V/H/S 2

***

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The H-Bomb: Earlier this year, I reviewed the found footage horror anthology, V/H/S, which wasn’t entirely uninteresting, but ultimately, I didn’t care for it. The first half hour featured characters so thoroughly obnoxious and unpleasant that it made the film nearly unwatchable, many of the vignettes seemed half-baked, and the overall execution was just sloppy. Nevertheless, the film won enough fans in the horror community to make it a success, and now we have the inevitable sequel, V/H/S/2, a sequel that has, to an extent, improved upon a number of the original’s shortcomings.

Like the first film, this is an anthology shot in various styles of found footage, some of which are a bit contrived, but hey, you have to allow for that kind of thing. This time we are given four shorts of gruesomely gory mayhem, as well as a wrap around story. The wrap around, featuring two private investigators searching for a missing person, and finding themselves in a creepy house with stacks of VHS tapes, is pretty damn weak and only serves to bridge the stories together. The private eyes are given zippity-doo-dick in the way of personalities, and we’re never made to care about them or the case they’re investigating. Fortunately, this takes up very little screen time, as it’s the vignettes that are the main attraction, and for the most part, they do deliver.

First up is “Phase 1 Clinical Trials”, directed by Adam Wingard, about a young man (played by Wingard) who has revolutionary eye surgery after a car accident. As a result of this surgery, the man now has a camera in his eye, a camera that is recording everything he sees. Sure, it’s a major invasion of privacy, but that’s a small price to pay for having his vision restored. However, he will soon realize that the lack of privacy is about to become the least of his worries, as this new camera eye allows him to see things… things that were never meant to be seen by the living. For the sake of spoilers, as will be the case for all of these, I’ll keep the description to a minimum. I’ll merely say that this one provides your typical ghost movie jolts, albeit well executed, and serves as a nice, if unremarkable, appetizer for what’s to come.

Next we get “A Ride in the Park”, which comes to us from directors Gregg Hale and Eduardo Sanchez (co-helmer of The Blair Witch Project), and man oh man is this where V/H/S/2 really starts to one-up its predecessor. It begins with an outdoors enthusiast (Jay Saunders) going for a bicycle ride in a picturesque state park with a camera mounted to the top of his helmet. It seems like a beautiful day for a bike ride, but things quickly go south when our biker comes upon a woman who appears to have been stricken by The Walking Dead virus. The biker is bitten by this rabid she-bitch and becomes infected by whatever this bug is that ails her.

From here, things kick into a higher gear of awesome, as a zombie rampage ensues, all of which is recorded by the camera atop the zombie’s head. Now, normally I think zombie stories have been done to fucking death (I don’t watch The Walking Dead and have no interest in ever doing so), but in this particular case, having it all unfold from the zombie’s point of view makes it seem fresh and novel to where I was able to have a blast with it, despite my being bored fucking stiff with zombie movies. That it doesn’t skimp on the guts and carnage only made it all the better.

After that comes “Safe Haven”, co-directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans, the latter being the director of The Raid: Redemption, one of the most kick ass fucking awesome action flicks ever. This story follows a documentary film crew as they go inside the compound of an apocalyptic religious cult in Indonesia to interview its delusional nut bag (and potential pedophile) of a leader. However, as we soon realize, perhaps the cult’s leader is neither delusional nor a nut bag, as a crap load of crazy Satanic shit unfolds. This one, for me, is easily the very best of the lot, as it is the creepiest, the most balls out insane, and has by far the best ending of any of the shorts. It also features the best up the nose snot shot since The Blair Witch Project.

Finally, we come to the last story, directed by Jason Eisener, “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”, and the title pretty much says it all. A bunch of bratty kids, as well as a couple of douche bag teenagers, are having a sleep over at a lakeside house while the parents are away. They record all their prankster hijinks of the night with a video camera… just because, when all of the sudden, strange loud noises are heard, followed by bright flashes of fiery light. Next thing the kiddies know, much to their horror, the lakeside house is besieged by extraterrestrial beings who mean to harm them. Man, what a fucking buzz kill. This final segment, sadly, just kind of sucked. The characters were incredibly annoying, and the alien attack itself mistook loud and shrill for scary and exciting. And V/H/S/2 was doing so well… damn it. At least, this alien invasion does have the distinction of being filmed mostly from the point of view of a dog.

Overall, despite being far from perfect, and despite the last vignette sort of blowing, I’d say that V/H/S/2 is a massive improvement over the original in just about every way, shape, and form. The stories are much more well thought out, more consistent, and more successfully executed, with endings that make the viewer go “ah ha” instead of “huh?” The fact that it clocks in at a reasonable ninety minutes, as opposed to an un-Godly two hours like the original, also helps quite a bit. It’s not what I would call great, and some of the stories, again, work better than others, but as far as horror anthologies go, this is a decent effort, and now that it’s streaming on Netflix, I say definitely give it a look, if you’re into this kind of thing.


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