V/H/S/2 Director: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener
Screenwriter(s): Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Evans, Jamie Nash, Jason Eisener, John Davies
Cast: Adam Wingard, Lawrence Levine, L. C. Holt, Kelsy Abbott, Hannah Hughes Magnet Releasing
Rated R | 96 Minutes On Demand
Release Date: June 6, 2013
In 2012, Bloody Disgusting and Magnet Releasing collaborated on V/H/S, a horror anthology of found-footage short films directed by some of the genre’s up-and-coming filmmakers including Adam Wingard (You’re Next) and Ti West (House of the Devil).
The film’s central narrative involves a group of young criminals who take a job from an anonymous third party who is willing to pay them a large sum of money to burglarize a home and steal a single VHS videotape. After breaking into the house, the criminals find an old man dead in front of a bank of television sets and VCRs playing white noise. They dig through boxes and boxes of VHS tapes, playing each one, looking for the million-dollar tape.
V/H/S suffers from an overall inconsistency in quality between the found-footage shorts; two are pretty good, one is so-so, and two fail to impress. Despite a weak wrap-around and some not-so-great segments, V/H/S introduces a really interesting premise worth exploring: the power of the VHS tape.
V/H/S/2 (originally titled S-V/H/S) is an across-the-board improvement, with a framing narrative that follows two private detectives as they investigate the disappearance of a college student. Upon entering the kid’s house, they stumble upon a collection of VHS tapes and a makeshift shrine of TVs and VCRs. There are stacks of spiral notebooks; a laptop is nearby, recording video. The investigators discover a video diary from the missing college kid who appears to be a connoisseur of rare VHS tapes.
The investigators select tapes at random from the missing kid’s bizarre VHS collection in an attempt to solve the case. The first tape is Clinical Trials Phase 1, directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next).
Wingard stars as a man who loses his left eye in a car accident and gets a Bionic Man eye camera implant to replace it. His implant glitches periodically, revealing a family of gruesome ghosts taking up residence in his home. He teams up with a young woman who can hear dead people with her malfunctioning cochlear implant in an attempt to escape their haunting presence.
Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale‘s segment, A Ride in the Park, is shot entirely with a “Go Pro” camera mounted on a helmet. A man goes mountain biking through the park when he suddenly ambushed by feral, blood-vomiting zombies!
Sanchez and Hale are best known as the guys behind the great granddaddy of found-footage, The Blair Witch Project, and 2012’s underrated horror film, Lovely Molly. With A Ride in the Park, the Sanchez and Hale take the established “point of view of the killer” element of horror films and apply it to flesh eating zombies. It’s like playing Zombie Mode in Left 4 Dead!
In Safe Haven, directed by Gareth Huw Evans (The Raid: Redemption) and Timo Tjahjanto (The ABC’s of Death), A documentary film crew infiltrates an Indonesian cult to report on their strange rituals and taboo practices. Safe Haven is the strongest segment of V/H/S/2, a well-made short that manages to be as intriguing as it is sickening.
The final tape is from Hobo with a Shotgun director Jason Eisener. Titled Slumber Party Alien Abduction, this tape features a group of kids making videos in the backyard before attaching the camera to the family dog. The kids are entangled in a prank-war with an older sister’s douchebag friends when Grey Aliens suddenly emerge from the lake and descend upon the slumber party. The tall, slender extraterrestrials terrorize the teenagers while the dog captures the event with its doggie-cam. It’s a fun, silly take on alien abduction scenarios that manages to elicit tension and even some emotion before its conclusion.
V/H/S/2 is an accessible horror anthology for fans who are tired of generic exorcism movies and endless Paranormal Activity sequels. Brad Miska and his fellow producers Roxanne Benjamin, Gary Binkow, Kyle David Crosby, and Jamie Nash have assembled some great talent for this second entry in what appears to be a new horror anthology franchise to rival the likes of Creepshow.
I would love to see Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat), Franck Khalfoun (Maniac), Brandon Cronenberg (Antiviral), Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field in England) or Mark Young (Southern Gothic, Tooth and Nail) collaborate on V/H/S/3 or subsequent sequels. Most of all I would like to see the V/H/S franchise realize its full potential by truly harnessing the nostalgia of the ’80s and the inherent power of the VHS tape.
Pablo LarraÃn’s 2012 Chilean film No showed that you could shoot a film on vintage video cameras and capture the look and feel of the era, and I would love to see that level of authenticity brought to this much too digital horror anthology series. The series is burdened by its structure: four or five short found-footage films inside a larger found-footage film. I would like to see it expand outward, incorporating the intricate, layered storytelling of Dougherty’s Halloween anthology, Trick ‘r Treat, or the taped-over quality of Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield.
Still, the V/H/S series continues to experiment with the found-footage subgenre in ways that are both entertaining and intriguing. Like Scott Derrickson’s Sinister or Gore Verbinski’s The Ring, these films explore the idea that a physical format (Super 8 film, magnetic tape) can be imprinted with evil – that the images we see can control us and ultimately destroy us.
V/H/S/2 will be available on iTunes and Video On Demand June 6, 2013 and in select theaters July 12, 2013.