V/H/S/2 Movie Review
Written by Ted McCarthy
Released by Magnet Releasing
Directed by Simon Barrett, Jason Eisner, Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjato, Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale, and Adam Wingard
Written by Simon Barrett, John Davies, Jason Eisner, Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjato, Eduardo Sanchez and Jamie Nash
2013, 95 minutes, Rated R
Lawrence Michael Levine as Larry (“Tape 49”)
Adam Wingard as Herman (“Phase I Clinical Trials”)
Jay Sunders as Mike (“A Ride In the Park”)
Fachry Albar as Adam (“Safe Haven”)
Riley Eisner as Tank (“Slumber Party Alien Abduction”)
V/H/S came out of nowhere for me last year and ended up being my favorite horror film of 2012 (with due respect to Cabin In the Woods). I love anthologies, and generally still dig the found footage format when done right. V/H/S was original in its concepts, clever in its execution, and, most importantly, didn’t skimp on the blood, guts, sex or scares that the more hardened horror fans look for. All of that added up to a fantastically fun viewing experience, which of course meant that a sequel was inevitable.
Now, about a year later, V/H/S/2 is here with an all-new band of directors (save for the returning Adam Windgard) spinning some brand new vignettes that, while mostly original, aren’t quite as consistently scary or entertaining as the ones in the first film.
The first of the five-part anthology (with one less segment than the first film, shortening the overall run time, which was a small problem with the original) serves as our wraparound segment that’s revisited at the end of each subsequent tape. It’s more streamlined than the wraparound of part one, “Tape 56,” but isn’t as intriguing or creepy, and is easily the most boring of the film. Simon Barrett’s “Tape 49” involves private detectives Larry and Ayesha (Lawrence Michael Levine and Kelsy Abbott) hired to locate a woman’s missing son. They break into the son’s house looking for evidence and find a familiar-looking collection of VHS tapes scattered in front of several flickering TV sets. Larry searches the house for clues while Ayesha pops in the first tape, leading us to…
“Phase I Clinical Trials”: Adam Wingard (who also directs) plays Herman, a guy who receives an experimental robotic retinal implant after losing his eye in a car wreck. The implant has a chip in it that records what it sees for research purposes. It’s not long before Herman begins to see ghosts of people he has wronged in the past. After “Tape 49,” this entry ends up being the second weakest of the bunch (which made me worry). It’s little more than a series of ghost appearances and jump scares followed by Wingard cursing, although the drastic measures that he takes to rid himself of the visions are grossly funny.
“A Ride In the Park”: Directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale (co-director and producer of The Blair Witch Project, respectively), this one is ingeniously shot on a GoPro cam mounted on the helmet of mountain biker Mike (Jay Saunders), who encounters a horde of zombies while out for a morning ride. We’ve seen zombie found footage horror before in the [REC] films, so it doesn’t seem too original…until the zombies catch up with Mike and bite him.
“Safe Haven”: I try to refrain from using profanity in my reviews. Not because I’m a prude (I swear all the time), but because I never know who’s going to be reading these (hi, Mom). But holy balls, this entry is batshit fucking INSANE! Directed by Gareth Evans (who made The Raid) and Timo Tjahjato, it is not only hands down the best segment of this film, but trumps everything in the first V/H/S as well as just about every horror short in recent memory. It follows a documentary film crew shooting an exposé on the leader of the People of Paradise Gate and his followers inside the cult’s compound. Cults are creepy as hell to begin with – a group of men, women and children who follow the will and whim of a man claiming to be a messiah, no matter how horrific his orders turn out to be. And when “the time” comes, well…the crew should’ve picked another day. If anyone tries to spoil this for you before you see it, stick your fingers in your ears and walk away. The less described about it beforehand, the better. But trust me, it’s worth the price of admission alone.
“Slumber Party Alien Abduction”: Guess what this one’s about. Jason Eisner directs, and I guess he’s a fan of literal titles – his last feature was Hobo With A Shotgun. It starts out as a series of goofy pranks by young kids (recorded on a “doggy cam” strapped to a pup’s head) before a nighttime invasion of what SlasherCast’s New Jersey Nick calls “the greys.” It seemed like it was going for that fun, silly-scare vibe that we got from “10/31/98,” the haunted house segment that concluded the first film. When I initially watched it, I thought it was kind of amateurish and out of place. But that may have partly been due to me still reeling from “Safe Haven,” and upon a second viewing, it’s a lot of energetic fun and serves as a bit of a palate cleanser (despite a grim and unnecessary final shot that will turn off a lot of people and left me confused about why they included it) before the bookend wrap-up of “Tape 49.”
As with the first film, there’s no addressing the technology and why these films were transferred to VHS tapes when they were all clearly shot on digital cameras (and on a space-age super eyeball). But that’s just a nitpick you have to get over. Any sequel to a great film is going to have its work cut out for it. But V/H/S/2 is up to the task and, while not quite as dark, brutal, and consistently scary as the first, is still a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.