I already saw V/H/S/2 and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve also seen You’re Next, which is a lot of fun, and remember the first V/H/S? Did you know that Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett wrote/directed a bunch of that stuff?! Those guys are some pretty cool dudes, and I got a chance to talk to them about V/H/S/2, as well as some other things that are completely unrelated to that movie. Guys, this is a fun interview. Read it. You might learn something, and even if you don’t, you’ll realize why Simon and Adam and I are all best friends and you’ll realize why it made so much sense for us to get matching best friend tattoos!
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett
WolfMan: The original V/H/S took two concepts that are kind of risky, found footage and anthologies, and that gamble definitely paid off. What were some of the things you learned from your experiences on the first film that you either tried to avoid or improve upon with this installment?
Simon Barrett: Normally the problem with making a sequel is that you have to find a way to continue the characters and plot in a way that often doesn’t feel organic, but with an anthology like V/H/S, which was always planned to be apart of some franchise, whether it be a TV show or a series of films, it was very easy for us to know how we wanted to extrapolate upon the mythology and set up a sequel. Once we establish a kind of balance with something, like we did with the first V/H/S, then you can kind of start having fun with that and riffing on what you established, which was the real goal.
Adam Wingard: If you really think about it, the movie’s more of a sequel to the Radio Silence segment than the whole of V/H/S. The wraparound and the Radio Silence segment are totally what it feels like now.
SB: We really were able to watch V/H/S with a number of festival audiences and we take our reviews and fan responses seriously, at least on some level. At least as serious on the level as which they were intended. Seeing how people responded to things like the Radio Silence segment and David Bruckner’s was kind of inspiring to us so we did use that as a big reference point.
WM: Speaking of what you guys take to heart and you got to see these films with festival audiences, between V/H/S and this film and You’re Next, you get to see your films getting all of this early, positive buzz, and then have to deal with people include things like “overhyped” in a review of your movie, despite so few screenings. Can you talk about the kind of impact that has on you guys as filmmakers?
SB: It’s funny, Adam might be able to speak more eloquently on this, but I was literally searching Twitter last night for negative things about V/H/S/2 that I could retweet, and maybe it’s a testament to the film’s quality that I could only find a couple. I did see tons of people tweeting “V/H/S/2 comes out on VOD tomorrow! Finally! We’ve been waiting forever!” And it’s like, we made it a year ago. Well like, four months ago because we made it in secret. It’s funny that we live in a time where the internet and piracy is a factor, but just the way things are marketed now through social media that everyone wants everything instantaneously. We did keep V/H/S and V/H/S/2 a secret because we didn’t know where it was premiering and we realized that if you hype a movie for two years, people get sick of hearing about it and not seeing and people do get jaded towards that. I can respect that, I’m kind of the same way. I’m going on to movie websites every day and seeing boring new stills of a movie that doesn’t come out until 2015, it does somewhat diminish my enthusiasm about that when I’m finally able to see it. It’s something you need to be super aware of. The good news is that both Magnolia and Lionsgate have really savvy marketing departments and we don’t have to think about it that much.
AW: And there’s going to be different phases of audience groups that come and go. You’re gonna have frustrations with a sequel or something like You’re Next, that isn’t out yet, you have two years of people being aware of it. You’re gonna have people who are disappointed in it no matter what because they’re going to think about that hype. On its first release, it’ll have a reaction, and then when it’s on Blu-ray or whatever, it’ll have a reaction, and then five years later there’s going to be a whole different set of reactions. It’s always changing. Even from experiencing something like A Horrible Way to Die, at film festivals it was received one way, where people are giving a lot of credit to this weird little indie movie, but then we got people saying, “What’s with all this shaky camera stuff?” Then a few years pass and you get a whole different reaction that’s kind of in the middle. It’s not one or the other.
SB: Yeah, that is interesting, because there’s all these different phases of release. Like A Horrible Way to Die, it’s currently on Netflix streaming with an erroneous PG-13 rating, so obviously there’s a large response of appalled viewers. But it’s interesting, with V/H/S/2 and You’re Next, that will stand the test of time, so you can’t get too caught up in knee jerk response. You’re hoping that something will be enjoyed a decade from now. And you (Wolfman) actually spoke to this in your review of You’re Next, but when I saw one of my favorite films of all time, which is Oldboy, I was such a Chan-wook Park fan and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, so when I saw Oldboy I thought, “Yeah, that was really, really good, but it doesn’t live up to my expectations.” Now it’s probably one of my five favorite movies ever, but at the time, my expectations were just so high that I’d have to contain every element of every film ever to meet them. As a viewer, I was so excited about the release of that film, and I’d heard such crazy things about it, and sometimes you just have to let that pass.
