Last year, I reviewed V/H/S, a found-footage anthology horror film with six entries directed by a group of ten different directors. While I appreciated the film, upon later viewings, I found the original movie to be full of meandering stories where bad things happened to bad people. It was more a comeuppance movie than a horror movie, with frat-boy date rapists and people of the basest nature doing all manner of unsavory things. And now, a sequel – V/H/S/2 – has appeared on Video On Demand and iTunes, and it improves upon everything from the first film, and it truly puts the horror back in, with the viewer being party to events that are WAY beyond their control.
With V/H/S/2, the series’ creators bring in some big guns, such as The Blair Witch Project‘s director (Eduardo Sanchez) and producer (Gregg Hale), and The Raid: Redemption‘s director Gareth Huw Evans. The Blair Witch Project was one of the films that brought the found-footage genre into prominence in the late ’90s, so it’s only fitting that Sanchez and Hale find themselves directing one of the segments of this anthology. Also involved is director Jason Eisener, whose fake trailer Hobo With A Shotgun was selected by director Robert Rodriguez to be included in foreign prints of Grindhouse; it was met with such great reception that Eisener soon found himself directing the full-length expansion of his trailer. Returning from V/H/S are writers/directors Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard, and they’ve definitely taken notes and upped their collective game with their entries.
Much like the film before it, V/H/S/2 features a wraparound story through which we experience four short stories. In the first, the conceit was that a group of disreputable filmmakers – paid for hidden camera footage and grope films – had been hired to break into a house and retrieve a sought-after VHS tape. Here, we find a private investigator and his girlfriend hired by a college student’s mother, as he has been missing for a few days. Upon breaking into his apartment, the duo finds multiple televisions, a VHS player, a large stack of videotapes, and a computer bearing a video with the student’s face staring out of the screen at them. The PI takes a look around the house, tasking his girlfriend to go through the computer’s hard drive and check out the videotapes for anything relevant to the student’s disappearance. Of course, if you’ve seen the first movie, this is where the fun begins…
The linchpin trope running through all of V/H/S/2 seems to be that the undead are quite hungry for human flesh. Quite honestly, certain parts of V/H/S/2 feels like a capitalization on the latest zombie craze (the resurgence of which, incidentally, has lasted for nine years), but there are some neat twists to how they handle this motif. “A Ride In The Park” – Sanchez and Hale’s entry – tackles being a zombie in the first person via the use of a GoPro high-resolution video camera, while the undead in Wingard’s “Clinical Trials” take a more ghostly, supernatural approach. Evans and co-director Timo Tjahjanto’s short film “Safe Haven” is by far the scariest of the bunch, with a rather gripping story about a journalistic camera crew shining their spotlight on an Indonesian cult; and Eisener’s entry’s title leaves little to the imagination, so I won’t mention it, but it’s a silly piece that turns dreadfully terrifying with little things foreboding its frightful climax peppered throughout.
V/H/S/2 is a tighter, leaner version of its predecessor, with more good scares and better stories overall. It doesn’t waste any time going for the throat; instead, it grabs it right away and rips it out. If treated properly, the V/H/S series could rival Saw and Paranormal Activity as the yearly horror movie franchise everyone’s anticipating, and V/H/S/2 goes a long way to securing its legacy.