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V/H/S 2 Review: Better Horror the Second Time Around
V/H/S 2 continues the found footage madness started in V/H/S. Each individual film is a bit stronger than some of the segments in the first movie, but that’s to be expected. The characters in every segment of V/H/S 2 are more likable than almost all of the characters we saw in the first one, which makes a huge difference in how we react to the horrors they face. Instead of feeling that most of them vaguely deserved their fates, the characters in V/H/S 2 manage to provoke the sympathy of the audience towards their plights. This made the film more watchable as a whole.
The wraparound story this time concerns Larry, a private eye, and his assistant Ayesha. They’re hired to find out what happened to a college student who’s disappeared. They break into his house and find a large bank of TV sets and a bunch of VHS tapes scattered around the room. Instead of leaving and calling the cops, Larry investigates the house while Ayesha turns first to the computer, and then to the tapes . This is the weakest of the segments, which isn’t a surprise because its main purpose is to be the connective tissue between the rest of the films.
I had a few issues with this story, starting with the fact that they break into the house without trying any of the doors. Then there’s the fact that the situation in the apartment is obviously wrong and yet they act as if it’s normal to find these kinds of things in houses they break into. There’s no fear or even a feeling of surprise, they just start looking at the computer and then Ayesha starts on the tapes. This segment plays out between the others, but it’s hard to imagine that Ayesha would sit and watch all these weird and disturbing tapes alone.
The one thing I liked about this segment is the hints it gave about why people would collect and watch these tapes. It’s not a long explanation, but I like the glimpse into the minds of these collectors because it gives the wraparound more of a purpose than just stringing the tapes together. Maybe if the series keeps going we’ll get more hints as to the larger purpose of these tapes. Though there may not actually be one, I kind of like to think there’s an evil intelligence behind the tapes somewhere.
Phase I Clinical Trials is the first segment, and it concerns a man who loses an eye in an accident and is outfitted with a camera that fits in his eye socket. Everything is fine at first, but then he starts seeing ghostly figures that menace him at every turn inside his house. He gets some help from a young woman who follows him home from the hospital but she has her own problem, one that follows her closely, waiting for a chance to kill. And now, since he can see it too, it wants to get rid of him as well.
I liked this segment quite a bit, especially the way the ghosts always moved closer each time he saw them. The grotesque way he tries to solve his problem is disturbing and visceral, making the audience cringe even though we’re not seeing what’s happening fully.
A Ride in the Park is a segment that starts out as a normal zombie apocalypse story and changes into something much better all due to what I’m calling the “ZombieCam.” Imagine you’re a devoted bike rider out for a spin on your favorite trail with your GoPro camera recording your every move from the top of your head. Then you’re a victim of a zombie attack, which makes you one of the walking dead. A combination of horror, comedy, and tragedy, this segment shows us life as a zombie from the first moment of waking into unlife. There’s lots of good parts to this one, but I don’t want to spoil the enjoyment of watching them for yourself.
Safe Haven is the most disturbing of all the segments in V/H/S 2. It concerns a film crew that’s granted an audience with a mysterious cult leader, who may or may not be sleeping with the children of his cult to “purify” them. That’s horrific, but it’s only the build-up for what happens in the rest of the segment. There’s a real sense of insanity in the members of the cult, even when they’re acting normal. The camera work is well done, and it’s interesting to watch the characters realize they’ve caught more than just the cult’s secrets on film, they’ve also caught some of their own. They don’t really get to explore the revealed issues, because all hell breaks loose in the meantime, as the cult fulfills its leader’s vision for getting to the afterlife. There’s also a supernatural element that adds to the terror and may have the best birth of a horror from a human body since Alien.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction concerns a group of boys left under the supervision of their older sister. She’s more interested in hanging out with her friends and fooling around with her boyfriend than watching the boys. This results in many hijinks, including putting a camera on the dog to interrupt a sexual encounter. The horror in this segment emerges slowly, and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as the ZombieCam one, it’s an interesting take on the subject of alien abduction.
Overall, V/H/S 2 is a well done anthology film, and a bit shorter than the first one, which wasn’t a problem because the segments were strong. I’d definitely give it a chance even if you didn’t really love the first one.