AW: I actually had the same reaction when I saw Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining for the first time because I was such a big fan of the book, and I saw his movie and I was really disappointed. Now it’s like my favorite movie of all time, but it took a lot of reconditioning in my brain and I was able to let go and realize it’s a masterpiece and far better than the book.
SB: As a kid, for some reason, I was lucky that I was able to get into the Kubrick film before hearing about it.
AW: I was unlucky enough to–wait, you know what? I’m not gonna diss the TV series. Wait, did I just do that?
SB: Hey, I’m a huge fan of the film, and I’m not joking on any level, but I’m also a huge fan of the film Sleepwalkers. That movie needs to be rediscovered. Once early digital effects have the same charm as bad stop motion animation had in 1950’s movies, Sleepwalkers is going to be rediscovered.
AW: I really want a Sleepwalkers poster. That had one of the best posters.
SB: The one with the cast running towards the house? I have the DVD of it and–
AW: I can’t BELIEVE that. (laughs)
SB: The DVD is one of the first DVDs manufactured and it’s horrible.
AW: We shouldn’t be dissing the movie like this, with the all-star cast–
SB: I’m not dissing it!
AW: I know. I know you’re not…but I am. I actually saw The Shining miniseries before I saw the movie, and I really liked the miniseries, which is why I was let down by Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. (Laughs) And then I sort of saw my problems.
SB: But at the same time, you were won over by the miniseries.
AW: I was really scared by that miniseries.
SB: I saw Sleepwalkers in theaters like 3 times when I was a broke teenager.
Kelsy Abbott in V/H/S/2
WM: Simon, at the SXSW Q & A you briefly talked about the mythology of the VHS tapes and the effects these tapes have on people, but it was 2am so you didn’t completely go into it. Could you talk more about that overarching mythology?
SB: It’s very funny because we originally had slightly more of that in the segment that I wrote that Adam directed, called “Clinical Trials”. The whole tape thing, and the reason for an analog technology, was the early idea, that those tapes leave electromagnetic impressions on their environments that certain people can perceive. The tapes can effect electromagnetism, if you’re watching them in a certain sequence, it can kind of effect you and distort you on a supernatural level. We dropped more hints about that in Adam’s segment in huge chunks of dialogue and it didn’t feel natural. Unnatural dialogue really comes across brutally, especially in found footage, where you’re trying to make everything seem real on some level. Ultimately we dropped that. There are devices you can use to easily put stuff on the internet, so it’s more about using a technology that’s magnetically based and how to make those supernaturally effect the viewers. I mean, that’s stuff like that KIND of in there.
AW: There are like, 7 kids in America that are going to love that explanation.
SB: (laughs) No, they’re probably going to be really disappointed. Like, “Aw, I thought it’d be something way cooler than that.”
Calvin Reeder in V/H/S
WM: It’s obvious that you guys had a much bigger budget on this film, made obvious by incorporating Peter Jackson and the WETA Workshop into Simon’s nude scene. What was THAT like?
SB: I actually do want to correct that misconception. The budget was pretty much the same on this one. We very cleverly cut a segment, so it’s a shorter film.
WM: I appreciate you taking my attempt at making a joke and completely crushing.
AW: Well I do want to say that all of the money was spent on Simon’s nude scene. Simon’s penis is really hard to show up on camera, whenever we initially shot it. That’s where Peter Jackson’s people came in, and it took about 6 weeks to re-endow Simon correctly.
WM: I figured Peter would’ve taught you some forced perspective tricks. Like putting Simon’s penis right up against the camera and then have him thirty feet back.
AW: They actually took outtakes of King Kong’s penis.
SB: We actually had (directors) Gareth (Evans) and Timo Tjahjanto’s effects team come in, and I was NOT satisfied with the results. The budget skyrocketed in post.
V/H/S/2 is out NOW on VOD and in select theaters July 12th.