Brand new Anchorman 2 trailer: So what do we think? Does it look like living up to the 2004 original, or will we bury it away like a comedic Godfather Part III?
Another day, another horror sequel, another found footage film. Sigh. The horror genre is in an odd place right now; the three big trends of the past decade plus change are petering out and nothing really seems likely to replace them. The Asian horror boom died out a long while ago; audience’s hunger for brain-dead torture porn is dwindling as evidenced by the popularity of more intelligent fright-fests like Cabin In The Woods; found footage, however, is proving the most persistent genre demon to exercise, having been popular ever since 1999, when The Blair Witch Project became a cultural phenomenon. Some statistics: before 1999, there were exactly six found footage films. Since TBWP, there have been over seventy, including some classics (Blair Witch, [REC], Chronicle), a overlong franchise (Paranormal Activity), and a whole heap of poor cash-ins; it’s brought us stories of hunting trolls in Norway, super-powered teenagers, oddities on the moon, running away from extraterrestrial behemoths and rambunctious house parties. Long story short, it’s ubiquitous in contemporary film. Which brings us to V/H/S 2.
V/H/S 2, as you might expect, is the sequel to 2012’s V/H/S, the low budget multi-director anthology film which cleaved its audience firmly into “loved it” and “hated it” with very few remaining in the middle ground. A collection of six short films (one of which provided an overarching framing narrative), it was intriguing, gruesome, experimental, but as a whole, not very good. Most of the shorts themselves had great ideas and were quite well executed, but logical inconsistencies were abundant (the major one being who the fuck uses VHS tapes anymore? And why would anyone transfer digital files to them?) and the brief running time of the shorts wasn’t exactly helpful in terms of narrative fulfillment, at least for some of the films.
Unfortunately, this sequel stumbles into the same pitfalls. It seems purpose-built for a younger audiences reared on surfing YouTube, hopping from video to video, none lasting any considerable amount of time. Hell, there’s a pair of naked breasts only 58 seconds in; if that isn’t included purely for adolescent titillation, I don’t know what is. (For the interest of horny 13 year olds reading this, the second and last bit of female nudity appear at 20 minutes. You can wait that long, right?)
The first story (Phase I Clinical Trials) within the framing narrative (entitled Tape 49) is kind of effective, being shot from an actual camera inserted into an eye, as opposed to a handheld camera. But other than that conceit and the clarity of the shots compared to the other shorts, it’s fairly standard stuff, containing average jump scares and home invasion paranoia. Basically there’s nothing to really warrant its inclusion on something this high profile.
The second film, titled A Walk In The Park and funnily enough directed by the makers of The Blair Witch Project Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale, however is wonderfully inventive and a refreshing take on the very-much dying zombie genre (pun very much intended). Without spoiling too much, it’s essentially a day in the life of the walking dead. Apart from some very incongruous dubstep at one point, and a one potentially worrying POV shot of violence towards a woman (even if she is a zombie), it would be worthy of five stars, if it was on its own. Answering several questions about what happens after you turn (undead hiking apparently) and exactly how much humanity remains in a zombie, A Walk In The Park is stellar, as well as darkly funny at points too. It’ll either inspire you to try making your own zombie movie or make yours look like crap.
Safe Haven doesn’t really need any supernatural ephemera tacked on to make it all that scary; the fact that it’s set in a Indonesian cult compound is enough to keep you on edge. We can all agree that cults are weird as shit, and cults featuring creepy school kids are doubly so. That it’s set in Indonesia should tip you off that this segment was directed by Gareth Evans, director of the Indonesia-set Raid franchise and the upcoming Godzilla remake, both of which have some influence here, and could be seen as Evans’ test run for a monster flick. With Evans directing along with Timo Tjahjanto, there’s a whole heap more action and gunplay which comes to the fore, but Safe Haven actually ends up being the most legitimately terrifying short of the bunch (it also doubles as an effective pro-choice advert, which is always good).
If I tell you the fourth film was titled Slumber Party Alien Abduction, what would you reckon it’s about? I’ll give you three guesses. What SPAA lacks in unambiguous titles, it makes up for in ideas. It’s got your typical “nerdy brother and friends vs jock sister and friends” set-up, but with extraterrestrials plunged into the mix? Well you can’t say it’s unoriginal, but for all the attempted scares, nothing really even approaches frightening, other than a heartstring-tugging final shot.
It’s both here and Phase I which show the signs that V/H/S 2 was rushed into production a mere ten days after the original hit cinemas in America. Even the found footage concept isn’t enough to cover the bare bones of plots and unconvincing effects on display in Phase 1 and Slumber Party. It is a matter of personal opinion whether the special effects are well done or amateurish, but clearly none of the directors had the effects budget of, say, Greg Nicoreto on The Walking Dead.
