Before the creepy lady does… something, I don’t know what she was planning to do to Lena, another member of the crew (Adam) shows up which stops the creepy lady in her tracks.  Despite saving her from… something, Lena isn’t too happy to see Adam for some reason.  Do I sense a DRAMA BOMB!?  We cut back to the interview where the leader of the film crew (Malik) has to make a quick run to the truck to get a replacement battery for one of the cameras.  Bad timing too considering that Father as really getting into his speech about leading children to paradise or something.  It’s actually pretty funny because not only is his speech interrupted, but the film crew’s gaffer sits in Malik’s chair and just kind of stares at Father.

“Hey dude.  Sorry about the battery, he’ll get a replacement real quick.”     …     “So… do you do this to bang kids or something?”

“Hey dude.  Sorry about the battery, he’ll get a replacement real quick.”     …     “So… do you do this to bang kids or something?”

Malik gets to the van but for some reason the little tv thingy we saw them playing with earlier in the parking lot is not only sitting in the back of the van, but is running and currently showing the conversation between Lena and Adam.  Turns out that not only did Lena and Adam have sex (making Adam the father of whatever the hell is brewing in her womb), but they did it behind Malik’s back because Lena is engaged to him.  DRAMA BOMB!!!  The movie doesn’t spend a lot of time to let this play out though because a bell starts ringing which I guess symbolizes the apocalypse.  Wait, AM I WATCHING RED STATE AGAIN!?  Not really because these bells actually DO mean some shit is going down.  Father starts providing his children with cryptic orders that they clearly understand, but we don’t yet.  The gaffer though makes this scene into a fucking blast.  He hears Father giving his speech, but he still tries talking to the dude.  He frustrates Father so much that, Father threats to gut the mother fucker if he doesn’t shut the hell up.

“Bitch, I’ll turn your face into Swiss cheese!”

“Bitch, I’ll turn your face into Swiss cheese!”

Now before the announcement, Lena had stormed off and now that shit seems to be getting real, Adam is searching for her.  He finds this creepy as hell and crude as shit operating room with something being covered up by a blanket.

This is what Republicans think Obamacare will lead to!  Oh wait, I already did that joke.

This is what Republicans think Obamacare will lead to!  Oh wait, I already did that joke.

Obviously this isn’t Lean because she’s only been gone for less than five minutes, but they movie tries to trick you into thinking it is anyway by not showing her once since she stormed off and by having Adam take his sweet time walking over there and pulling off the blanket.  Sure enough, it’s not Lena underneath and is actually a dead cult member.  ONLY SHE ISN’T DEAD!!  Despite sitting there completely motionless the entire time he was walking towards her, she almost immediately starts gasping for air after he takes the blanket off her face.  The blanket falls down to the ground and we see what happened to her which I will NOT describe her because it’s pretty fucking gruesome.  Let’s just say that there’s no way in hell she’d be breathing if that had ACTUALLY happened to her, and it makes us that much more worried about Lena.  Good special effects through, and we finally have something in this movie that is legitimately disturbing.  Naturally, Adam’s first reaction is to run like hell away from the suffering woman and we cut from there to Father continuing his speech.  For some reason he’s also taking his shirt off while he does it which must be confusing the hell out of the gaffer, especially when Father has some weird scars on his stomach.  The gaffer starts to ask about it and the poor bastard has just made his last mistake because Father is pissed as fuck that he interrupted him AGAIN!!!

“You die tonight motherfucker!  I’ll teach you some GOD DAMN MANNERS with this box cutter!”

“You die tonight motherfucker!  I’ll teach you some GOD DAMN MANNERS with this box cutter!”

Father leaps across the desk like a fucking beast and then stabs the gaffer in the neck.  I gotta say that the cinematography here is quite impressive while still keeping to the found footage gimmick.  There are three cameras in the room, one on the gaffer, and two set up for the interview.  During Father’s mighty leap, one of the interview cameras gets knocked down which puts it in the perfect position to see how Father finishes off the poor guy right here.  It really caught my attention and I’m glad to see such care taken to make sure the gimmick doesn’t break while also giving us some dynamic shots.  We cut back to Lena (who we no longer have to pretend might be dead) watching the children being handed cups of poison which she has no real power to stop.  There are at least two adults there that could easily over power her, so rushing in by herself would only get herself killed.  Still, things don’t look good for her when a bunch of women wearing mask seem to be marching towards her.  Lena tries to run, but ends up getting caught by the creepy lady and is soon taken away by her and the mask wearing women.  Adam is still wandering the halls not doing much other than avoiding trouble, but Malik isn’t so lucky.  He runs back into the compound and finds a group of guys who commit mass suicide right in front of him.

It wasn’t suicide, they were being executed for their crimes against fashion!

It wasn’t suicide, they were being executed for their crimes against fashion!

One of the guys who I guess was on clean up duty comes in with a shot gun and tries to take Malik out.  Malik does knock the bastard to the ground (who then proceeds to shoot his own head off) but he doesn’t last long when a bunch of other guys come after him and take his newly acquired shotgun away from him.  Adam arrives soon after to find that Malik is being held against a wall and is about to have his brains blown out.  Adam tries, but is unable to save Malik from the asshole with the shotgun, but for some reason doesn’t get killed because shot gun guy kills himself instead.  Okay… so why did you bother taking out Malik if you weren’t planning on taking out Adam too?  With only one thing left to fight for, Adam starts running through the compound looking for Lena.  She currently being dragged to some sort of operating room (not the one from earlier) by a group of cackling ladies being led by Father in his underwear.  Uh-huh.  Adam finds them, but doesn’t make his move because, well he’s outnumbered.  At some point, he nuts the fuck up, grabs a lead pipe, and starts heading for the operating room.  Then the room explodes.  Okay…  And then a monster thingy crawls across the ceiling and fucks off to some other part of the building.  It’s not over yet!  Father comes out, tells Adam that he’s fucked, and then explodes.

“PULL MY FINGER!!!!”     *BOOM*

“PULL MY FINGER!!!!”     *BOOM*

Okay look.  I LIKE it when a movie goes whole hog and gets fucking wacky, BUT I prefer it when it’s still consistent with the movie and the randomness actually has some impact.  Remember that monster thingy I talked about that crawled on the ceiling?  Never seen again.  Why did Father explode?  Who cares, it was cool right!?  So anyway, Adam goes into the operating room (no one seems to have noticed the giant fucking explosion) where the cackling ladies are holding Lena down and appear to have been… zombified I guess?  Adam takes them down and tries to help Lena, but it’s already too late for her.  Father apparently etched some symbols on her stomach which means that the baby is now a demon or something.  Sure enough, the monster bursts out of her stomach in a pretty graphic scene.

“Happy Birthday to Meee!!!!”

“Happy Birthday to Meee!!!!”

As ridiculous as it is that a giant fucking goat man is coming through this woman’s stomach, it doesn’t really bother me like the never seen again monster, or the leader self-destructing.  Not only did they foreshadow the coming of a demon baby or whatever, but he also appears in later scenes to significantly affect the plot.  See, random and unexpected moments only really work when there’s a payoff and not just as a momentary distraction.  Adam runs the fuck out of there (that seems to be what he’s best at) but runs into zombies on the way out.  Apparently everyone who’s died so far is coming back as a zombie, and we’re given no indication why.  It’s not the poison the kids drank because people who didn’t drink the poison (guys who shot themselves) come back.  It’s not just cult members because the first zombie he runs into is the gaffer from earlier.  I guess you could say that it’s everyone within a certain radius of the horror monster’s resurrection.  Speaking of which…

He looks like Conan got drunk and stuck his head on one of those mounted trophy heads.

He looks like Conan got drunk and stuck his head on one of those mounted trophy heads.

