Synopsis: Inside a darkened house looms a column of TVs littered with VHS tapes, a pagan shrine to forgotten analog gods. The screens crackle and pop endlessly with monochrome vistas of static-white noise permeating the brain and fogging concentration. But you must fight the urge to relax: this is no mere movie night. Those obsolete spools contain more than just magnetic tape. They are imprinted with the very soul of evil.
Release Date: July 12, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Anthology
Last year’s V/H/S combined the classic anthology horror film with the new found footage craze, with inconsistent results. The sequel, appropriately enough titled V/H/S/2, is more of the same – with a similarly predictable outcome.
V/H/S/2 revolves around a pair of private investigators who are hired to track down a missing teenager. Instead of the kid, they find a house full of television sets and VHS tapes. Also in the house is a laptop with a video playing. The investigators watch the clip from the beginning and find that the video shows the missing boy talking about the tapes that are scattered around the room. One of the investigators continues to check out the videotapes while the other looks for clues in the rest of the house. The first tape, called “Phase I Clinical Trials,” shows a man receiving an experimental camera eye that restores the vision he lost in an accident, but also records everything that he is seeing. The man ends up seeing more than he wanted to when he is haunted by visions of death and dismemberment. The next video, entitled “A Ride in the Park,” is the story of a man biking on mountain trails who comes across an injured man. As the rider phones for help, the injured man reveals himself to be a zombie and attacks. “Safe Haven” is next, a story about a news crew’s report on an Indonesian cult that takes a horrifying turn as the cameras roll. And, finally, “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” is a Super 8-style science fiction film about a group of children who capture a real alien invasion on tape while making their own low budget film.
The list of responsible parties for V/H/S/2 reads like a hip who’s who of underground horror. The team of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett (You’re Next), both alums from the first V/H/S, provide “Phase I Clinical Trials” as well as the wraparound segment. “A Ride in the Park” was done by Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale (the men behind The Blair Witch Project and Lovely Molly). Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption) and Timo Tjahjanto (Macabre) turn in “Safe Haven,” while Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun) supplies “Slumber Party Alien Abduction.” That’s a solid list of not-ready-for-prime-time heavyweights, and all are at the top of their game.
Like all anthology horror films, some of the segments are better than others. Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard’s “Phase I Clinical Trials” is the best of the lot, easily the best put together. The most simultaneously thought provoking and disturbing is “Safe Haven,” its vision a curious combination of realism and surrealism. Eisener’s “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” is the fun section with its wide-eyed depiction of childhood innocence lost. The biggest disappointment is “A Ride in the Park,” which comes off as a stereotypical zombie rip-off that is far below what should be expected from Sanchez and Hale.
Because it fixes the little things that were wrong with V/H/S, V/H/S/2 is an improvement over the first film. Whereas the original ran long and got tedious in places, the sequel is more concise and compact. The inclusion of one less segment helps, but the individual shorts themselves are also more focused. Also, the wraparound segment simply serves its purpose of tying the tapes together rather than trying too hard to be an additional storyline. The only weakness in V/H/S that isn’t addressed in the sequel is the apparent inability of the writers to end the shorts. Like most of the shorts in the first movie, the segments in V/H/S/2 have trouble concluding, and while they don’t really overstay their welcome like a few of those in the first movie did, they don’t exactly wrap up neatly, either. Despite the dissatisfaction with some of the endings, V/H/S/2 is a marked improvement over its predecessor and is still a fantastically fun horror film.
Like V/H/S, the found footage angles in V/H/S/2 are both organic and believable instead of just featuring characters who happen to be videotaping themselves, and each segment takes advantage of the constraints of their respective mediums. “Phase I Clinical Trials,” for example, is shown from the point of view of the patient’s robotic eye, so the viewer sees exactly what the patient sees, whether it’s real or not. “A Ride in the Park” is shown from the point of view of a Go-Pro camera attached to the helmet of the main character, which is an interesting and effective way to tell the story, even if that particular story has been told a million times. A documentary news crew captures the footage in “Safe Haven,” giving that segment a reason to be a little more slick and well produced than the others. “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” is pieced together from footage from the teenage filmmaker’s camera, an apparatus that is strapped to everything from their wrists to their little dog’s collar. The photography that is used in V/H/S/2 makes sense for what is going on in the film, and the filmmakers take advantage of the limitations of their techniques, creatively turning them into advantages.
Since the novelty factor of found footage movies has long since worn off, films like V/H/S/2 have to find other ways to scare their audiences. Thankfully, it does, relying heavily on the classic techniques of horror: the gross out and the jump scare. Only two of the four segments are really scary, but they’re scary enough to carry the film. “Phase I Clinical Trials” serves up more than its share of shocking and startling moments with its now-you-see-it type style of presentation. “Safe Haven” is more subliminally scary, with the bloody suicide massacre of the cult members providing plenty of unsettling imagery. The other two segments are fairly routine with merely a handful of frightening spots between them, but “Phase I Clinical Trials” and “Safe Haven” are scary enough to keep most horror fans satisfied, and V/H/S/2 should provide enough scares for those who give it a chance.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Simon BarrettEduardo SanchezTimo Tjahjanto
- Cast: Kelsy Abbott (Ayesha)Devon Brookshire (Amy)Fachry Albar (Mark) Hannah Hughes (Clarissa)Kevin Hunt (Eyeball Guy)
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA