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The Visit (2015)
Decent premise, poor execution
I managed to actually get a bit excited when I saw the trailer for this movie a few months ago, it looked pretty creepy, had a dark atmosphere to it, and lead me to naively believe that this just might be a return to form for M. Night. Sadly I couldn't have been further from the mark.
The plot twist reveals a decent premise of a movie that could have been pretty interesting--two kids who have never met their grandparents find out that they've actually been staying with two escaped mental patients. That's an idea that could have lead to a lot of psychological tension had it been handled a bit better. And there were a few moments in the movie where I could see that idea trying to get out...the shotgun scene, oven cleaning scene, and grandma finding the camera could have been really great. Instead we get stuck with annoying and poorly written characters, horror tropes galore, and one more beat down on the dead horse that is found footage films.
I also keep reading that the movie is actually supposed to be a horror/comedy. I didn't get that at all. There were plenty of moments when I laughed, but they weren't being intentionally funny, which is never a good thing.
House of Last Things (2013)
First, I can't believe all of the fake, inflated reviews for this movie. Just take a second and check out some of the profiles that are giving it very high ratings and reviews. It's no coincidence that this is the only movie they have ever reviewed. Pretty shady.
I knew it would be bad from the first scenes. They, and so many to follow, were unintentionally funny. The kind of desperate, please take me seriously type of funny you'd expect from a student film. The acting is terrible, it felt stiff and forced. I didn't waste too much time and started fast forwarding after only about 15 minutes. So if there was some sort of cohesive story to be found it certainly did nothing to make me want to find out what it was.
Don't waste your time, there are too many other better movies out there.
A Gory, Trope-y Ride
I really enjoyed the first VHS film, misogyny excluded. I thought it was a pretty nifty little spin on the increasingly lackluster found footage genre and thought most of the shorts in it were really good and refreshing...when's the last time you saw a harpy in a horror movie!? So I was really looking forward to seeing the sequel.
Sadly I was a bit underwhelmed. One of the things I liked about the first one was how it seemed to have a much stronger psychological and suspense elements to it. The sequel does have that a bit, but almost every short ends in a bloody splatter-fest.
1. Tape 49 (part 1): This is the sequel's overarching "story" about two investigators who are the ones who discover the tapes. This just didn't work for me, but more on that later.
2. Phase I Clinical Trials: I thought this one had an interesting concept, but like the next one, it just didn't pan out for me. The idea was a man has an eye implant which for some reason lets him see ghosts. A woman shows up (although I'm not sure if it was ever explained why) and gives him the low-down about what's happening to him, but it's all to no avail. The idea was pretty great, but I think it could have been done much better.
3. A Ride in the Park: I was surprised that the filmmakers would put in a short about zombies considering how much of a trope the whole zombie invasion/apocalypse is now...maybe that's why they did it. Anyway, this one basically lets us see how zombies are made and in turn, make other zombies, first-hand. The end of it did surprise me a bit and I was glad it ended the way it did.
4. Safe Haven: The short me and everyone you know paid to see. A group of journalists set out to interview a cult leader and infiltrate his compound. Things get weird pretty quick. This was the longest short and far and away my favorite. We realize pretty quickly that this is a suicide cult, but what they're really doing is much more sinister. I really liked everything about this one with the exception of the over- the-top gore and the demon. The cult leader and his minions were all really creepy and the suspense was almost unbearable as the last of the film crew was trying to escape. However, the whole demon thing is a bit stale in my opinion. I usually love movies that involve demonic references, but this one seemed a little silly the way it was handled. And I realize the budget on this film wasn't too big, but the demon costume had me laughing. Overall it was very good though.
5. Slumber Party Alien Abduction: Pretty much says it all. This is another of the shorts that I'd really been anticipating after seeing the trailers. The title pretty much sums it all up, a group of teenage friends are having a slumber party which is broken up by some invading aliens. This one was the least gory of the bunch and was pretty fun. I also liked the way it was filmed from the dog's perspective.
6. Tape 49 (part 2): In between all of the shorts we cut back to our investigators just like in the original V/H/S. We find the female investigator (who has been watching all of the tapes) in ever-increasing states of distress and by the end she is laying dead on the floor. The other investigator realizes that the person they are trying to track down is still alive in the house after a failed suicide attempt (I think) and is hiding somewhere with half of his face missing. The woman suddenly comes back to life, but she's either possessed or some sort of zombie. Much crab- walking ensues and of course both of the protagonists end up dead.
Overall V/H/S2 was OK. I didn't like how many tropes were thrown in (crab-walking, possession, zombies, demon-birth, ceiling-walking "things," etc.) and even though most of the shorts were a bit longer than in the original, they didn't feel as fleshed out.