You either loved it or you hated it, but there’s no denying that last year’s V/H/S gave a fresh spin on the quickly tiring found footage genre. It gave it a primo, and mostly perverse, look and took the idea of the anthology and made it seem newfangled, like it was in the 80’s. It was a very pleasing mix of perversion, violence and short storytelling. So it would make sense that they would decide to do a sequel the following year, with bigger filmmakers names attached to the project. Now the burning question is, does it surpass its predecessor?
It opens up familiar enough, in POV, of a man (played Simon Barrett, baring his dong… ladies) cheating on his wife. This leads nowhere, mind you, but sets up our two leads who are private investigators, Larry and Ayesha in the bookend segment, Tape 49. We soon learn they have been hired by some woman to find her missing son, break into his apartment and root around for clues. The two person Mystery Inc. wastes no time as they reach their destination. They immediately hear a loud bang and pry open a window, shortly discovering a room littered with televisions and VHS tapes, a welcoming site to those who enjoyed the first film, no doubt. Larry decides to “Go and check” out the rest of the place, rummaging through notebooks (and oddly reminding me of the PS1 classic Resident Evil), leaving Ayesha to watch the tapes. And what could be one those tapes? Well, it’s not Veggie Tales.
The first segment, entitled Phase I Clinical Trials, stars You’re Next director Adam Wingard. He also directed this segment, a clever way of keeping the budget low. His character was in a car accident and receives an experimental robotic eye of sorts that would make the Six Million Dollar Man weep. The eye can record what it sees, so the company that built it can analyze the data (imagine the poor sap that has to sit through hours of footage of him playing video games or pooping). Soon, he begins seeing dead people around his house. A girl from the hospital tracks him down and reveals that she had a cochlear implant from the same company and could hear dead people. Between the two of them, Haley Joel Osment is a punk. The more they interact with the spirits, the more the spirits can appear and harm them… clearly, not heading toward a happy ending.
Next up is A Ride in the Park, which sounds innocent enough, but boy would you be wrong. A man named Mike is all set for a joyous bike ride in the park, hence the title, with his GoPro camera, when he comes across a woman who has been bitten by a pack of zombies. Mike is bitten on the neck and bleeds to death after fleeing. Shortly, another couple finds him and wouldn’t you know it, Mike turns and bites them. Soon, zombies are tearing through a youngster’s birthday party. Still beats having your dad drunkenly tell you how disappointed he is in you. Now, most of you know my stance on the current zombie pop culture trend: They’re boring, uninspiring and just clones of the previous popular zombie flick, but The Blair Witch director Eduardo Sanchez along with Jamie Nash give it a spin that hasn’t been seen since possibly Day of the Dead. Their zombies retain some knowledge of a previous life, as Mike demonstrates throughout the segment and the ending is rather bittersweet after he gets a call from his wife.
Safe Haven, from the director of The Raid, is most likely the most disturbing of the bunch. Using the angle of a documentary crew, they are invited to interview the leader of a cult and learn more about their faith. It just so happens to be at the time when the cult commits a mass suicide and sacrificing one of the documentary’s crew member’s unborn child to spawn their God, which is more like Satan. I don’t know what that says, but this is the one that really brings the punch. The imagery is savage and with the leader of the cult dancing and singing wearing nothing but tighty whities, self mutilated, you’ll think twice about entering a place far from civilization. The ending is hilarious, but also will give you willies.
Last, but not least, we have Hobo With a Shotgun director Jason Eisener’s Slumber Party Alien Abduction. Of all the segments, this one is by far my favorite. It’s a group of teenagers building cardboard box robot costumes, something I’m sure we all did. No? Just me? They play cruel pranks on one their sisters and each other, all being filmed by a GoPro strapped to their dog. Just when things are getting tense between the two groups of adolescents, a thunderous boom and bright lights shock them. The power goes out and aliens are trying to get into the house, brilliantly lit with a strobe light and this is when you start getting scared… real fast. The aliens drag them outside and throw them into the lake and only a few make it out, fleeing for the remainder of the segment as they hide from the intruders, nearly being caught at every turn. This one will have you clutching your chest and calling for Elizabeth.
Finally, the movie closes on Tape 49 once our lead watches on a tape what exactly that loud bang was on a tape. After seeing what he saw, he’ll probably wish he had been watching hours of Kathy Griffin stand up.
Something you may have noticed about V/H/S/2 is it seems to be more constructed like a movie, using multiple cameras and different angles, but still using different forms of consumer style cameras to give that found footage feel. For the most part, the acting is a lot more solid, but it makes it feel less like home movies and more like… ahem, a movie. But it’s the way that the stories are constructed that makes it a solid anthology. Regardless of having a slightly more cinematic feel to it, V/H/S/2 is strong and relentless from start to finish. Unlike the previous entry, there isn’t a dull ho hum tale of the group.
V/H/S/2 is certainly on par, if not superior to V/H/S and a worthy successor. Here’s to looking forward to the third entry! Pick up your copy at Magnet’s website and for god’s sake, don’t break into a stranger’s house and start watching stacks of tapes! One of them could be a Bill Rebane film.
There’s a Lost Highway tape, but I wouldn’t recommend eating before seeing it.