Last year’s V/H/S took a lot of viewers by surprise. Some loved it for its innovative take on the found footage genre going around these days, and some folks, well…hated it. Everything from “This isn’t scary” to “That movie was completely misogynistic”, it all was said via Twitter, Facebook, and whatever other social sites that people like to express themselves on. Some of the viewers who did like it, however, felt like it was one of the first films since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT to actually warrant being the type of film that it is. There are tons of films these days about people suddenly finding someone’s footage and suddenly the films turn into footage that looks better than most normal films and has sweeping soundtracks on top of them. With V/H/S, every segment made sense to be filmed, and made sense to have been “found”(via the wrap around story). The film was a hit and was picked up and released by MAGNET, and not long after, it was announced that there would be a sequel, with a new group of directors taking stabs at the found footage genre. Is V/H/S/2 more of the same? Not at all. Is it better than the first film? Hell to the YES.
What makes V/H/S/2 such an improvement, is where the first film had segments (or tapes) that were either really enjoyable or really bland, this film is solid from start to finish. There isn’t a single weak link in the new bunch, and while some are better than the others, every “tape” is entertaining as hell.
After a short introduction to the wraparound story (complete with a naked Simon Barrett), revolving around investigators getting hired by a woman to find her missing son, and breaking into a house to look for clues (and watching the missing son’s VHS tapes), the films starts with Phase 1 Clinical Trials, the first tape.
Starring director Adam Wingard (YOU’RE NEXT, the extremely underrated A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE) as a man, who after an accident, gets a robotic eye that films everything during its trial run. Not too long after getting the eye, he begins seeing ghosts throughout his house, and eventually is approached by a woman who had a similar operation, but instead of seeing the ghosts, she hears them.
Though not as nerve-shattering at the rest of the tapes, Phase 1 Clinical Trials is a really fun way to start the film. Wingard does a great job being sporadically in front of the camera (looking in windows), and while the segment begins somewhat slow, by the last 5-10 minutes of it, it really takes off, keeping you wondering how it will play out.
A Ride in The Park, the second tape, is where the film really begins to excel. Directed by Edúardo Sanchez (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT) and Gregg Hale (SAY YES QUICKLY), this tape revolves around a mountain biker going for a ride, while wearing a GOPRO camera on his helmet. After coming across an injured woman, the biker gets attacked by zombies, and we in turn get what is by far, the most fun and interesting takes on the zombie genre in a long time. This short has more imagination and heart than about 99% of any zombie movies/shows out today, and leaves you asking yourself, “wow, could this get any better??”. Well..yes, it sure can, and does.
The next tape in queue, is Gareth Evans(THE RAID) and Timo Tjahjanto (MACABRE)’s Safe Haven. While the first tape was fun to watch, and the second was intense and innovative, it’s Safe Haven that really goes for the gut-punch and begins to scare the hell out you. It’s a terrifying look at cults that ends up evolving into a twist that you definitely won’t see coming.
Safe Haven follows a documentary crew in Indonesia (the tape is in Indonesian, so if you mind reading subtitles, first punch yourself, then get over it), who talk a leader of a cult into allowing them to interview him in his huge compound. Once they begin to get more than they bargained for, and the tape begins to get scarier and more intense with pretty much every minute. I don’t scare easily, but this one left me nervous and very uncomfortable. It’s such a solid short, and is a really great example that not only can Evans make one of the coolest action films in years (THE RAID), but holy crap can he make a horror short. It’s unnerving, intense, bloody as hell, and leaves your mouth wide open up to the last shot.
The last tape, Jason Eisener (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN)’s Slumber Party Alien Abduction, rivals Safe Haven for the title of the best tape in my opinion, and that’s because, like all of his work, there’s an honesty and genuine feeling to what Eisener does. You can tell that Eisener has a love for the types of shorts and features that he makes, and they never come off as wannabe throwbacks.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction follows two almost-teen brothers, who after their parents leave town for the weekend, invite their friends over to have a sleepover and play some pretty hilarious pranks on their sister and her boyfriend. The kids attach a GOPRO camera to their dog (genius idea btw), and piss their sister enough to make her and boyfriend try to turn the tables, but almost instantly, all hell breaks loose, when the kids are terrorized by aliens.
Where the first 50-60% of the short is full of some of the funniest and most genuinely realistic silliness that kids do at that age (I felt like I was watching a home video of my hi-jinks growing up) , when the aliens arrive, the tone instantly switches, and never lets up. It’s probably the scariest take on aliens in years, and definitely showcases Esiener’s ability to keep the viewer enthralled (and terrified) the whole time.
In the first V/H/S, the wraparound story, while not as unenjoyable as the slasher in the woods segment, was never enough to keep my interests going. With V/H/S/2, when it all ties together at the end, it’s not only an important element to the film, but it’s downright scary and cringe-inducing (in the best way) as hell. It’s obvious that Simon Barrett knows how to freak people out, because for 2, he wrote a pretty intense wrap around to say the least. The last scene might just give you something to think about next time you look in your closet.
If the work the V/H/S/2 team did to make such a solid (and more cohesive) step up from the first film is ever put towards a third entry into the series, then they can count me in, because they hit it out of the park with this one.
V/H/S/2 unspools onto iTunes/On Demand June 6, and in theaters July 12.