Full disclosure: I was not a fan of the horror anthology film "V/H/S." It was a great concept with little follow-through and some potentially interesting stories that failed to ignite once they got going. So I hoped that the swiftly released sequel V/H/S 2 would be bigger, better, and badder. Well, I got one right. Let's just say it's shorter and it's not better.
This time around, there are four longer segments bookended by one called "Tape 49," which is kinda/sorta a prequel to the same bookend from the original film. This time, a man and a woman are assigned to not only record one man's infidelity, but also to go and find some sort of tape at a mysterious abandoned house. Inside, they find a bunch of TVs that are turned on and mysterious tapes with horrible things on them.
They don't, you know, leave or anything. They keep putting tapes in the machine to watch more. And when things get weird, they don't leave or anything. In fact, the guy calls out for help when his girlfriend passes out on the floor. He calls for help, mind you, in a house he's already searched and has found no one there.
But I digress. That segment is directed by Simon Barrett, who worked with another horror director involved in the film, Adam Wingard, on the upcoming horror comedy "You're Next," due in August. Wingard ("A Horrible Way to Die") directed segment two, called "Phase 1 Clinical Trials," about a man with a prosthetic camera eye and the weird things he starts seeing with it. It's pretty good, but as with most of these stories, because the "found footage" style is utilized throughout, backstory is slim, as is a true ending. Most of the stories get interesting just when they are about to be over.
In the third sequence, "A Ride in the Park," directors Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale ("The Blair Witch Project") do an ol' switcheroo on the typical zombie fare by putting the camera on a person who ends up turning into a zombie. Essentially, the film is a zombie-cam perspective of killing and eating innocent people. It's actually a clever gimmick. The problem is that even with a short, after the first killing there isn't much more to see. Sure, we can marvel at the gory special effects, but let's face it, even gore is getting boring. The segment has a few suspenseful moments, but it ends pretty definitively and then you kind of shrug and go, "Okay, now what?"
The fourth segment is called "Safe Haven," and is directed by Timo Tjahjanto ("Macabre") and Gareth Huw Evans, who is best known for the highly violent and acclaimed action thriller "The Raid: Redemption." One of the more interesting stories, this involves a news crew wanting to document a cult leader in his own habitat. What could go wrong? Much of it involves pregnancy, suicide pacts, and large demons that emerge from the womb. Again, it's a gore-fest and not very scary. Once the demon is revealed it all seems like a bad '80s horror film.
The final segment is probably the best, but it falters in two ways. One, the characters are interchangeable and uninteresting; and two, it ends just when it is getting good. In "Slumber Party Alien Abduction," director Jason Eisener ("Hobo with a Shotgun") places the camera in question on the neck of a little dog while a bunch of kids ranging in ages from 10-16 have a sleepover. During this night where the girls act bitchy and one boy is humiliated because he's caught pleasuring himself while watching porn, aliens show up and go after the kids. The effective thing about this segment is the sound design by Owen Granich-Young. It's hard to even describe, but the ominous and deafening extended boom that is heard when the aliens show up in the house is truly terrifying. The aliens themselves have a standard look, but are given a creepy ghostly quality that makes the fear factor palpable. It's a great little short, but it could stand to be a feature-length film. Perhaps the dog gets taken as well? Or one of the kids is wearing a camera that records what happens inside the alien ship. Whatever it could be, it should be. This was by far the one sequence worth waiting for. It's just a shame it ended so quickly.
Other than that, "V/H/S 2" proves to be just an exercise for horror directors to have a little low-budget fun. It tends to seem like 24-hour guerrilla filmmaking that is thrown together for the hell of it. There is a great core idea here, but it needs more time and care to really become something classic.