Some of the best sequels aspire to be bigger and crazier than its predecessor and that point could not be more on the nose when it comes to V/H/S/2. The original found footage anthology was a mixed bag of horror shorts that in retrospect I may have ranked higher than I should have- but that’s only because the sequel makes it pale in comparison. Where V/H/S clocked in with maybe two very solid entries and the rest cause it to drag quite a bit, V/H/S/2 is shorter and each short moves like a freight train of balls to the wall horror and even some fun laughs.
Tape 49 (Director: Simon Barrett)
This short is the wraparound segment that follows two private investigators sent in to the apartment of a missing college student to find clues of his whereabouts and inside they find a room full of static screen TVs, a laptop and a stack of VHS tapes. The investigators start watching the tapes (which are each of the other shorts we watch throughout) and find that there might be something a little freakier going down than just a run of the mill missing persons case.
This time around the wraparound works immensely more than it did in the first film and actually hints at why its important that we are watching these tremendously messed up tapes. The acting leaves a little to be desired, but overall it works as a means to hold the film as a whole together.
Phase I Clinical Trials (Director: Adam Wingard)
Wingard also stars as a man that gets an experimental prosthetic eye implant that has also been fitted with a camera to record data for the folks responsible for making it. The problem with the new eye is that it is prone to glitches, which sounds simple enough, except the glitches in this case are visions of dead people that are becoming increasingly violent the more he sees them.
Aside from the wraparound this was actually a great opening for the anthology. The weakest part of it is the acting, which I can overlook thanks to the quick pace and really creepy imagery. The idea is solid, the execution is pretty great, it’s really only the performances that drag it down a bit- but at the same time there are even some decent laughs in the midst of the creepyness.
A Ride in the Park (Directors: Eduardo Sanchez & Gregg Hale)
Eduardo Sanchez returns to the woods with this little short that has a different take on the zombie genre as a young man straps a camera to his bike helmet to capture his wicked bike skills only to unwittingly get caught in a burgeoning zombie apocalypse. When he’s bit the camera then switches from sweet bike tricks to showing a zombie on a killing spree.
I’ll say right now this is my least favorite of the bunch- not to say that I didn’t like it though. For the most part it felt pretty silly to me and there seemed to be some unintentional comedy in the first few scenes of people turning from just plain dead to zombie. I did like how the found footage aspect of it captures a new zombie going through learning to be a zombie, by realizing they can’t just eat their own flesh, or other objects they can’t eat. The last little twist is what I think stretches what exactly zombies can and can’t do, but it was kind of effective for me.
Safe Haven (Directors: Gareth Evans & Timo Tjahjanto)
This wicked little short follows a group of investigative journalists interviewing a man known as Father, the leader of an Indonesian cult that believes he holds the key to immortality. During the interview the journalists convince Father to let them visit the compound where he and his followers live in order to give a fair perspective of their way of life.
Don’t want to give too much away on this one, hence why I cut the synopsis short. This is easily the gem of V/H/S/2, yet there’s still a moment right at the very end that I wasn’t in love with. This short builds so spectacularly that once sh*t hits the fan its one WTF moment after another. The scope for this short is so wide that it almost doesn’t seem like it should work, but it works so well that there are moments of the final act I can’t get out if my head.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction (Director: Jason Eisner)
The final segment follows a group of friends having a sleepover while the parents are out. In the midst of pulling pranks on the oldest sibling of the house their fun is interrupted when they begin getting stalked by aliens looking to, like the title says, abduct them.
My second favorite segment of the bunch- could have really had the potential to compete for a top spot had the aliens not been shown near as much, been a little shorter and the final shot been omitted. It builds beautifully with really quick and ominous shots of aliens lurking in the background, but once we get about halfway in there are way too many shots of them giving more time to kind of dampen the mystery of the threat and look a little too much like people in bad grey body suits and rubber alien masks. The seams do show a bit which knocks down the quality a bit, but the visceral thrills of the chasing and the sound design are more than enough to make me forgive my complaints for the most part.
Each short has the do it yourself spirit that I love about found footage movies, but shorts like Safe Haven take it that extra step to really make the experience incredible. There’s plenty of cheese and humor dispersed through all the segments to offset the more splatter heavy moments. This is a sequel that improves mightily on the structure the original built and also comes out feeling less like a snuff film and more like a fun haunted house type of horror film.
Compared to the original this is leaps and bounds above what that film was aiming for. Watched back to back there’d have been no way I could rate V/H/S quite as high as the sequel- the segments in V/H/S/2 are more thought out, funnier and overall just of higher quality. Granted that I am acknowledging the two of them have their flaws, but when the stories within are operating on all cylinders the films can really pack a punch. V/H/S/2 is a cinematic horror heavyweight that’s more than ready to knock audiences on their ass.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)