Admittedly he does look a bit silly in a freeze frame, but he’s still one scary mother fucker to have chasing after you.  Adam keeps running and falls down (for no reason) which allows us to stop and see what’s going in one of the rooms.  These two… zombies I guess are fucking for some reason and I guess they’re falling apart while doing it because blood chunks are flying with every thrust.  I’m not gonna fucking show it so you’re gonna have to trust my description, but seriously.  What the hell is the point of that?  It MIGHT have been foreshadowed earlier (there’s was a creepy dude looking at a girl) but it still pulls me completely out of the movie.  It’s that one part that just went too far for me to go along with what’s happening.  Zombie fucking.  Yup.  Aren’t you getting chased by a monster or something?  Adam eventually peels his eyes away and runs the fuck downstairs into a hoard of asshole zombies, but he’s able to escape.  He runs into Malik though which apparently is a BOSS zombie because it takes Adam way longer to shake him than the ten generic zombies from less than a minute ago.

“This may not be the best time to tell you, but I fucked your girlfriend and got her pregnant.  Sorry bro.”

“This may not be the best time to tell you, but I fucked your girlfriend and got her pregnant.  Sorry bro.”

Adam finally makes it to the car and tries to drive away, but that monster thingy is a fast motherfucker, and I think he shoulder checks the van and causes it to roll over.  Adam, badly hurt and scared out of his mind, tries crawling out of the van when the monster’s head appears right above him on the other side of the van.  Adam doesn’t know what else to do and resigns to his fate when all of a sudden the monster does something unexpected.  He calls Adam “papa.” Halfway to grave and no doubt about to pushed all the way in, Adam just begins laughing meniaclly at the sick jock that fate has just handed to him.  The short ends with his haunting cackle and the final camera malfunctioning.

“Ha!  I get it.  That funny.  Want to hear something else that’s funny?  I wanted you aborted!  AH HA HA HA!!!  What, you don’t get it?”

“Ha!  I get it.  That funny.  Want to hear something else that’s funny?  I wanted you aborted!  AH HA HA HA!!!  What, you don’t get it?”

This was actually a pretty decent short, but I had a hard time warming up to it.  I’ve seen a lot of this way too many times recently, and they didn’t do much different with it.  Things did eventually get better once shit started to get crazy, but I still had a hard time pinning down what this short was trying to be.  There’s so many mixed elements in here and I don’t feel that they blend together as well as they should.  Still, what actually was on screen was entertaining and it was the best part of the movie so far.

We return to the wrap-around story where Larry has returned with a bottle of aspirin, but finds that Ayesha is lying dead or dying on the floor.  Larry (truly showing his fucking brilliance here) starts screaming for help in the empty house, and when no one comes running to assist him, he decides that he’s gonna watch a fucking tape instead of CALLING A FUCKING AMBULENCE!!!  Didn’t I say this was a better wrap –around than the first one?  Might have to rethink that.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction (Directed by Jason Eisener)

The short begins at the home of an upper middle class white family that’s right next to a lake.  The basic premise is that mom and dad are out for the weekend, and a bunch of kids and teens are over at the house when something bad inevitably happens.  I think that three of the kids are the children of the parents, two younger brothers and an older sister (Jenn).  Jenn has her boyfriend over, and the two brothers have their friends over to torture the poor woman.  There’s only one camera in this short which spends most of its time strapped to the dog, but also has its moments strapped to one of the kids (somehow) and just being held like a regular camera.  For the first half, we spend time with the younger kids who mostly come up with pranks to pull on Jenn such using piss filled water guns and organizing a flash mob into her room when she’s knocking boots with her boyfriend.

“WHAT THE FUCK!?  WHY THE FUCK ARE COMING IN HERE TO WATCH YOUR SISTER HAVE SEX!?!?”

“WHAT THE FUCK!?  WHY THE FUCK ARE COMING IN HERE TO WATCH YOUR SISTER HAVE SEX!?!?”

