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Video Violence 2
(1988)
 

Director:Gary P. Cohen                                             
Cast:
UKE, Bart Sumner, Lee Miller


When it comes to making a sequel to a movie, filmmakers often find themselves in a bind. It comes from the expectations of the audience. Specifically, audiences want to see the material that entertained them in the pervious movie, but at the same time they don't want to see the previous movie all over again. It's a tough problem to overcome, as you can see from the look-alike sequels to movies like Friday The 13th or A Nightmare On Elm Street. So I was quite pleased that the makers of Video Violence 2 managed to made this sequel quite different in its format from the original. That's not to say it becomes a good movie - there are still a number of problems with the movie. But the ambition in front of and behind the camcorder is more evident, and it does at least help this to be one of the rare sequels that's better than the original.

Those wacky backyard serial killers from the previous movie, Howard and Eli, are still at their bloody antics, though they have moved on up from their basement. From a TV news report shown during the opening credits, we are told of their new game. They and several other people now run a pirate cable station, hacking into TV stations all over the world to broadcast The Howard And Eli Show. Eli is the host, while Howard plays the Ed McMahon-like sidekick, and their new pal Gordon is on the sidelines to provide music and the occasional comment, never straying away from his keyboard. The entire show is an excuse to show off to the world the murders they and the other people in Frenchtown commit, plus submissions from outside viewers. (Though how viewers submit videos when everyone on the show makes pains to hide where they are is never explained.) And there are also commercial breaks along the way that give them extra opportunity to show off more blood and gore.

So what we have here is kind of a horror version of Kentucky Fried Movie, with its skit-like structure. The advantage of a filmmaker using this skit format is that they don't have to keep focus on one particular idea for long, and they don't have to worry so much about things like character development or story structure. However, it does mean the filmmaker has to come up with more original ideas, and that each idea can't go on for too long. And even though Video Violence 2 runs about 78 minutes (despite saying 90 minutes on the video box, and the end credits crawling at a snail's pace), there are times when it's clear that they were having trouble stretching out this skit format to that relatively short running time. Take the scene where Howard and Eli show a submission by some college girls. Apparently shot by an invisible person, we see the scantily clad women decide to turn the tables for once, and plan to kill a man so that for once a woman isn't the victim. So they order a pizza, and invite the delivery boy to "party" with them, resulting in several minutes of the story stopping dead in its tracks to show everyone dancing (and in slow motion) for what seems like to be forever. (It's odd that when the delivery boy finally gets chopped, we don't actually see him killed onscreen - maybe the invisible person was male.)

Although no other scene is lengthened to that extreme, there are a few other scenes where things a stretched out just a bit too long. The commercial for the "Wilbur" doll is about thirty seconds too long, and another commercial for various slaughters available to purchase on video having the various available titles also crawling at a snail's pace. But generally each scene manages to run at a reasonable length, unlike the first movie, which had an endless number of endless scenes. One scene, a murder at a video store (apparently shot by the same invisible person), builds up well to the actual murder, ending with an unusual and original method of murder and a good one-liner. Also unlike the first movie, there were some attempts at humor that I did find genuinely amusing. True, they do repeat a lot of the better jokes (such as joyful voices singing the station's call letters, W.G.O.R.), but I'd rather have them repeating jokes that worked rather than there being no jokes at all.

A lot of the production woes found in the first movie return in this sequel, including the poor lighting (sometimes the level of light noticeably changes in the middle of a scene), the washed-out colors, and the dialogue sometimes hard to make out, especially when more than one character talks at a time. There is actually some improvement in areas. While the first movie had scenes consisting of just a few lengthy takes, there is a lot more editing in each scene now. It's clear that more time went into shooting each scene, and that each scene was set up and shot more carefully. Perhaps the extra work behind the camera got the actors (many of which are from the previous movie) to give better performances. Some of the actors seem to be having the time of their life, especially the actress who plays the wife of the sheriff in the homemade electric chair segment. Even when they are given stale jokes like the old "frog in a blender" bit, it isn't completely without life. I think it also helped the actors that the tone of this sequel is clearly that of black comedy, so there is a uniform comic attitude by the cast.

The blood and gore effects introduced here are also a notch up above the quality of those found in the first movie. (I use the word "introduced", because there are a number of bloody scenes from the first movie included here, no doubt to help increase the running time.) They manage to be realistic when the situation requires it, and amusingly cheesy, such as when someone's head explodes. There are also a lot more killings, so the gorehounds who watch this will at least have their bloodlust satisfied. But will they get enough entertainment elsewhere in the movie? I don't think so; the movie wears out its welcome before the end not only with the general cheapness of the production, but in it eventually becoming almost pointless, except in its wanting to deliver blood and gore. Kentucky Fried Movie had gags of all different kinds, so it never got boring. Here, everything centers around gore and the same comic delivery throughout, and it almost becomes the same skit again and again.

There is some promise in the beginning for some social satire when the newscaster says the show has horrified and entertained viewers all around the world, but this is never mentioned again. Just before the movie ends, we finally get what seems to be the beginning of a genuine plot, but it turns into a shaggy dog joke, having no real consequence and only seeming to be there to get that movie to be 78 minutes long. No, this isn't a good movie. But I can't deny that there's some merit in this sequel, that it was made with more ambition, and it seems like everyone involved was having a lot of fun. And at least the negative aspects are not annoying this time around.

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Outtakes, Prime Time, Video Violence

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