Like most anthologies I’ve seen, except for maybe Three… Extremes (2004) that is consistently good, these types of works tend to be pretty uneven. V/H/S/2 is no exception. Much like the first V/H/S (2012) the sequel features a rather basic “frame narrative”, which involves people finding the infamous VHS tapes and playing them for us, the audience. Unlike the first film, the narrative here only gets interesting towards the conclusion, but ultimately ends up feeling rushed and a bit forced. The found footage angle is pretty much used in the same way, while inventing some new justifications for why there is a camera taping everything at all times.
The first short titled Clinical Trials is about a young man that gets an artificial eye implanted after having an accident. The new eye seems to be seeing more than he bargained for. Scary and intense, this first short directed by Adam Wingard is a good way to kick off the anthology.
Next up is A Ride in the Park directed by the guys that brought you The Blair Witch Project (1999). This short is about a guy getting attacked by zombies while riding his bike in the park. There’s nothing special about this short. It feels uninspired and by the numbers. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before and the ending is as unimaginative and standard as you’d expect. For a brief moment there’s a glimmer of hope the filmmakers might take a certain interesting direction, exploring if there’s any humanity left in zombie, but sadly that never happens.
Moving on to my favorite short of the anthology, and what makes V/H/S/2 worth watching, is Safe Haven the segment directed by Timo Tjahjanto. The Indonesian director is surely one of the most interesting new voices working in horror today. Timo’s tribute here is a story about a group of filmmakers trying to expose a crazy Indonesian cult leader. After agreeing to be interviewed in his lair the crew is lured inside what has to be the nuttiest place on earth. What happens is so insane and jarring you won’t believe it’s actually happening. If you don’t try to make sense of it and just accept it, you’ll have a good time. I highly recommend Timo’s breakout debut feature Darah (2009) and his genius L is for Libido segment in The ABCs of Death (2012).
The last short, before concluding the mostly uninteresting frame narrative, is Slumber Party Alien Abduction directed by Jason Eisner from Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) fame. Basically the title perfectly resumes the story: Teenage kids get abducted by aliens. What the title doesn’t tell you is how annoying these teenage kids are and how you want them to die, and not survive. The aliens, traditional Roswell Greys, fail to be scary. So does the loud and distracting sound design. Overall probably the worst segment of the lot, but maybe that’s just because it comes right after the best.
All in all V/H/S/2 is better than V/H/S in that it tries to go for scares instead of “fun”. The third short clearly stands out as the best, but for a die-hard found footage fanatic like myself there’s some enjoyment and entertainment value in every short. It’s also better than the first V/H/S, because there’s less, but longer segments which allows for the story to be more fully developed. Presenting four different sub-genres is a smart move: The film is never repetitive and there’s a little something to be appreciated for everyone.
Rating on First Viewing
(on my laptop, nighttime)
7 out of 10