In "Horror Stories 2" we're treated to a small collection of horror movies. They don't really have anything to do with each other, thematically or otherwise. There's not much point getting attached to any of the characters, since relatively few of them survive beyond their original thirty-minute runtimes. And even the ones that do we never see them again. So, all that's left is to judge this movie as the sum of its parts.
The first story, The Cliff, brings horror to a rather mundane level as two friends run into trouble on a mountain. The prominent use of a Snickers bar is troublesome. Not so much due to product placement, such that it really does not make me want to eat a Snickers bar at all. The story is mainly an exercise in finding ways to instill effective fear. The protagonist is such a cipher that it's quite easy to identify with his guilt, delusions, and panic over events both real and imagined.
The next narrative, The Pain of Death, is a more thoughtful exploration of why it's a bad idea to go drunk driving in the countryside. There's less real terror here, and a lot of what does come up seems a little cheap. Like the movie is just throwing generically scary stuff at its audience and counting on our reflexes to make it stick. Still, the narrative does wrap up neatly, effectively, and with pretty much every important element explained. While it's not a terribly deep or profound message there are still some decent "oh, I get it" moments.
The final tale, Escape, deals with a particularly dopey school teacher who soon finds himself in over his head after taking some bad advice. It's comedy-horror, though not in the traditional sense. All the imagery and scares are as grotesque and terrifying as usual. Rather, the humor comes from the characters' comical reactions to the horrific abominations they have to deal with. It's imagery that goes down quite well as a closer to an omnibus. Laughter isn't really that much better a safety device, but hey, it works better than the cowering fear the we saw in the last two stories.
The overarching framing device of the investigations office is unfortunately quite weak. It works as a transitional interlude, but because the stories are inspired by objects plucked more or less at random from the office, there's no consistent theme. That's really the main problem with the movie- everything works on its own level, as an independent story. There's just nothing much more there. It's just watching several short horror movies rather than a single long one.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. I doubt I could have taken too much more of the tension from The Cliff, I was already starting to get tired of the metaphors in The Pain of Death, and the whole premise behind Escape is so silly that I really doubt the tone could have been effectively maintained for feature length. And in terms of visceral emotion, the three are organized well. From shock, to introspection, to humor, the movie anticipated my mood and delivered. For this reason, I can give a good recommendation to "Horror Stories 2". They are exactly as advertised.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Horror Stories 2""
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