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Movie Review: V/H/S 2 and the Horror Panopticon

6 years, 9 months ago
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We’re in the Golden Age of the found footage genre. In the empire of the panopticon, horror movies thrive off 24/7 street surveillance, surgical cameras, security cameras, microscopic cameras, smartphones, webcams, etc. We live in a hunted, stalked society, consumed and regurgitated like a freshly turned zombie’s black bile. Cameras are everywhere–watching our carefully scripted descent into madness–which makes the found footage genre so interesting, both in terms of application and philosophy. In the coming years, we could even see nanobot cameras…imagine the 2025 remake of The Fantastic Voyage, with live action cells and molecules!

V/H/S, which ranked high on our list of the Best Found Footage Movies of all time as well as the Best Horror Movies of 2012 list, revealed to us the full depth of the uncharted waters of the found footage horror genre. It’s the chandelier-breaking rebel of horror films. V/H/S 2 is better–scarier, more entertaining, and shorter (or at least it feels shorter).
As found footage genre enthusiasts, we saw elements in this newest anthology of interconnected short horror films that have never been pulled off before, at least not with such unapologetic brutality.

*SPOILER ALERT….really nothing major, some elements of the plot are addressed

Tape 49 – Frame Narrative

The setup is similar in terms of having a frame narrative in which both the audience and characters are watching the tapes. V/H/S 2 opens with Tape 49, the frame narrative, and two characters, private investigators it seems, who are looking for a missing college kid. They end up at the last house he was seen at, in a room full of monitors and VHS tapes. As one character begins to explore the creepy house, the female private investigator, Ayesha begins to watch the tapes. As do we…

Phase I Clinical Trials

The first film opens with a bird’s eye view of a doctor finishing the surgical implantation of a camera into an accident victim’s eye. In a horrifying blend of biomedical technology and NSA paranoia, (one can always suppose an eye patch would stop Big Brother from peeping in) we proceed back to the man’s home to find a dead person laying in his bed. Who is this person? Well, let’s just say this movie is like The Sixth Sense for the surveillance age.

A woman comes over who says she’s having similar paranormal problems with her cochlear implants, which allow her to hear strange voices crying. She says they must have sex in order to distract themselves from “them”. He obliges. “Uh, yeah, NSA–I’m gonna want a copy of that tape.”

Oh, if only you could imagine what our hero must finally resort to….

A Ride in the Park

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Excluding Diary of the Dead (which isn’t entirely consistent with the FF pov), the second tape, A Ride In The Park, is the first real found footage zombie movie. And, boy oh boy, is it amazing! Eventually we’ll be working this short onto our Best Zombie Movies Ever list, but for now, let’s suffice it to say that this little gem affords us some never-before-seen-footage of zombies reanimating and feeding.

This film also features one of the creepiest butt dialing scenes ever.

Safe Haven

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Safe Haven is about a documentary film crew that infiltrates an Indonesian cult run by the “father”, a psychotic despot who “purifies” children in order to prepare them for entry into paradise. This film is sheer brilliance and is probably the most disturbing and violent of the anthology.

Let’s just say that even when you think you have the purpose of this cult figured out, there’s more to see. And it brings “drinking the Kool Aid” to a whole new realm of existence.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction

vhs 2 alien abduction
This is the funniest of the bunch, as evidenced by the campy title, but it gets extraordinarily disturbing. Left alone while their parents go on vacation, a brother and sister have a summer house party that involves drinking, skateboarding, and spying on each other with cameras attached to the family dog’s head.

Since we can’t ruin the film for you any worse than the poorly chosen title does, we’ll go ahead and say that this short features one of the loudest, weirdest, creepiest alien abductions ever. Imagine the droning sounds from War of the Worlds and the zombie mad scientist from the basement in Quarantine except there’s lots of them and they have some kind of machine at their disposal.

Summer fun.

Back to Tape 49

We do return to the narrative frame in between these films, and the ending is a bit better than the original anthology’s closer. We still wish they had tied the films together better. There is a hint of this when the missing boy shows up on tape and mentions something about the “correct sequence”. What this could possibly mean is drowned out by the maker of the tapes making his grand sinister appearance.

UPDATE: V/H/S 2 made out Best Horror Movies of 2013 list!

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