Lets address this first: I fully realize the drawbacks of found footage movies. They look cheap, the employ a lot of jump scares and cut aways, they involve the dreaded jiggle cam. I don’t like ANY of these features in a film; however, I think there is something to be said for the found footage sub-genre, when it’s done right. VHS, both parts one and two, gives us a chance to see what both good and bad found footage film looks like. Despite the fact that I had to watch it in parts, due to the motion sickness, I did like the first VHS movie. I can still clearly remember how much I enjoyed the creepy whispering of the succubus, and how much I hated the murderer sneaking into people’s hotel rooms and video-taping them with their own camcorder (stupid!). I liked VHS 2 in the same fashion, as some of the segments were much stronger than others. What it comes down to really, is that I love segment features, like The Twilight Zone, Creepshow, and Tales from the Darkside; and, I love it whenever directors are allowed to get inventive, which the low budget nature of found footage really allows room for since high-end effects aren’t much of a necessity. So in pieces, here’s what I thought of VHS 2
The premise for the movie didn’t make much sense. Some guy is hired to catch a cheating husband in the act, and does. Shortly after confronting the cuckolder by phone, the spy and his girlfriend (?) break into an apartment. I suppose that spying doesn’t exactly pay the rent. Anyway, the guy is rummaging around the apartment for some reason, and meanwhile the girlfriend begins watching the piles of VHS tapes that are ready and waiting in the living room. I guess I’d be willing to accept how nonsensical this is, if the wrap back to the frame narrative didn’t push it over the top. There’s some hint, in the apartment owner’s video of himself, also ready and waiting on a laptop in the living room, about something special that happens when the tapes are watched in a particular order. I guess they are watched appropriately, because confusing and gory things happen once the couple have watched all four tapes that there was time for. I won’t ruin it, but apparently there’s some sort of demon/zombie/immortality tale afoot. In the meantime, spy guy will prove to be the worst boyfriend on the planet as he screams “help me!” to an empty apartment while his girlfriend bleeds out next to him, and then he shrugs it off and watches another tape.
Tape 1 (Phase 1: Clinical Trials):
There is literally nothing new about this short. The guy gets eye implant, and it allows him to see ghost thingies. This is pretty much exactly the premise of The Eye, except that this guy’s eye happens to be mechanical, and allows the researchers who developed it to watch his actions, a fact that is never dealt with again after it’s mentioned. Clearly, this is here just to have an excuse for the video footage. There’s a lot wrong with this short aside from its lack of inventiveness. Portions of the plot are brought up, to never be fully developed, and the ending is visible from a mile away. The ghosts don’t make any sense at all, because they are completely unrelated to each other and are in this guy’s apartment for no real reason. I guess they could sense his magic ghost eye! This segment failed completely.
Tape 2 (A Ride in the Park):
Guy rides a bike in the woods. Guy comes across a woman in distress, guy gets bitten, guy turns into a zombie. Repeat. That is this movie. Once again, for some unknown reason there is a video camera, this time strapped to the biker’s helmet. These zombies are strangely sentient, and they do attack a birthday party, which is sort of fun. But, it all unravels as quickly as it started. The only good thing about this segment was the gore. Seriously, high quality splatter and spray.
Tape 3 (Safe Haven):
Now at this point, the movie really starts to pick up. This Indonesian filmed segment brings more gore and more suspense than the entire first half of VHS 2. Basically, you’ll be following a small team of documentary film makers as the go to the compound of a religious cult, to interview the “father” of the movement. As you may have guessed, it turns out some really crazy things are going down at the encampment; things that are more shocking than the implied pedophilia. All of these acts are of course in the name of achieving eternal life, which, in a way this particular crazy cult is successful at. I am leaving out the best part of this short for you. Watch it and you’ll know what I mean. Hint: the best part is NOT when Epy Kusnandar runs around in his tightey whiteys, and then explodes.
Tape 4 (Slumber Party Alien Abduction):
I keep hoping for the invasion of alien movies to begin. Seriously, I’ve been hoping for this to be the next major trend in horror, and maybe this short film is the beginning. The good thing about this short film is that it doesn’t really have a narrative, and it doesn’t need to. Because we’re just watching a bunch of pre-teens run around with a video camera, this segment feels the most realistic. Who among us hasn’t run around video-taping nonsense, and spying on our siblings while they commit sins of the flesh, given the opportunity? The parents are out of town, and everything goes to hell in the worst possible way without them. We catch a glimpse of the greys early on in the short, but don’t really know what we’re dealing with until, in the middle of the night, a bassy horn blasts through the house and sends the kids on a frenzy as they try to escape potential abduction. Yeah…it’s pretty cool. As I said earlier, because the constraints are loosened with the low low budget of found footage, the creators of this film didn’t have to worry about how their aliens looked. In fact I really liked that they aliens looked like your stereotypical extra-terrestrials: grey body, long probey fingers, big eyes. The only thing I didn’t like was the ending, because it was sad.
Overall, I came away from VHS 2 without regrets. The movie was as good as it was bad, and its faults are pretty forgivable in the scheme of things. Just like you probably did with the first VHS installment, you’ll have to focus on the things you enjoyed.