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Five Questions for the Directors of V/H/S 2

by Ethan Alter April 23, 2013 4:40 pm
Five Questions for the Directors of <i>V/H/S 2</i>

Fans of the first V/H/S (myself included) will be happy to hear that the second installment in the horror anthology series continues to employ the found footage style in fun (and frightening) ways. Following its Sundance premiere in January, V/H/S 2 is playing as part of this year's Tribeca Film Festival, prior to its VOD and theatrical release later this summer. Four of the directors -- Simon Barrett, who helmed the framing segments; Adam Wingard, whose movie follows a guy with a new implanted cyborg eye that allows him to see dead people; Jason Eisner, who choreographs the alien invasion of a kids' slumber party; and Eduardo Sánchez, who directed a hilarious first-person zombie short (and who, fun fact, helped launch the age of found footage horror with the 1999 smash hit, The Blair Witch Project) -- made the trip to New York and spoke with us about continuing the V/H/S legacy.

TWoP: Adam and Simon, as the returning directors, what did you want to do differently on this film versus the original?
Adam Wingard: The main thing I wanted to do was do the exact opposite of what I did in the first film, where I played up a really low-fi authenticity. This one to me was more about experimenting with a found footage thing that wasn't based on any kind of technology that's actually real. Going into this, I had really wanted to direct actors again rather than appear in it myself, like in the first movie; originally I wanted to cast this guy who does a web series called Angry Video Game Nerd, but we couldn't get in touch with him. And then just due to the nature of what this thing was, it was easier for me to star in it. Casting an actor would mean he would be standing over my shoulder saying the lines while I did the camerawork. I also knew that I didn't want to do the wraparound again, which is the biggest challenge of doing something like this. I just think back to when I'd watch something like Creepshow; watching those wraparound segments, I was always like, "This is fine, but I'm not engaged with it, really." We tried an experiment with those scenes in the first movie and I don't think it was totally successful, so I let Simon handle it this time.
Simon Barrett: In terms of those wraparound segments, there's definitely an overall mythology that I'm extrapolating upon, even with the titles and how the wraparound for V/H/S 2 identifies itself with its title as a prequel to the wraparound in V/H/S except for some footage, which is kind of a complicated thing I'm not even sure the producers got until I explained it to them. There is an overarching mythology to who is collecting these tapes and why and that's something we want to elucidate as the films go on. That said, you only have so much time and if you explain too much it would feel very inauthentic and awkward. So we're just giving hints and putting in things that would reward multiple viewings.

TWoP: And Jason and Eduardo, as the newbies, how did you decide to jump aboard?
Jason Eisner: I was following the buzz of the first movie at Sundance and was really intrigued by the way people I knew were so excited for the idea of a found footage anthology. Right before it played at South by Southwest, one of the producers of the film contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in getting involved. I watched V/H/S and I loved how much energy and creativity was in the film.
Eduardo Sánchez: I had heard about it as well, and when the guys approached us about doing a segment, we were honored to be invited. I'd been keeping track of the found footage genre that Dan [Myrick] and I kind of popularized with Blair Witch and I liked where V/H/S took it. I wasn't sure how the anthology idea would work out with found footage, but when I saw that it had, I was like, "Man, this is gonna be cool to be involved in another one." It was also a way not to get left behind in a genre I'm known for.

TWoP: Have you been following the genre regularly since Blair Witch?
Sánchez: Yeah, I've been keeping up with it. And, you know, there are bad found footage movies and there are really good found footage movies; like with all movies, it's about characters and story. But it's really to see cool how it's moving forward. With Blair Witch, our base thing was trying to keep it realistic, have a situation where the camera had a reason for being on. I like the idea that the rules are progressing -- like people are putting scores into these movies now. When we made Blair Witch we were almost trying to do a hoax video. Now, everybody knows that it's not real and the idea of taking that aesthetic and bringing normal cinematic tools to it is what fascinates me.

TWoP: Jason, your movie feels somewhat like a found-footage spoof of E.T.. Was that part of your inspiration?
Eisner: Not so much with E.T., but I've always wanted to do a serious kids' film. When I was a kid, I saw Fire in the Sky and that movie opened up this whole nightmare for me of being abducted by aliens. So when I thought of doing something with kids for V/H/S 2, I wanted to play off my own childhood fears and it just came naturally. I grew up with some great kids' movies like The Monster Squad and even The Sandlot, so I wanted to make a serious kids' movie but do it with the kids of today, so that younger viewers would be able to relate to it.

TWoP: Having done two installments now, along with all the other found footage films out there, was there a fear that you'd completely exhaust all the creative possibilities of the genre midway through the shoot?
Barrett: I think a big inspiration behind the V/H/S films period is just to do things with found footage that we haven't seen before. Obviously making shorts gives you much more room for that, because there are things you can do in a 15-minute movie that wouldn't hold up in a two hour movie. The good thing about this being a sequel is that we got more loose with the found footage style. No one is pretending that this is actually a real tape that some MIT students discovered in a basement. We're able to have a sense of humor with it and that blends into the style as well. So we didn't feel constrained by it, but we also cheated, so I guess that's the short answer. [Laughs]

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