Last year’s horror sensation V/H/S was a fresh approach to the genre through the found-footage format. It was a terrific collection of creepy stories, each helmed by a different director. The concept was brilliant, the result was thrilling, terrifying and entertaining. It was the horror anthology every fan was waiting for, and it had the key elements most fans expect: sex, blood and jump-scares. Great box office and online buzz led to a sequel which premiered at this year’s FrightFest.
What’s it about? Searching for a missing student, two private investigators break into his house and find a collection of VHS tapes. Viewing the horrific contents of each cassette, they realize there may be dark motives behind his disappearance. Each tape takes the viewer to a world of zombies, aliens and ghosts, and even inside a cult compound, while answering some unresolved questions from the first installment.
Verdict: Fans of the first V/H/S movie won’t be disappointed as the creators of V/H/S/2 have not only fixed some of its predecessor’s problems, they’ve also pushed boundaries. Whereas the previous film took a while to get into the creepy house, V/H/S/2 gets straight to the point: in just a couple of minutes the investigators are wandering around shadowy corridors and watching video tapes.
Is this the same house fans know from the first movie? Director Simon Barrett answers that question in his fragment Tape 42, which leads the narrative of the whole feature by having one of the investigators play the tapes containing the rest of the stories. More unresolved questions from V/H/S , such as what is going on with these tapes, are also answered by Barrett, who’s now enjoying huge success with his screenplay for the horror slasher You’re Next, which also premiered at this year’s FrightFest. (To watch Flicks And The City’s interview with You’re Next star Sharni Vinson, click here!)
The second chapter, Clinical Trials, follows a patient who gets fitted with a hi-tech camera-eye. As soon as he arrives home, he starts seeing all kinds of creepy ghosts. As promising as this premise sounds, it doesn’t deliver the thrills and crazy scares expected, perhaps because of its underdeveloped screenplay and protagonist. While the scares will work for viewers less familiar with the genre, those used to horror won’t find much to surprise in this section by You’re Next director Adam Wingard.
[SPOILER] The third chapter follows a man on a bike ride through the woods where he’s confronted by zombies and turns into one of the walking dead. The fact we see his transformation through the GoPro camera attached to his cycling helmet, makes this short entertainingly original. So, is A Ride In The Park – created by Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale (The Blair Witch Project) – the chapter which shows V/H/S/2 is going to be bloodier and gorier than the first movie? It’s certainly a must for all zombie fans.
The forth short movie is, without doubt, the most thrilling, shocking and bizarre of all. After the worldwide success of his martial arts action film The Raid, self-confessed horror fan Gareth Evans proves his narrative and cinematic skills yet again with one hell of a ride. Directed from a screenplay by Timo Tjahjanto, Safe Haven allows time to build its characters, so when the madness is unleashed, we actually care about their fate. The story follows a group of TV reporters who have set up an interview with the leader of a cult. The tensest chapter, this short delivers every bit of crazy fun you could ever ask for in a horror movie. And just when you think it can’t get any crazier, a character turns a corner or looks into a room only to find something even weirder going on that will make your skin crawl… unless, that is, you’re a real horror fan, in which case, you might just find yourself on your feet applauding! (To watch Flicks And The City’s interview with Gareth Evans on V/H/S/2 & The Raid 2, click here!)
Topping this is just too tough a task for the final chapter, Alien Abduction Slumber Party. The idea starts off with promise but then feels underdeveloped: an alien invasion is seen through a camera strapped to a little dog. The characters are weak and there’s no time to empathize. Maybe the fact aliens have been so well-used in comedies and action blockbusters works against this segment’s scare factor. As much fun as the director’s previous film, Hobo With A Shotgun, was, Jason Eisener doesn’t deliver his best in this final short.
Final Words? V/H/S/2 is a gorier, more tense and thrilling introduction to the V/H/S world than ever before. It still lacks relatable characters, but that’s something horror in general has been struggling with for quite a while. Two of the shorts are brilliant, a must for any horror fan, while the others are entertaining. The sequel requires a greater suspension of disbelief than the original where the idea of freaky stories unknown by the general public worked because all of them involved a limited number of people, whereas the stories in this second movie involve public places and even dozens of people killed. That’s something that needs to be addressed if they make V/H/S/3.