V/H/S/2 (2013)

Directed By: Misc
Written By: Misc
Starring: Adam Wingard
  Kelsy Abbott
  Fachry Albar
  Hannah Hughes

V/H/S/2 picks up pretty much where its predecessor left off. The wraparound section this time follows two private detectives who break into a seemingly abandoned house whilst looking for a missing College student. What they find is an empty room filled with VHS tapes and monitors. So far, so predictable. After watching a video on an open laptop, which tenuously hints that even though most of what we’re about to see is shot on digital, the analog format is better to view it in, yada yada yada, it really doesn’t matter. The V/H/S movies are fluff, and in my opinion, are damn entertaining fluff. Whether you enjoy them or not, the format was a fantastic idea and I maintain that the first is an effective horror anthology, while the second ramps the gore, action, scares and volume firmly up to 11.

Some of the brains behind the first V/H/S are present and correct but the real joy here is seeing what the new directors on board have come up with. Along for the ride this time are Gareth Evans (The Raid), Jason Esiener (Hobo With A Shotgun) and the pairing of Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale (The Blair Witch Project, Lovely Molly) and their segments are all great, without exception. The fourth segment is handled by the marginally less seasoned Simon Barrett who had a hand in writing some of the sections from the first installment so, even before watching, I was pretty amped to experience the whole thing.

The wraparound section (Tape 49) is sufficiently creepy, although marred slightly by some poor acting. It’s cleverly kept to a minimum though, as it’s what viewers of the first will be most familiar with.

First up is Phase 1 Clinical Trials (Simon Barrett); a story about a man who, after losing his sight in one eye following a car accident, is the subject of a bionic eye trial. Sadly, his new computer eye, whilst capable of capturing video (lucky for us, eh?) also happens to allow the wearer to see dead people, of which there is an abundance in this house. This is nothing new to anyone who’s seen creepy Hong Kong horror The Eye, but it’s handled deftly and certainly contained a high number of jump scares. Adding a slutty female character to tick the ‘boobs’ box, it fulfills most of the criteria that a modern audience has come to expect and is fast-paced and full of intensely scary moments.

Second on the roster is A Ride In The Park (Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale); a first person zombie short that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It follows a mountain biker with a helmet-cam who very quickly gets bitten by a bloodied woman in his path. We all know how that turns out, and before long he’s chomping his way through ramblers and party-goers in a woodland cabin. The first person aspect certainly adds a relatively fresh twist and it’s fun to watch the carnage from the perspective of the zombie. This segment has a firm sense of fun and is all the better for it.

The fact that the third segment is, to my mind, the best by a country mile, should come as no surprise to anyone who’s seen the excellent The Raid. Gareth Evans‘s turn behind the lens resulted in Safe Haven; a story about a documentary crew following what seems very much like the cult-driven Paradise Gates. If horror movies have taught us anything, it’s that documentary crews never fare well and this is no exception. Starting out with a brief interview with the head of the organisation, we’re then plunged full pelt into an onslaught of terrifying imagery and utter, bloody insanity and carnage. It’s immersive, bonkers and terrifically well made. Despite some rather hokey CGI towards the end, this is as close to perfect as I can imagine the V/H/S canon of shorts ever getting. The only downside is that it would have made a brilliant feature length movie and that’ll probably never happen now. Regardless, I’m chomping at the bit to see what Evans comes up with next.

The final story comes in the form of Alien Abduction Slumber Party (Jason Eisener) which does exactly what it says on the tin. Aliens in movies can be a very mixed bag but here they’re done with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek versus genuine terror. The creatures themselves inspire just the right amount of spine tingling chills, although the story itself feels a little thin. It has some memorable moments though, however, to me, it seems an odd choice of short to end on.

Despite some weak moments and a ridiculous over-saturation of the genre, as a whole V/H/S/2 proves that found footage can still be done well if tackled by the right, collective imaginations. It’s not necessarily better than V/H/S but it feels a little stronger overall and is unlikely to leave the bad taste with some viewers that the first did. It’s a formula that could easily be done again, and judging from the increased budget here, has the potential to be turned into a cynical cash-cow but if the masterminds behind it stick to their roots, then I’m excited for the almost inevitable V/H/S/3. Bring it on.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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