I guess these scenes are supposed to be endearing us to the children, but I’m a Grumpy Gus and find these kids annoying and mean.  During the coitus interruptus (I’m pretty sure I’m using that right), there appears to an earthquake (FORESHADOWING) and everyone stops what they’re doing for a moment.  The truce doesn’t last long though because once the house stops a rockin, the girl’s boyfriend chases them out of the room and promises to rip their dicks off.  The kids run outside and notice a weird purplish light on the other side of the lake, but they have more pressing problems at the moment such as the dude who wants to castrate him.  The boyfriend doesn’t do that (thank goodness), but instead takes their camera away. Later that night, Jenn and her boyfriend get a bit of revenge when they film one of the kids jerking off in his sleeping bag.  Ah jeez… Did I REALLY have to see that?  For some reason, Jenn decided the best way to record this was to put the camera on the dog, which doesn’t make sense in the story, but definitely gives them an excuse to film everything that’s about to happen (they won’t let the dog go like they would a camera once they start getting chased).  At this point, the kid wants nothing more than for this to go away and I guess the alien invaders were listening because they choose that moment to attack the house.  It’s not clear at first what’s going bump in the night, so the boyfriend gets a rifle while Jenn calls the police.  The boyfriend starts stumbling around looking for whoever broke in, but he gets taken out rather quickly.  Then a bunch of classic gray aliens appear from behind corners and start grabbing the kids.

“BAD TOUCH!  BAD TOUCH!!!”

“BAD TOUCH!  BAD TOUCH!!!”

So the rest of this short are these people trying to escape from the aliens who keep popping up and trying to take them by hand instead of with science weapons or whatever.  I actually like this concept.  It’s sort of like a spook house game where you try to make it to the end without one of the guys in a cheesy outfit grabbing you.  That said the cinematography here is bad.  Out of all the shorts so far, this has the most shaky cam, has the most video glitches for no apparent reason, and has some confusing continuity.  These elements combine make it really hard to comprehend exactly what’s going on which makes it harder to enjoy.  For example, I mentioned above that they get grabbed by the aliens, which is true).  It’s a really cool shot where one of the kids (and the dog with the camera on its back) are being dragged in a sleeping bag.

“It feels like I’m getting tossed around in someone’s womb!! Don't ask me how I know what that feels like!”

“It feels like I’m getting tossed around in someone’s womb!! Don’t ask me how I know what that feels like!”

It’s shaky, and the lighting goes in and out, but you still know what’s happening.  Then all of sudden the bag starts filling with water, and then the video glitches out for a few seconds.  When it comes back, they’re outside the sleeping bags and in the fucking lake.  WHAT!?!?  Why did the aliens throw them in a fucking lake?  Where are the aliens now!?  The sister is on the pier for some reason and the boy hasn’t been in the lake that long, so did the aliens throw the kid in the pier and just walk past the sister!? They also have a strobe light instead of a flashlight which makes these scenes even harder to decipher.  One of the kids (I think the one in the sleeping bag) is dragged out of the lake by the sister, and another kid was able to get himself out of the lake.  The sleeping bag kid isn’t breathing, so sister gives him CPR, but aliens start crawling out of the lake onto the pier and there’s a beautiful shot of the spaceship backlighting the aliens approach.

See, now that’s pretty freaking cool.  Though I’m not sure why the hell that one alien is putting his hand in the air like he just doesn’t care.

See, now that’s pretty freaking cool.  Though I’m not sure why the hell that one alien is putting his hand in the air like he just doesn’t care.

She eventually revives the kid, and all three of them (plus the dog) run into the woods to try and escape the alien invaders.  One of the kids asks what they are and Jenn says she doesn’t know.  SERIOUSLY!?  Whether or not they’re CERTAIN these guys are aliens, they’ve still seen aliens in popular culture before, right!?  You’ve NEVER seen anything like that?  You’ve never watched the x-files or Independence Day, or anything else?  You couldn’t say “Not sure, but they look like aliens”?  Anyway, the kids almost get caught by the aliens when the dog starts barking, but the police arrive soon after.  The three of them run towards the blinking lights (MORE STROBES) but something happens and the cop car (which we don’t actually see but can see the lights of) just disappears and one of the kids gets captured.  Jenn and the last kid run to a bar nearby which doesn’t stop the aliens for long, and Jenn forces him onto the roof right before she gets caught and puked on by the aliens.

