Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #133
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: January 19, 2013 (Sundance), June 6, 2013 (US)
Country of Origin: United States, Canada, Indonesia
Running Time: 96 minutes
Directors: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Eduardo Sánchez, Gregg Hale, Gareth Huw Evans, Timo Tjahjanto, Jason Eisener
Producers: Roxanne Benjamin, Gary Binkow, Kyle David Crosby, Brad Miska, Jamie Nash
Screenplay: Simon Barrett, Jamie Nash, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, John Davies
Special Effects: Jason M Koch
Visual Effects: Dimitri Loginowski
Score: James Guymon, Steve Moore, Aria Prayogi, Fajar Yuskemal
Cinematography: Tarin Anderson, Stephen Scott, Seamus Tierney, Jeff Wheaton
Editing: Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, David Geis, Bob Rose, Eduardo Sánchez, Adam Wingard
Studio: Bloody Disgusting, The Collective
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
Stars: Kelsy Abbott, Hannah Al Rashid, Fachry Albar, Oka Antara, Devon Brookshire, Bette Cassatt, Samantha Gracie, LC Holt, Hannah Hughes, Kevin Hunt, John Karyus, Epy Kusnandar, Lawrence Michael Levine, Carly Robell, Mindy Robinson, Jay Saunders, Jeremie Saunders, Andrew Suleiman, Adam Wingard, John T. Woods
Suggested Audio Candy:
The Death Set 6 Different Ways to Die
Have you ever heard of the term mumblecore? Fret not if it doesn’t ring any bells, it meant nothing to me until recently. It is essentially a movement pioneered by Americans in their twenties and thirties, which adopts a do-it-yourself approach to dramatic comedy. Its roots can be traced way back to the sixties although the term wasn’t actually coined until after the turn of the millennium. Mostly independent productions centering around everyday people in everyday situations, mumblecore distances itself from the usual tired Hollywood clichés and instead places the emphasis firmly on realism. Generally, films of this ilk feature largely ad-libbed dialogue, and this often leads to the actors ending up with writing credits.
It was only a matter of time before mumblegore was born. In 2012, ten indie directors including Ti West joined forces to bring us V/H/S, an anthology with a unique selling point in that it was shot entirely on video. After its reveal at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012 and successful launch on demand months later, it went on to amass something of a tidy following. Indeed, the buzz was harmonious enough that it even managed limited theatrical runs, both in the US and UK. Suddenly, mumblegore was on the map and a sequel became inevitable. Fast forward to a year later and the follow-up saw the light of day to a rapturous response as something which had felt like a punt in the dark swiftly graduated into franchise territory. The general consensus is that V/H/S/2 trumps its predecessor in virtually every respect.
Now, I feel compelled to come clean before venturing any farther. At the time of writing, I have yet to share the distinct pleasure of spending 116 minutes nuzzling up to the original. It is perched in the uppermost ranks of my to-do-list and, chances are, I’ll have remedied this shameful statistic by the time you peruse this appraisal. I simply haven’t had the time to offer it my undivided attention up until now. Considering the slender window of opportunity for the series’ primary overture has since come and passed, I have decided to flip things on their head and tackle the pair in reverse, given that V/H/S/2 has received such lavish praise across the board. Being an anthology I felt that my decision would be vindicated as continuity need never really an issue. Having recently taking mild pleasure from the uneven but often inspired twenty-six piece compendium of terror, The ABCs of Death, I relished the prospect a good old-fashioned five-in-one and sat down to press play.
I knew relatively little about it so I took my seat faster than a trappist monk in a vibrating massage chair, clicked green for go, and prepared to be soundly astonished. Having now done so, I would implore every one of you to do yourselves a service, select add to basket, and thank me later. This is as close to top drawer as anthologies get; three succulent strip sirloins and one tender porterhouse, wrapped in lean bacon. Whilst the meat is bloodier towards the middle, each morsel is heavenly and, the whole joint, exquisitely rare throughout. Traditionally I rate all collected works as standalone gears, then summarize with an overall judgement at the close. Perhaps I will do the same with V/H/S/2 at a later date but I have decided to keep things purposely vague for the time being as, the less you know about this rough diamond, the better.
The bouquet of talent here should vanquish any apprehension in the blink of a cybernetic eye. Adam Wingard (You’re Next), Simon Barrett (writer of You’re Next), Timo Tjahjanto (the L is for Libido segment of The ABCs of Death), Gareth Evans (The Raid), Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project, Altered, The Seventh Moon, Lovely Molly) and his producer on all four movies, Gregg Hale, are all dab hands. Meanwhile, Jason Eisener is prolific when it comes to short films, having hatched Treevenge and one of The ABC’s highlights, Y is for Young Buck, so I anticipated his cut with particular zeal. Not until the end credits are we let in on which is his entry and, when informed, it is the very last I expected. However, as already expressed, there is no rump on the serving tray here.
Filmed entirely in first-person, V/H/S/2 certainly won’t appeal to everyone. If The Blair Witch Project left you feeling giddy, then this will likely have you hurling up your brunch. However, the rewards for putting in a shift here are incalculable. Each of the four helpings holds up well, while the third segment really throws the slag in the furnace. Without a shadow of a doubt the most gratifying where grue is concerned, Safe Haven puts its tonnage behind every haymaker, culminating in a flurry of blows which supplies a teeth-filled basket come its batshit conclusion. Tjahjanto’s L is for Libido provided one of the more memorable entries from The ABCs and, if that was frenetic, then his turnout here is utterly unhinged. Prepare to have your mental hymens well and truly smashed to smithereens at around the hour mark.
I guess a loose synopsis cannot harm, and I shall ensure it is slacker than a ho’s undercarriage so as not to spoil your own rental. A brace of inquisitive private dicks make unlawful entry into the pad of a missing sophomore and, once inside, take it upon themselves to view a pile of discarded VHS tapes. The first, Clinical Trials, features a man recently fitted with an experimental robotic eyeball, which turns out to be eerily defective. The second, A Ride in The Park, highlights just how quick a zombie outbreak can manifest during a seemingly innocuous cycle ride through the forest. The aforementioned Safe Haven features a group of documentary filmmakers who bite off a tad more than they can chew when interviewing the leader of an Indonesian cult in his dubious compound and, the last, Slumber Party Alien Abduction, follows a predictably rambunctious group of teenagers whose party becomes crashed by extraterrestrials, and not the kind you can dress up in mom’s pearls and lipstick either.
Being of the found footage template should not deter you from expecting the unexpected as the boundaries are tested with regularity. V/H/S/2 scares you shitless when you’re least expecting it, grosses you out whenever it sees fit, and pleasantly surprises you with how far beneath hell’s arch way each story is willing to drag you. The fact that it presents itself as yet more found footage makes it even more astonishing that each director pushes the boundaries of what this tired sub-genre is ordinarily able to conjure up. By the time you’re spat out fatigued and the 96 minutes is up, I can assure you of atonement and, other than Michael Dougherty’s Trick ’r Treat, no anthology has managed that particular feat in thirty-odd years. The moral of this story then Grueheads? Simple…Be kind rewind!
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: A fair quota of naked skin, some of which is regretfully of the fore variety, is accompanied by a fountain of cascading grue to put the nasty well and truly back into video, particularly during Tjahjanto’s frankly barmy Safe Haven fist-fucking. One particularly unrelenting botched tracheotomy is the standout, but we are also supplied all manner of eye gouging, face biting, mass suicide, and a savage caesarean section that will make you pray you’d opted for an epidural. If splatter is your requirement, then consider that request assiduously honored.
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013 (Revised Edition 2015)