However, for all my talk of horror shorts being better suited to isolation on the internet, it’s sort of pleasing to see fresh ideas given an outlet like this, and also not being unnecessarily stretched to feature length. But when the plots can be pinpointed within the first minute or so of each short, as in Tape 49, Phase 1 and Slumber Party, there’s not much in sticking the short running time out. We go into horror films expecting something bad to happen, but like the framing story of the first film, it’s never so blatant as it is in Tape 49: you break into a dilapidated house full of video tapes and television playing nothing but static, and then you stay and watch the tapes… yeah, I know, it’s ridiculous.
If that insane-even-for-horror-character logic isn’t bad enough, the sections which we see play in between the other shorts break the flow of the film and add nothing to their own narrative’s suspense. It’s so bleedingly obvious shit’s going to go down, that there’s really no point investing in the few characters we meet. Ultimately, you’re best just skipping to the middle two films - the tasty filling of this cinematic sandwich - and ignoring the slices of dull brown bread either side.
- Leo DiCaprio is lining up to play everybody’s crazy Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin. The last big silver screen outing for the mad monk was 1997’s underrated animated classic Anastasia, and if we’re being honest, ol’ Ras looks more like a Christian Bale character than one of DiCaprio’s.
- In case you weren’t already massively excited for Janelle Monae’s upcoming second album The Electric Lady, here’s some info news which should do the trick: the album will feature collaborations with both Miguel and Prince. It’s like we’ve died and gone to R&B heaven.
- Not content with being the number one amateur superhero, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is rumoured to be filling the boots of Quicksilver in the sequel to The Avengers. Quicksilver will also be appearing in X-Men: Days Of Future Past, but will be played by Evan Peters (him off American Horror Story), since neither Fox nor Marvel own the full rights to the character.
- It’s been a while since we heard anything from Kings Of Leon, but the Followill clan are releasing their sixth album on September 24th. The record will be titled Mechanical Bull, sticking with the five-syllable-title tradition KOL have used on all of their albums so far.
- Arcade Fire’s Win Butler will join some band called The Rolling Stones on stage in Montreal tomorrow night. Stones fans are slightly baffled.
- Looks like there’s going to be a Community reunion in Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (don’t ask why there’s a sequel… just don’t). Gillian Jacobs has signed on to play the film’s female lead, whilst Chevy Chase will also appear. Coolcoolcool.
- “Hashtag in film title” alert! #Filth stars James McAvoy and Jamie Bell, and is based on the novel by Irvine Welsh of Trainspotting fame. Note to everyone involved: you’re far better than lowering yourselves to that.
- And lastly, Tyler, The Creator confirms he’s still a gigantic asshole.
Flagrant false advertising of the day: Okay, so if this is The Last Exorcism Part 2, then doesn’t that make the first film into The Penultimate Exorcism? That’s the problem with exorcists these days, they can’t get the job done in just one go. C’mon Hollywood, we know you’re not great when it comes to logic, but this is pushing it.
The To-Do List (Red Band Trailer): A typical overachieving nerdy girl graduates from high school and decideds she has to lose her virginity before she starts college. Sounds like every American teen comedy ever right? Basically a reworking of American Pie? Well sort of, but then you realise that the cast of The To-Do List is absolutely stacked with talent, both comedic and actorly, and that the trailer is actually pretty damn funny too. Seriously though, that cast list… Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Rachel Bilson, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Clark Gregg, Connie Britton, Donald Glover, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg, Jack McBrayer and Nolan Gould; how could this not be great?
Studio Ghibli 25th Anniversary double feature back in cinemas: Celebrating 25 years since their release, animated classics My Neighbour Totoro and Grave Of The Fireflies are receiving a cinematic re-release, being shown together for the first time in the UK. May 24th just became a big day in your diary, didn’t it?
Good Job, Old Sport! of the day: Ever wanted to play The Great Gatsby as an NES video game? Well now you can! Thanks to designers Charlie Hoey, Dylan Valentine, Michael DiMotta, and Pete Smith, all you Gatsby fans can finally be Nick Carraway in the search for the reclusive millionaire, collecting bonus cocktails and defeating the evil eyes of Dr T.J. Eckleburg. It’s little more than a simple platformer, but it’s incredibly well detailed and hugely entertaining, and probably a lot more fun than watching Baz Luhrmann’s recent adaptation.
New poster for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Okay, so it looks like it’s been put through every possible Instagram filter, but this is still a great one sheet for the upcoming sequel.
Morbid reminder of the day: This infographic (created by Designbysoap) sorta kills the image of the invincible superhero doesn’t it? Also shows that unless you have either a) superpowers, b) genetic mutation or c) shedloads of cash and training, then your tenure as a hero will be very very short.