If you saw V/H/S 2’s predecessor, you know what to expect– sickly clever short horror films sewn together by a terrifying framework that will keep you on edge and shocked. V/H/S 2 took a winning formula for a disturbing horror anthology and improved on it with more ambitious narratives without loosing its raw, low-budget allure.
The film was rushed into production in late 2012, and premiered January 19, 2013 at Park City’s Library Center Theatre as part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, like its predecessor. V/H/S 2 made much less than the first, but was better liked by critics.
While V/H/S 2 features a largely different group of directors (Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Timo Tjahjanto, Eduardo Sánchez, and Gregg Hale, and franchise returnees Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard), the spirit is certainly similar. Both cover a wide variety of horror film genres: ghost story, zombie attack, demonic possession and alien abduction (respectively).
This sequel vastly improves on its predecessor in terms of narrative framework. In V/H/S 2, private investigators Larry and Ayesha are hired to find a missing college student, and they break into his apartment and discover stacks of VHS tapes next to a laptop. On the laptop, the investigators find webcam recordings of the college student discussing the contents of the tapes and their supernatural effects on those who watch them in order.
So of course, they watch the tapes. And in doing so, we discover not only that watching the VHS tapes might lead to their demise but that the laptop they’re watching them on is still recording. Like with the first installment, I’m going to briefly review each short:
Phase I Clinical Trials (Directed by Adam Wingard)
After a car accident, a man receives an implant in one of his eyes that causes him to experience paranormal activity. Unfortunately, not much else is explained. To me at least, it’s unclear whether ocular piece is haunted or if what he is experiencing is even real or just something he’s seeing. It doesn’t really seem up to par with what I’d expect from director Wingard.
While this short does rely a bit too much on jump scares, Phase I Clinical Trials is a fun and spooky start to the anthology. Many of the scares are original and terrifying. And the daring and tense set up certainly deserves some recognition.
A Ride in the Park (Directed by Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale)
It’s fascinating to think that writer/director Eduardo Sánchez would create a film like “The Blair Witch Project” that would inspire so many independent film-makers, and he would then create a short for a found footage-style anthology for V/H/S 2 over ten years later.
A Ride in the Park follows a bicyclist with a Go Pro-style camera on his helmet riding his bike in the park. He tries to help a bloody, hysterical woman, who then bites him. He flees, turning into a zombie, and begins attacking other pedestrians. This short benefits from its simple setup and first-person perspective. But Sánchez develops a surprisingly thoughtful second half as the zombie struggles to resist the transformation.
Safe Haven (Directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans)
The award for the most grotesque, disturbing, fast-paced horror short in either V/H/S or V/H/S 2 goes to Safe Haven, hands down. A news crew infiltrates and Indonesian cult, lead by a man (pictured above) who had reportedly raped many of the compound’s women and children. However, the TV journalists aren’t aware that they had arrived on the day that the mass suicide/mass demon birthing was to occur.
Safe Haven doesn’t shy away from intense, bloody fatalities. This short should be able to satisfy the more chaotic, high-stakes horror fans cravings. Safe Haven could have been an offensively irreverent display of human suffering, but managed to sidestep this rather sizable pitfall with pure, supernatural absurdity. The conclusion is suitably shocking, but could have possibly been cut short to maintain the momentum built up in the first half.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction (Directed by Jason Eisener)
Like the title might imply, this short film mashes childhish shenanigans with alien abduction horror. Slumber Party Alien Abduction centers on kids at a lake-side farmhouse. They engage each other in pranking one another, until grey aliens secretly invade and begin violently abducting the children.
Early on, the kids attach a camera to their dog, which provides a lot of character to the film as the dog behaves and moves like a typical dog. Director Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun) does a great job at utilizing the dog’s perspective to display threats that might be out of the sight to the children who don’t know they’re in danger. Slumber Party Alien Abduction provides enough impressive camera shots and alien abductions to conclude this V/H/S sequel.