“DUDE!  Say it, don’t spray it!”

“DUDE!  Say it, don’t spray it!”

So the last kid and the dog are on the roof wondering what the hell to do when all of a sudden that decision is made for him.  He starts to get sucked up by an alien abduction beam, and is unable to hold onto the dog for much longer.  The short ends with the dog hitting the ground, and the camera flying off so that we can see his final bloody twitches before the video cuts out.  If you’re expecting me to post a final shot screencap, well forget about it because I fucking hate that shit more than almost anything else in movies.  I DON’T CARE AT ALL IF IT MAKES SENSE OR HAS SOME SORT OF DRAMATIC IMPACT!!  NEVER KILL A DOG LIKE THAT!!  IT’S FUCKING CHEAP AND I CAN’T STAND IT!!!  Instead, here’s a picture of Eddie from Fraiser.

AWWWW!!!!!!

AWWWW!!!!!!

I saw, but on subsequent viewings the flaws were that much more apparent.  The characters are fine but nothing special.  I don’t get nostalgic when I see kids acting like… well kids, especially when they reach an age where they should know just a little bit better than to piss in a water gun.  Still, the setup is a great idea and I like a lot of what they do with it.  The problem though comes down to cinematography and execution.  There is constant strobe lighting to the point that it’s almost nauseating (one of the lights in the barn just starts strobing for no reason).  The camera work is just so disorienting that it’s hard to follow what’s going on sometimes, and the pointless glitches they add to the camera (DO DIGITAL CAMERAS EVEN DO THAT!?  IS SNOW SOMETHING THAT CAN HAPPEN ON ONE OF THOSE CAMERAS!?!?) do nothing but distract us from what’s going on.  What the aliens actually DO makes no sense.  Why did they drag the kid into the lake instead of abducting him right there?  What the fuck happened to the police?  There wasn’t an explosion or anything, they seem to have just disappeared.   It had energy, it had some really good style to it (lots of fog and backlights to ENHANCE THE TERROR) but overall it ended up getting in its own way to the point I just couldn’t see what the fuck it was I WANTED to see.

Now that Larry is watching that movie he looks back down at Ayesha who’s still fucking dead/dying.  Okay, it’s clear NOW that she has a bullet wound in her head and that she had a gun in her purse.  I guess it’s not AS stupid to not call the cops if she really did flat out kill herself, but it wasn’t make clear in the earlier scene and I STILL don’t think your first action would be to watch a tape just because it says “watch me” on it.  Having gained no freaking answers from the tape, he decides to finish the video of the kid on the laptop (the kid they’re LOOKING FOR) and finds out that the mother fucker SHOT HIMSELF!!!!

“No way am I showing up for the third film!”

“No way am I showing up for the third film!”

Just so we’re clear here.  The two private investigators looking for the kid who went missing decided it was better to watch random VHS tapes that were strewn around the room instead of watching his vlogs on the computer.  Fucking idiots.  It gets even better.  The guy shoots himself, LIVES, and immediately runs off to another room.  FIVE SECONDS LATER, GUESS WHO COMES WALTZING INTO THE LIVING ROOM!!!!  Your telling me that these two dumb asses didn’t hear a fucking gunshot when they were outside the kids’ house!?!?  Ugh.  Then Ayesha just sits bolt upright!  Larry doesn’t even react to this.  No scream, no jump, just a sort of concerned “Baby?”  She pounces, so the guy breaks her neck, but that doesn’t stop her.  Instead, she just starts crawling after him like a character from Silent Hill.

“Alright, hold on.  Let me just turn around and, hold on.  There!  Now I can see you.  FEAR ME!!!”

“Alright, hold on.  Let me just turn around and, hold on.  There!  Now I can see you.  FEAR ME!!!”

