“V/H/S/2″ (Movie Review)
[This review was initially published in January 2013, it is reposted below in light of the film's VOD release.] Where V/H/S was a raw, lo-fi and frightening odyssey via POV, its sequel is—and from the very outset—bigger, weirder and even reflective of its predecessor. In the first few minutes alone, V/H/S/2 runs through almost every format previously explored, from spy camera to camcorder to iChat; and almost every perspective as well, from investigative to voyeuristic (often both at the same time) to daily doings. And while less traditionally dreadful, where it all leads is infinitely more thrilling.
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the duo behind A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE and the upcoming YOU’RE NEXT flex their muscle first. Barrett handles directing duties on this film’s wraparound, the similarly titled “Tape 47”, while Wingard helms and stars in the anthology’s premiere segment (written by Barrett). Both filmmakers (the only returning from V/H/S and seeming guides of the two pictures), present each piece like they have something to prove; like they want to take the audience deeper. Barrett is one of the first people on screen, and quickly on full display. V/H/S/2, within 30 seconds, displays the voyeuristic, gratuitous nudity the original was often maligned for, only to follow it immediately with its director laid bare. Barrett could be using the moment to declare fearlessness, or a call for everyone to let their guard down; the case could be made for both. It’s certainly an opening statement.
The camera that captures him in throes of passion is that of a private eye (Lawrence Levine), finishing one assignment and on to the next as he and partner Ayesha (Kelsy Abbott) break into the home of a missing college student. The house, in squalor, is seemingly empty except for more tapes. Soon enough, they start seeing what’s on them.
In a device that seems to parallel David Bruckner’s “Amateur Night” from V/H/S, Wingard’s segment begins as his character opens a new eye. Removing spy glasses from the equation, the protagonist is undergoing early testing of a sort of cyborg-eye (we are actually a part of him) connected to a chip in his brain and, for research purposes, will record his every move. As he moves about his lavish home, Wingard finds the tech tunes to a frequency he’s unprepared for.
A spookshow, Wingard’s segment brings a neat twist to classic haunted house territory with specters materializing at any moment, providing both expected stings and moodier frights. It’s a classic warning of man’s advancement as the closer to God we get (creating new organs), the closer we come to things we may not want to experience. There’s also a case to be made that it’s connected to V/H/S’ “The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger,” but that’s for another time.
Mixing the simple/classic with clever is often where V/H/S/2 shines. Eduardo Sanchez and longtime producer Gregg Hale (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), arguably two of the gentleman responsible for why films like V/H/S exist, tell a tale of zombies by zombies. As an active cyclist with a GoPro attached to his helmet is beset by the living dead, he falls to the ground. The camera, as in the climaxes of so many found footage films—BLAIR WITCH, included—falls with him. But that’s when the short really gets going. Our main eye jerks back to some semblance of life, eventually becoming part of a horde and revealing affecting remnants of humanity within. That’s not to mention some finely repulsive gore and a fantastic first-person car trampling.
The latter half is where V/H/S 2 gets incredible. A leaner film, V/H/S/2 is still bursting with energy as Gareth Huw Evans, of THE RAID: REDEMPTION fame, alongside co-director Timo Tjahjanto (MACABRE, THE ABCs OF DEATH) craft a docu-like chronicle of an Indonesian cult that flies so high, its Fulci-esque destination will leave fists in the air. Quite probably the most insane, “Safe Haven” brings supernatural, demonic reckoning upon on a team of filmmakers who’re finally besieged by a climactic creature with an entrance so very gleefully, savagely rowdy, it’s unforgettable.
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN’s Jason Eisener finally brings the house down with his penchant for both mischievous sweetness and reckless genre abandon. “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” breathes new life into the traditional design of grey, black-eyed extraterrestrials, as their elongated bodies, constantly creeping, are framed in stylish, eerie, chaotic silhouette. The key, though, is adoring the on-the-cusp-of-teenagedom kids wreaking havoc on an older sister with their parents gone. Like the dizzying HOBO, which transcended its influences, the segment quickly and firmly establishes real character in its ensemble, and like ATTACK THE BLOCK, manages to find (instead of just ape) a real deal Amblin feel. It also manages to find real childhood scares, as one character trapped in a blanket and filmed so tightly, evokes a suffocating sense of being too small for the world, even your own bedding.
V/H/S/2 is a rare breed of anthology in which every segment is not only good, but cracking with creativity, even. And lots and lots and lots of blood.