you ever watched something so disturbing you wish you could un-see it? Like maybe A Serbian Film or Barbra Streisand’s Guilt Trip? That is sort of
the premise behind the follow-up to last year’s horror anthology V/H/S.
While S-VHS is very definitely
a film for horror diehards, it is not a similarly soul-shredding experience (trailer here). In fact, it should be a heck of a fan-pleaser
during its midnight screenings at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
only place S-VHS repeats V/H/S is during Simon Barrett’s interstitial
framing arc, Tape 47. Once again, strangers have broken into a
sketchy looking house, finding a mysterious assortment of VHS tapes. This time around, a detective and his
assistant Ayesha are looking for a missing college student, who evidently
became obsessed with his collection of macabre found footage. It seems he believed the cumulative effect of
watching certain tapes consecutively would have a transformative effect on the
viewer. Naturally, Ayesha does exactly
that, utilizing the monitors conveniently provided.
Wingard’s Clinical Trials might be the
most conventional of four tapes the intruders watch, but it still delivers
plenty of creeps and jolts. After an
accident, a man has received a bionic optical implant to replace a lost
eye. The experimental treatment is free,
but his initial experiences will be recorded for analysis. (How such advanced technology was transferred
to an obsolete VHS tape is not a question worth asking.) With his artificially boosted vision, the man
starts seeing things he never could before, like the dead people haunting his
a bit of a departure, Edúardo Sanchez & Gregg Hale’s A Ride in the Park aims more for gross-outs than edge-of-the-seat
scares, but it delivers accordingly.
Recorded through the protagonist’s bike helmet-cam, it could be
described as the “zombie vomit” installment.
What more do you need to know?
surprisingly, the strongest constituent film comes from Gareth Huw Evans, who
helmed the spectacular martial arts shoot-out The Raid. Also set in
Indonesia (a refreshing change of pace for the franchise), Safe Haven, co-directed with Timo Tjahjanto, consists of the
footage shot by a documentary film crew visiting the compound of a reputed cult
leader. Initially, the well-spoken guru
cooperates in the apparent hope of counteracting some of his bad PR. However, their presence seems to ignite
and Tjahjanto sure understand how to pace a film. Steadily escalating the degree of wtf-ness,
they throw in just about everything but the kitchen sink, culminating with one
of the best composed closing shots you could ever hope to see in a genre film. The ensemble cast is also first rate, from
top to bottom.
not quite as inspired as Haven, Jason
Eisener’s Alien Abduction Slumber Party still
ends S-VHS on a high note. This is truly a descriptive title. However, the dialogue and relationship
dynamics are cleverly written, without sounding like an attempted Scream rip-off. It is also a good example of how brief,
blurry images seen out of the corner of one’s eye can be far more unsettling
than front-and-center special effects shots.
Like its predecessor, S-VHS is pretty scary stuff, but by offering more humor and gleeful
gore, it happens to be more fun. A rare case
of a sequel surpassing the original, S-VHS
is enthusiastically recommended for midnight movie veterans (perhaps
exclusively). It screens again Tuesday
(1/22) and Thursday (1/24) in Park City and Sunday (1/26) in Salt Lake, as part
of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Labels: Anthology Films, Found footage, Gareth Huw Evans, Horror Movies, Sundance '13