Just like its predecessor, V/H/S/2 (aka S-VHS) offers a familiar scenario, at least in a production sense. Several individual segments from different filmmakers are woven together in an overarching narrative, the "found footage" concept (a film genre that focuses on the presentation of audiovisual recordings of missing figures) remains the central theme of all individual segments, along with the focus on horror scenarios.
With four individual shorts, which are episodically unwound as video recordings within another film, V/H/S/2 now offers one segment less than its predecessor – however, this should not be used to its disadvantage, considering that the main criticism of part one was the qualitative jump within the individual elements and the resulting, not consistently convincing final product.
So the viewer is now introduced to the main narrative framework with the help of the first film: In Tape 49 of filmmaker Simon Barrett, two private detectives – armed with video cameras – go in search of a supposedly missing student, resulting in a viewing of various videotapes in his squalid apartment. In the course of that appraisal, the viewer is now first shown Phase 1 / Clinical Trails of director Adam Wingard (You're Next, Tape 56-Segment from V/H/S), protagonist Herman (Wingard himself) is fitted with an experimental prosthetic eye and recorder after a car accident. Irritation and terror quickly spread as it becomes clear that Herman can now see the undead as an undesirable side effect. Thanks to clever use of the camera perspective, which mimics the protagonist's view (including "blinking"), some resulting, extremely shocking scenes and a lot of black humor, this entry provides the perfect breeding ground for the following short films.
The subsequent A Ride in the Park-film segment could not begin more simply: Also shown from a first-person perspective (and shot, in this case, with a GoPro helmet camera), the creators of The Blair Witch Project, Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale, a mountain biker in the middle of a developing zombie epidemic. The twist here is that the unnamed main character almost instantly becomes a walking undead himself – and the highly entertaining, equally gory and humorously over-the-top plot then also appropriately leads to a children's birthday party.
Perhaps the most interesting, because original short film presents Safe Haven of the directing duo Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans (The Raid) dar. Here, a film crew (surprisingly well-equipped in terms of recording equipment) is led to a cult-like commune somewhere in Indonesia for a documentary – at the invitation of the enigmatic "Father" (superbly mad in his role: Epy Kusnandar). It doesn't take long for the tense, threatening situation to escalate (bloodily), and the apocalyptic horror round takes its course – right up to a completely over-the-top but all the more amusing ending, which delightfully counteracts the truly shocking course of the story.
The final segment called Slumber Party Alien Abduction by Jason Eisener (Hobo With a Shotgun) reveals comparatively little that is out of the ordinary, not only because the title already anticipates the contents. While their parents enjoy a weekend together, the kids left behind (Samantha Gracie, Rylan Logan, Cohen King) have a slumber party – complete with sibling conflicts, of course. The stereotypical cast of characters soon expands to include aliens equipped with a variety of background flashing lights, and a moderately entertaining game of hide-and-seek – often from the perspective of the dog involved – takes place in a chaos of blurry images, jump-scares and screaming minors.
Less than a year after the initial release of V/H/S, V/H/S/2 now offers fewer, but comparatively higher-quality individual items that, taken together, also make for a better-performing sequel. Horror, suspense and extremely macabre humor do not fall by the wayside, even if some of the short films hardly reach the quality of others. A found food for all genre fans.
Directed by& Scripts: Simon Barrett (Tape 49), Adam Wingard (Phase 1 / Clinical Trails), Eduardo Sánchez& Gregg Hale (A Ride in the Park), Gareth Evans& Timo Tjahjanto (Safe Haven), Jason Eisener (Slumber Party Alien Abduction) performers: Tape 49: Lawrence Michael, Kelsy Abbott, L.C. Holt; Phase 1 / Clinical Trails: Adam Wingard, Hannah Hughes, John T. Woods; A Ride in the Park Jay Saunders, Bette Cassat, Dave Coyne, Wendy Donigan, Devon Brookshire; Safe Haven: Fachry Albar, Hannah Al-Rashid, Oka Antara, Andrew Lincoln Suleiman, Epy Kusnandar, R. R. Pinurti; Slumber Party Alien Abduction: Riley Eisener, Rylan Logan, Samantha Gracie, Cohen King, Zachary Ford, Josh Ingraham, Jeremy Saunders, Hannah Prozenko Running time: 95 minutes, shown at /slash film festival, www.Magnetreleasing.Com/s.
Job description self-defined as: Chief of Operations. Finds "no one is as uninteresting as a person without interest" (Browne) interesting.