V/H/S rescued found-footage for me last year. It took the frankly tired cash cow medium and applied it to anthology horror, a concept that had taken a back bench in the past few years of mainstream horror. V/H/S 2 continues in the same strand, though this time a pair of private investigators stumbles across the ominous collection of tapes whilst checking out the home of a missing person.
Like last time V/H/S 2 is a mixed bag, some of the films are conceptually intriguing but things misfire in the execution. The film presents us with four short films but- when teased with piles and piles of ominous tapes potentially containing horror gold-you can’t help but feel some of the naffest films got picked out.
Adam Wingard’s introductory Phase 1 Clinical Trials is a step into sci-fi horror: a man’s new synthetic eye starts shows him things beyond our world. Like I say, conceptually interesting, but its already been handled to a tee by Oxide Pang Chun in The Eye, however that doesn’t stop it pulling off a few good scares. Tension is depressingly fizzled away by the introduction of a girl with a more auditory connection to the afterlife (perhaps a more unnerving idea?), and a laughable way of keeping the ghosts at bay. Wingard’s section ends in a mess that leaves the viewer more bamboozled than scared.
Next up is the slightly better A Ride in the Park; a zombie film from the zombie’s POV. With a camera strapped to his helmet a biker is assaulted, transforms, then goes on his own undead rampage through a sunny camper-filled wood. There’s nothing clever going on here (see Colin) but its concise, enjoyable, and well put together.
The third segment, put together by Timo Tjahjanto who made The ABC’s of Death’s most repulsive segment L is for Libido, is the most impressive and by far the most creative. There are more than a few moments that will stick in your mind, but it really works best as a bit of a blind-sider. With the best and most accomplished narrative, the most striking visuals, and the most intense journey, Safe Haven is a great and commendable addition to the V/H/S collection of short films.
Last and probably least is the near-woeful (comedy?) Alien Invasion Slumber Party. It does what it says on the tin, but not in a great way. Sure there are a few cool moments, some woodland running and a tense pier scene, but overall not well done. Watching it, you can see what the direction is and maybe even enjoy it at points, but bad effects and overexposure – the same overexposure that killed the first V/H/S’s alien story- ultimately spell doom.
By the end of V/H/S 2 we are no closer to understanding the reasons for the macabre collection of bizarre snuff films, but that’s not a bad thing because genuine interest has been tickled. However, when the overarching story draws to an anti-climactic slap-dash finale you can’t help but feel a little cheated. The same hasty regard with which- at least two- of the shorts were hobbled together is reflected in those in-between segments. No desire to build tension is displayed. First time round, the film showed us groups of bastard Jocks who we couldn’t wait to see get offed, this time round there’s an unfortunate lack of any reaction to characters. We can only be led through horror by asshole types for so long.
V/H/S 2 lacks the ingenuity and surprise of the first, so unfortunately it’s not a step up but still a watchable, enjoyable, and varied collection of films. Frankly it’s worth a watch just to get the third segment. If you’re easily peeved at run-of-the-mill filmmaking, then perhaps steer clear.
Dir. Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tjahjanto, Adam Wingard
Stars. Lawrence Michael Levine, Kelsey Abbott, Oka Antara, L.C. Holt,