V/H/S 2 (2013)
I’m very disappointed. I’ve been having a pretty shitty last few months and it’s always been cathartic for me to vent my frustrations out on a well-deserving shitty film. When I saw VHS 2 pop up on my VOD system I was excited (albeit excited for all the wrong reasons, but excited nonetheless). After the abysmal first installment (my review of VHS), I was sure I would find another crap-fest masquerading as a horror anthology. I can also admit when I was wrong. And in the case of VHS 2, I was dead wrong!!
Everything, and I mean everything, in VHS 2 is superior to the first film. The writing, directing, acting, editing, special f/x, everything is superior. The wrap around story, “Tape 49” (directed by Simon Barrett), is about a private detective, Larry (Lawrence Michael Levine), and his assistant who’re hired by a worried mother to track down and find her missing college-aged son. When they get to his seemingly empty apartment they find some blood and the standard VHS-style setup of a bunch of TV’s hooked up to VCRs. The assistant starts watching some of the films and the mayhem ensues.
Right away I was already letting my defenses down. Larry and his assistant were likable characters who thought they were on a routine missing person’s case. They figured they find the son passed out in his apartment after going on a bender. Barrett actually takes the time to build up a gloomy atmosphere and some tension in the wrap around story (both elements which were completely absent from the original). As the assistant starts watching some of the videos we begin to slip into the short films.
The first story, “Phase I Clinical Trials,” is directed by Adam Wingard. Soon after this one began I was confident that VHS 2 was going to suck as hard as the original one. This is most definitely the weakest story in the anthology. In it we find a blind guy getting an experimental camera surgically inserted into his head so he can see again. Sure it was a pretty cool way to get that “found footage” material without having to explain why the camera is always on. But before you can say, “This seems familiar,” the guy starts seeing ghosts and ghouls everywhere. I’d write that this one plays out like a TWILIGHT ZONE episode, but quite frankly that’s insulting to the TWILIGHT ZONE. The story doesn’t go anywhere interesting and you’ll be five steps in front of the plot the entire way. Besides having the worst acting among all the segments, it also has some really lame and predictable scares.
Not off to a good start. Not at all.
Then we get to the second story, “A Ride in the Park” (directed by Greg Hale and Eduardo Sanchez). This is a zombie short taken from the point of view of a newly turned zombie. Not only is this a fresh approach to the zombie canon, it’s also really well made. A biker (Jay Saunders) is in the park on a bike ride when he gets over run and bitten by a zombie. He has a camera hooked up to his helmet (as many bikers do) and we see the rest of the short through the perspective of his camera. It doesn’t take long for him to die, return as the undead, and immediately start killing other people in the park. He and a few other zombies get together and attack a child’s birthday party in the park. Good stuff!! We get some good gore and the short doesn’t over-stay its welcome. I also like the little twist that he is aware of what’s happening to himself, yet he has no control over it. When he’s first reanimated he attempts to eat his own flesh but doesn’t much care for it. By the end of the story he’s fully aware of what he is. He hates the uncontrollable monster he’s become and actually takes matters into his own hands.
Suddenly VHS 2 is looking up. Way up.
Now we get to the heart and soul of VHS 2: “Safe Haven”. Without a doubt, “Safe Haven” is the best of the best here. The story throws some great twists at you, the gore is plentiful, and some of the elements in this one include everything from pedophilia to possession. Directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans, “Safe Haven” has a film crew being granted access to film inside the very secretive compound of a cult in the Indonesian jungle. Right away you’ll be uneasy as the cult leader talks about taking his ‘family’ to another plane of existence and how there’s an unusually disproportional amount of underage girls living at the compound. From the first frame of this one you get a very uneasy feeling that things aren’t going to end well. Tjahjanto and Evans do a great job establishing a very heavy atmosphere rife with tension and atmosphere. I’m not going to write much more about this one, but I will say that it doesn’t take long for all hell to break loose inside the compound. This story also has one of the most painful looking birthing scenes I’ve ever seen!!
I loved this story.
VHS 2 ends on a strong note with “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” directed by Jason Eisener. Three kids are having a slumber party and are up to the typical mischief: playing pranks on each other, annoying their older sister, and generally screwing around. That is until they start getting abducted by some aggressive and nasty aliens. This one is definitely the least complex of the shorts in the anthology but the pacing is quick and the characters are likable. Eisener always injects a high level of energy into his projects and “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” is no exception.
My biggest complaint in VHS 2 is that there was way too much shaky camera work. There’s A LOT of shaky camera work and it just becomes tedious to watch at times. But minus the first story, all the segments here are really well done. They are fast-paced, have good gore, and are just fun to watch. VHS 2 is everything that VHS wasn’t (in case I’ve been too subtle about the first one, I really hated the first VHS)!! Don’t be turned off by the first story, “Phase I Clinical Trials.” It’s the weakest story of the four and you’ll be greatly rewarded by just fast forwarding through it.
Check out VHS 2 and see how damn fun and good horror anthologies can be.
Directors: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Greg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Jason Eisener, Timo Tjahjanto, & Gareth Evans
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars (for the overall anthology)
Gore: 6.5 out of 10 stars (for the overall anthology)
Zombie Mayhem: 3 out of 5 stars for “A Ride in the Park” & 0 out of 5 stars for the other segments
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer