“Searching for a missing student, two private investigators break into his house and find collection of VHS tapes. Viewing the horrific contents of each cassette, they realize there may be dark motives behind the student’s disappearance.” — IMDb
V/H/S 2 comes to us again from the horror website Bloody Disgusting and producer Brad Miska and is, of course, a sequel to 2012’s V/H/S. They kept on a few of the directors from the original and added some new talent for what I found to be a fairly predictably hit-or-miss mish-mash of shorts.
** SPOILERS! **
The frame narrative, Tape 49 — the short that it kept returning to — was directed by Simon Barrett (he was a writer in the first V/H/S and is known for his collaborations with Adam Wingard, including You’re Next and The Guest). It’s similar to the frame narrative in the first one — there’s still a mysteriously empty house with a room full of static-spewing TVs and scattered VHS tapes. This time it’s a private investigator and his girlfriend/fellow investigator who fall prey. It was alright to sort of hold the other shorts together and it’s an interesting concept in general to give them their own story to play out in, but it didn’t do much for me.
Phase I Clinical Trials was directed by Adam Wingard (Blair Witch, You’re Next). Honestly, I had a hard time getting past Wingard’s stiff acting, and I didn’t love the directing a whole lot either. The POV perspective was interesting in a found-footage-but-different kind of way (at least until it got dizzying). The figures he saw stopped being creepy right after the body-shaped lump under the covers (that was truly creepy)… but the dead-looking man and young girl (who just looked like they had Hot Topic makeup slapped on them) felt like cheap jump scares, particularly when they (AND the bed lump) appeared more than once. At one point he stands, stiff with fear, with his back to the room and as they pound on the door he just awkwardly says “hello? I’m good, thank you, you can go!” like come on dude, just run outside already. Then the hot-and-mysterious girl from the doctor’s office shows up and she knows how to distract him from the visions — let’s have sex! Clever. The only relief was that they got him in the end.
A Ride in the Park was directed by Eduardo Sánchez (best known for The Blair Witch Project) and Gregg Hale (who produced The Blair Witch Project but otherwise doesn’t have much under his belt as a director). This one was kind of a neat zombie flick from the literal perspective of the zombie (as he was previously just a dude riding his bike with a GoPro on his helmet), with a dash of remembering his humanity at the end. It delivered in the gore category, for sure — the vomiting scenes in particular are intense, and the SOUNDS while the victims are being disemboweled are truly impressive. But it didn’t really deliver much besides some fun zombie snacking in the woods.
Safe Haven was directed by Timo Tjahjanto (who had a couple shorts and one feature film under his belt, including one of the most shocking ones from The ABCs of Death) and Gareth Huw Evans. I thought this was the most all-around solid film of the bunch. I know the whole cult angle can be overplayed but the main actor, Epy Kusnandar (who ALSO made an appearance in the ABCs of Death short!), did such a great job of making it SUPER creepy (him humming after he slits the camera man’s throat, . There’s just so many quotable one-liners. Even the overly dramatic love triangle can almost be forgiven — though I really think the short had enough going on as it is, we didn’t need a discovery of infidelity to liven things up. It has a few memorably graphic scenes — the room full of men all shooting themselves in tandem, and of course the basement scene of the woman in stirrups. But The Father dancing and singing about how “the time has come” while covered in blood as the pregnant producer is carried off by hysterical smiling women was… awesome. And then proclaiming “it is fulfilled” before EXPLODING? WHAT? The lone survivor escapes and the Baphomet-like creature rams the car, and, after calling him “Papa”, we see him go hysterically insane as the demon looks down on him. The angle — from the camera that was dropped on the ground below him — really lends itself well to the scene, with blood, saliva, and snot all dripping down as we see him succumb to insanity and hopelessness. Solid, for sure.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction was directed by Jason Eisener (who directed one of my favorite shorts from The ABCs of Death, Youngbuck). This one was the most chaotic of the bunch, with a good chunk of it from the perspective of a GoPro-style camera attached to a dog’s collar. I think the short taking place at night (and in the midst of lots of weird smoke/fog) definitely helped to obscure how awkward the aliens ultimately looked, which was helpful. It was a mildly entertaining slumber-party-weekend-gone-wrong adventure and it was somewhat creepy, for sure — the intermittent bursts of blaring sound and flashing lights did it for me — but mostly just disorienting.
Overall, this collection felt as disjointed for me as the first one did. Safe Haven was really the only winner of the bunch and while it felt light years ahead of the others, it wasn’t particularly mind-blowing on its own. I will likely end up watching V/H/S: Viral — the third installment of the series — though I don’t have high hopes.
Rating: 4/10 | Director: Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Huw Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sánchez, Timo Tjahjanto, Adam Wingard | Writer: Simon Barrett, Jamie Nash, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener, John Davies, Brad Miska | Music: James Guymon, Steve Moore, Aria Prayogi, Fajar Yuskemal | Cinematography: Tarin Anderson, Abdul Dermawan Habir, Stephen Scott, Seamus Tierney, Jeffery Wheaton | Starring: Lawrence Michael Levine, Kelsy Abbott, L.C. Holt, Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Hannah Hughes, John T. Woods, Jay Saunders, Bette Cassatt, Devon Marie Saunders, Fachry Albar, Hannah Al Rashid, Oka Antara, Andrew Suleiman, Epy Kusnandar, Riley Eisener, Rylan Logan, Samantha Gracie