Instead of say, running out the front door, Larry decides to hide in one of the closets.  Why?  Why even run?  You already killed her once; just kick her in the face!  The way she’s walking doesn’t lend itself to offense or defense, so she’s basically a sitting duck!   Instead, he runs to the fucking closet and waits for her to get close before using her gun to shoot her in the face (again).  You needed to be in the closet for that!?  Turns out that the closet was a REALLY bad idea because GUESS WHO’S WAITING FOR HIM!?!?!?

“Sup dude.  Imma kill you now.”     “Oh really?  How?  You gonna just slobber all over me?”

“Sup dude.  Imma kill you now.”     “Oh really?  How?  You gonna just slobber all over me?”

And that’s it.  Slobber face kills Larry, and the movie ends with him giving the camera a thumbs up.

This is a tough one to review.  Maybe I’m just burned out by all the stuff this movie does (zombies, evil cults, found footage), but nothing in here was particularly original enough to grab my attention.  The last two shorts (Safe Have and Slumber Party Alien Abduction) were the best ones, but even they were bogged down and didn’t live up to the potential I thought they had.  Safe Haven was overlong and truncated most of its wacky stuff towards the end, whether it was appropriate or not.  Slumber Party Alien Abduction was just obnoxious with it’s found footage gimmick that it was hard to appreciate behind all it’s stupid video glitches and shaky camera.  That said, they are still rather clever and entertaining to watch, but the fact that they could have EASILY been improved makes me feel particularly standoffish about them.  The first two (Phase 1 Clinical Trials and A Ride in the Park) aren’t anything special so they just ended boring me more than anything else.  Phase 1 had some POTENTIAL but with the short amount of time, they couldn’t really develop anything they were setting up.  A Ride in the Park is about zombies which I am just not interested in anymore and found it lame.  And then of course there was the wrap-around (Tape 49 directed by Simon Barrett).  On the plus side, it’s not as confusing and weirdly put together as it was in the first movie.  We know who these characters are, why they’re there and some of it actually works. In the last movie, we barely knew any of the assholes in the other house, I never understood WHY they would sit down to watch the tapes, and it was never made clear what the hell was going on.  People just started disappearing without anyone making a fuss about it and then a guy with a spooky face appeared out of nowhere.  I like the idea that Ayesha was slowly being affected by the tapes which gave us a reason why she would continue to watch them.  I like that we actually got to know their fucking names and that both of them got some decent screen time.  Hell, the finale of this one is still better than the one in the last.  All that said, it still has a lot of stupid crap in it (let’s look at VHS tapes instead of his computer!), and Larry reveals himself to be a huge idiot by the end of it.  It’s better than the first, but still the weakest part of this movie.  So is there anything really to recommend here?  Well yeah, Safe Haven is enjoyable, and the rest of them hold a certain appeal even if they didn’t click for me.  Overall, it comes out better than the first one, but nothing here was as good or interesting as what they did in Tuesday the 17th and 10/31/98.  I guess you could say that Safe Haven was ultimately better with its amazing special effects, great cinematography and decent scope, but it feels out of place in this particular series.  I’ve long since given up on the idea of this series having anything to do with VHS tapes, but at least the rest of them felt like they were created by people with limited resources.  Safe Haven doesn’t feel like it belongs considering how much was put into it (so many cameras, a giant fucking building, CG monsters, huge cast), and would be better served in a different kind of anthology that doesn’t compare itself to a time when horror was more primitive in its production, yet can still achieve huge scares (i.e. the stuff you’d find in movie rental shops on VHS tapes).  I am rambling for too damn long.  IT’S OVERALL BETTER THAN THE FIRST ONE, BUT I THOUGHT THAT THAT ONE HAD A BIT MORE GOING FOR IT IN TERMS OF CREATIVE USES OF THE GIMMICK AND SINCERITY THAT THIS ONE WITH A MUCH BIGGER BUDGET AND MORE RECOGNZABLE TALENT CAN’T MANGAGE!  IF YOU’RE NOT AS BIG A SNOB OR GRUMP AS I AM, YOU’LL PROBABLY ENJOY THIS SEQUEL MORE THAN THE FIRST ONE!!!!

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