Last year once again saw the rise of the horror anthology film. While most of the best (and well known) entries into the genre were made in the 80’s and early 90’s, we have recently seen a resurgence with films like Chillerama, The ABC’s of Death,and V/H/S,which became notorious after a late night screening at the Sundance Film Festival where it sold in the hallway after the movie. This inevitably led to V/H/S 2 (or S-V/H/S as it was once called) and of course, soon we’ll see The ABC’s of Death 2 as well, but for now, we’ll see what V/H/S 2 has in store for us with a crop of new directors, and some returning faces (Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett), but the most important part was new content in the established style of a wide variety of found footage devices.
I really liked the concept behind the first film, and thought the crop of directors they got was a talented one. However, I felt like too many shorts missed, and too many didn’t fit with the wrap-around concept, and I was also annoyed with the fact that the wrap-around really had nothing to do with anything in the end. Here, they don’t attempt to continue that story (if you can call it that), and this time we follow a private eye who is looking for a particular tape, and instead finds another strange stash. I suppose that if they keep doing these films (and why not? They’re cheap and fun) they might be able to come full circle with the labyrinth world of exactly who is collecting these tapes, and maybe a larger story as to why. However, here, they stick to the one-off solution of just showing the tapes as they’re found, with only random tapes being played.
The first tape is Adam Wingard’s Clinical Trials: Phase One, as Wingard (he’s also the star of his segment) comes home from surgery to replace his damaged eye. Of course, since this is a horror movie, we know something is going to go wrong when man attempts to beat nature, and Wingard begins to see things that man should not, and normally cannot, see.
Next up is A Ride in the Park from Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale (Sanchez is one of the directors of The Blair Witch Project and Hale is his longtime producer), about a guy taking a bike ride through the park. He quickly becomes entangled in a zombie outbreak, seeing what it’s like to experience a zombie outbreak from a first person POV. While there isn’t a lot of story in this segment, it’s more about the experience, and I must say it’s a pretty unique one.
For the next segment, we head to Indonesia, where filmmakers Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption) and Timo Tjahjanto (Macabre, The ABC’s of Death) take us into the jungle where a cult leader is preparing his flock for a shocking event. As the camera witnesses these events, weirdness abounds and as a viewer, we experience the shock firsthand, as surprised as the “documentary” camera crew.
The last short, but definitely not the least, comes from Jason Eisner (Hobo With a Shotgun, The ABC’s of Death), one of my favorite filmmakers currently working. His short, Alien Abduction Slumber Party has its monstery surprise ruined by the title, but it’s still no match for what actually happens in the short. Shot from the POV of a small dog, Eisner is to be commended for the best use of the POV format, even if the story falls a little short in the end.
All in all, the producers did well to take steps to separate this film from the first one, taking the POV approach to change up the style, while still keeping it firmly in the found footage arena. However, I must say one of the biggest improvements was the streamlining of the entire thing, not only is the film 30 mins shorter than the first one, but it has fewer segments, and therefore, fewer downfalls. Not to mention that the shorts themselves are individually better than their comparisons from the first film, making this sequel an overall improvement from the original film. Even the wrap-around segment (Simon Barrett‘s Tape 49) is infinitely better than the last one. While this one doesn’t have a lot of meat in the plot department either, it at least makes sense, and doesn’t just seem like a random explanation for the finding of these tapes, like the wraparound in V/H/S did. In the end, I thought it was a better overall experience than the first film, and shows that the format is one that can be sustained beyond single films, and I wouldn’t mind seeing multiple sequels because it would open the field up to more new talents, and more creepy stories. I can’t complain, especially after the disappointment that was V/H/S.