Warning: There are technically no spoilers that haven’t been shown to you in trailers already within this review. However, if you wish to remain completely in the dark as to what each segment of V/H/S/2 is about, please abstain from reading until after you’ve seen the film. Otherwise, have at it.
When I finished V/H/S for the first time, I expected to log-on to my corner of the internet, and see my friends and colleagues sharing my excitement for the experience. What I found instead, was that I appeared to be in the minority. Everybody had something negative to say about the movie, save for James Harris(Jimmy Terror). I was surprised by this. We don’t get many quality anthology films these days, and I really feel like that’s what V/H/S brought to the table. Sure, some of the segments were nonsensical, and riddled with shaky-cam, but it was something different. Some people had legitimate complaints, such as the shaky-cam in some segments being too much for their brains. I can get behind that. I have had friends run out of the theater and puke during screenings of various found footage movies, such as Cloverfield. But then, there were complaints that I didn’t understand, attacking the method of delivery for some of the segments. Complaining that a webcam video found it’s way onto a VHS tape, and things such as that. I think some people have such a hard-on for the nostalgia and “coolness” that currently surrounds VHS, that they expected the movie to be 90 minutes worth of VHS collector pornography.
V/H/S/2, I’m happy to report, has been met with a warmer reception. A lot of the people I talk to, Dead Air’s own Jeff Konopka included, loved the anthology sequel. Jeff didn’t hate the original, but he definitely didn’t like it very much. Not particularly in his case, but I feel like some of the reason why people are quicker to claim their love for the sequel is because of its more accessible nature. Sure, there’s still some extreme shit that happens, but, at least the first half of the movie, while still in the found footage format, handles subject matter that is more acceptable in the public eye, at least currently. I’m not being dismissive of the subject matter. Even though the segments consist of things such as ghosts, and zombies, it’s still handled in a unique way, that makes the shorts stand out amongst the current plethora of ghost and zombie movies. But if you remember back to the first V/H/S, the segments were a lot wackier. I didn’t love every single thing about each segment of the first film, but I felt it brought enough uniqueness to the table to be considered a hit.
In V/H/S 2, we’re treated to four different segments, each covering extremely different subject matter than the previous. The segments were directed by Simon Barrett, John Davies, Jason Eisner, Gareth Evans, Jamie Nash, Eduardo Sanchez, Adam Wingard and Timo Tjahjanto. Most of these names should be familiar to you by now. The segments range from subject matters that include techo-ghosts, zombies, a Jim Jones style cult and an alien invasion. As you can see, while the segments themselves are wildly varying, they lean towards the more acceptable subject matter. But, since we have some insanely talented filmmakers involved in the production this time around, that’s not a bad thing at all. An alien movie is not just an alien movie when it is in the hands of Jason Eisner.
A lot of people hated the wraparound story in V/H/S, and for good reason. It was nonsensical, misogynistic and overall, a complete waste of space. There is nothing mind-blowing about the wraparound this time around, but it is far less annoying. It has a halfway decent premise, but in the end, it’s mostly just a serviceable introduction to the short films, which are the reason we’re watching a film like this to begin with. In the wraparound, a pair of private investigators have been commissioned to investigate the disappearance of a college kid. They break into his house, and find several TVs, VCRs, and a stack of VHS tapes. And, poof. We have a reason to be watching the “segments”.
The first segment is titled Phase I Clinical Trials, and is directed by Adam Wingard(You’re Next, A Horrible Way To Die) and it’s about a man that, for one reason or another, needed to have one of his eyes replaced, and signed up for a clinical trial for a, I want to say, robotic, eye. One of the stipulations of the trial, is that for the first little bit, everything the eye sees is being recorded for data to help in the study of the trial. From the moment the main character arrives home with his new eye, strange things start to happen around him. He’s seeing things, and he can’t tell if the things are really happening, or if it is his new eye malfunctioning. This is an extremely effective “ghost” movie. It has all of the common components of the genre, but it is presented in such a unique way that it really works. And, trust me when I say, it is creepy as hell. I takes a lot for the ghost sub-genre to get to me. Few films of this type have been able to get underneath my skin, but Phase I Clinical Trials was able to do so. It’s creepy, sexy and has a payoff that’s well worth the short wait.
The second segment is titled A Ride In The Park, and is directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale, both of The Blair Witch Project fame. The story is pretty simple, a man with a GoPro camera is biking on a trail in a park, and a woman comes running out of the woods, bloodied and battered, screaming and disoriented. It is soon revealed that this will be no ordinary stroll through the park. The zombie epidemic has begun, and we’ve got front row seats. I know what you’re thinking right now. “ugghhh ZOMBIES?” Well yes. I share in your groans mostly. As much as I love zombies, the shit has been done to death. However, that doesn’t mean zombies can’t be exciting again, especially when it’s a unique take on the creatures, done by seasoned and talented horror veterans. And that’s essentially what this segment delivers. It doesn’t really do anything to break the mold, but it was handled by people that know what they’re doing, and it delivers some fun, bloody carnage. This may actually be my least favorite segment in the anthology, but that doesn’t reflect poorly on the film, because I loved each of the segments. I just happened to have loved this one the least.
The third segment is directed by Gareth Evans(The Raid) and Timo Tjahjanto(ABCs Of Death Segment L is for Libido), and is titled Safe Haven. If there were only one reason I could tell you to go out of your way to see V/H/S/2, it is this segment. This is the longest short of the entire film, and for good reason. It also happens to be one of the best horror related films I’ve seen for the entire year of 2013. Safe Haven follows a documentary crew inside the walls of a compound that houses a Jim Jones style cult. While interviewing the leader of the cult, he gets on the PA system, and basically announces that “the time is now”, signaling a reaction from the cult followers. This is easily the most extreme of the segments. The violence, as well as the imagery will leave you unsettled. This is unquestionable. I refuse to delve into the goings on anymore, because this is 35 minutes of horror that needs to be seen, and the less you know going in, the better.
The final segment is entitled Slumber Party Alien Abduction, and is directed by Jason Eisner(Hobo With A Shotgun.) This segment has the appearance of being captured with a GoPro camera again, however, this time the camera is attached to the top of a dog’s head. If you are one of these people that can sit and watch a human, being raped, eaten, regurgitated, shoved up the ass of another human, then raped and eaten all over again, but can’t stand even the mere suggestion that an animal might be in harms way, your alarm bells will probably be going off immediately. As the title suggests, this segment is about an alien abduction that occurs during a sleepover. Don’t get your hopes up, this isn’t slumber party massacre, and there are not a bunch of horny co-eds. There is a group of teenage boys having a sleepover, as well as the boy’s sister and her boyfriend. And they’re about to be visited by some of the creepiest looking aliens I’ve seen for a while. This is a great segment, however definitely not the best of the film, and you can definitely smell Jason Eisner all over it.
Overall, V/H/S/2 was some of the most fun I’ve had with a genre film this year so far. It really delivers what one would expect from such a project. I hope that they continue this series for further sequels. There are so many talented, yet under-utilized filmmakers floating around out there that there is almost endless possibilities as to what one could do with an anthology film like this. If you are one of the people that hated the first film, do not let that detract you from checking out the sequel. Based strictly on the people in my circle of friends that fit this criteria, almost all of them came around for the second romp through the world of V/H/S.