Distributor: Koch Media
BBFC Classification: 18
Directors: Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sánchez, Timo Tjahjanto, Adam Wingard
Starring: Lawrence Michael Levine, Kelsy Abbott, Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, Mindy Robinson, Samantha Gracie, L.C. Holt
2012’s V/H/S was a brave but somewhat ill-executed attempt at expanding the boundaries of the found footage medium of storytelling and putting together an anthology of short films plus a wraparound story to try and tie it all together. There were a couple of great moments but overall the film never really reached its full potential and came across as quite cold and uneven. Somebody must have taken notice, however, as the sequel arrived in a pretty timely fashion but with a few improvements here and there.
Beginning with the wraparound story – entitled Tape 49 (directed by Simon Barrett – You’re Next) – one of the first shots we see is of a pair of naked breasts but instead of somebody being egged on to expose themselves like last time this is setting the scene for a pair of private investigators, who are on a job trying to catch out a cheating husband, to get to a pile of tapes belonging to a missing student they are trying to find. So while at first it might seem like we’re going down the route of the first film and going for the cheap and easy thrills there is a bit more of a story behind it… but not much.
The first tape the investigators look at is called Phase 1 Clinical Trials (directed by Adam Wingard – You’re Next) and sees a male patient trying out a miniature camera installed in his damaged eye socket after a car accident, but when he starts to see things that other people can’t he decides to take drastic measures. It’s a fairly unobtrusive story and one that has been told in various ways in films before – anyone remember Mark Hamill’s similarly-themed section in Body Bags? – but it does what it sets out to do without any fuss and leads nicely into the fun zombie antics of A Ride in the Park (directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale – The Blair Witch Project/Lovely Molly), which does what Romero’s Diary of the Dead tried to do and capture a zombie outbreak through one pair of eyes but thankfully sticks to the action without the need to try and reach out to ‘the kids’ like that film did.
But whilst A Ride in the Park is fun and is a bit like the Left 4 Dead video game made real, the real jewel in V/H/S/2‘s crown is Safe Haven (directed by Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto – The Raid and The ABC’s of Death respectively), where a news crew is granted access to an Indonesian cult leader and come up against more than a little submissive weirdness.
The final short is called Slumber Party Alien Abduction (directed by Jason Eisener – Hobo with a Shotgun) and with a title like that you know what you’re going to get. It’s an effective little film but after the totally bonkers Safe Haven it is something of a letdown in terms of a climax, although the final scenes of Tape 49 bring things to a close in a slightly disturbing style.
Although V/H/S/2 is like all other anthology films in that the individual stories vary in quality, there is nothing here that is downright terrible. Tape 49 aside, Phase 1 Clinical Trials is probably the weakest of the bunch but it does deliver a few jump scares along with a few other horror movie clichés that don’t really need to be there but don’t drag the film down like some of the more questionable aspects of the first film.
As previously stated the tone of V/H/S/2 is a little lighter than its predecessor although the gore quota is probably higher, especially during the high point of Safe Haven, which probably qualifies as one of the best pure horror films of that year on its own merit, let alone as part of an anthology. The sense of fun running throughout the film as a whole is more palpable than the last time and it is clear that the writers and directors have tried to expand the way in which the found footage style is used as there are some pretty inventive camera angles and ways in which we can see what is going on. If the first film didn’t crank your engine in the ways you wanted it to then do yourself a favour and don’t sidestep this one as V/H/S/2 has plenty to offer fans of horror.
UK Release Date: 14th October 2014