Dir: Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Adam Wingard, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tjahjanto 96 min.
Last year’s Bloody Disgusting-helmed horror anthology ‘V/H/S’ was something of a sleeper hit, a cult phenomenon even before its release. Though undeniably inventive, the troublesome format, combined with headache-inducing found footage gimmickry, left the film feeling somewhat disjointed.
This was mostly down to the fact that the framing story, about a group of unlikeable thugs going through a house to find a particular videotape, fell completely flat, thanks to some dreadful acting, a completely predictable twist, and a lack of any scares whatsoever.
Luckily, even somewhat shockingly, for those who were left quite unimpressed by its predecessor, ‘V/H/S/2’ is an entirely different beast. First and foremost, it looks a hell of a lot better than ‘V/H/S’. Gone is the grainy, shaky-cam style of the first film, and in its place is a slick, well-edited, more presentable piece of film that convinces as a load of home movies, but doesn’t hurt our heads in the process.
The various justifications for the inclusion of cameras/video equipment are also far less contrived, making everything a little bit more believable. The acting is better throughout, especially in the case of Adam Wingard, who directs and stars in the opening segment, ‘Phase 1 Clinical Trials’ , a strong addition, and starting point, which bodes well for his upcoming summer release ‘You’re Next’.
‘The Raid’ director Gareth Evans does a remarkable job combining spooky cult mysticism and balls-to-the-wall Satanic madness in the hugely enjoyable ‘Safe Haven’, and a case is finally made for aliens as seriously scary beings in the aptly-titled final segment, ‘Slumber Party Alien Abduction’.
Though it’s slightly shorter than its predecessor, ‘V/H/S/2’feels much more cohesive. Five segments are featured, including the wraparound story, instead of six, but the film feels fuller this time around. There are more scares, and the effects – in particular, the gore – are noticeably stronger. There is a lot of blood and boobs, which is to be expected, but, interestingly enough, none of it feels like a cheap trick this time around, and everything has its place.
With ‘V/H/S’, there were certain stories that stood out as noticeably more effective than the rest. The film felt bloated, because too much of it was trying too hard to hit the mark, but very little did. With the sequel, the opposite is true. It’s difficult to pick a favourite, because everything is so strong here, and there is nothing to really fault any of the segments.
Some may have a problem with the prevalence of sentient “zombies” (for want of a better word) throughout, but, for me, it was nice to see a coherent theme running underneath all of the splatter-tastic madness. It makes the film feel more whole and, thankfully, each story is unique, so there is a significant sense that everything came from a different viewpoint, instead of a desire to rehash tried and tested scare methods, like in the original film.
One of the main issues with ‘V/H/S’ was that it wasn’t in the least bit scary, in spite of a fairly decent marketing campaign. With ‘V/H/S/2’, everything has been turned up to eleven, and as a result, there are some seriously tense, and genuinely frightening, moments. The visuals are incredibly strong, and the violence is plentiful, without falling into the torture porn trap. Each segment has its own distinctly scary tale to tell, and none of them fall flat, even ‘Tape 49’ which concerns a private investigator couple, a missing college student, and a possible hoax.
The anthology format is a difficult one to pull off, and few films manage to do anything new with it. ‘V/H/S’ tried its best but ultimately suffered from too many ideas and a lack of a coherent narrative. Earlier this year, ‘The ABCs Of Death’ faltered between being very strange and scary, and just downright stupid. Funnily enough, there is a small overlap between those who worked on that film and ‘V/H/S/2’ but, in general, the ideas are stronger, and better communicated, in the latter.
Nowadays, it’s rare that a sequel will outdo the original film, but with ‘V/H/S/2’, this seemingly impossible feat has been achieved. The stories are stronger, the acting is better and there is plenty of tits and gore to satisfy those who don’t want to think too hard. Who knows what a third instalment will bring, but if this one is anything to go by, there’s life in the old tapes yet.