Chooo Chooo! There’s the hype train coming down the tracks again. And those are my awful train sound effects that luckily for you, I’ve spared you in vocal form. But yes, there was and is much hype surrounding the sequel to last years love it or hate it anthology film, V/H/S. I have now seen the sequel, V/H/S/2, traveling many miles to tell you my thoughts on whether or not you should pop it in and push play, or eject that shit like a bootleg version of House Of The Dead.
It’s no secret, especially if you read my review, that V/H/S ended up being a bit underwhelming for me. I dig anthology movies, but as a whole, that movie just seemed too unbalanced and needed to trim the fat in order for it to sit on my shelf next to Creepshow (which I consider to be the best anthology movie of all time). The word was strong that the sequel was going to right the wrongs from the first one, and I’m happy to tell you that for the most part, it did. As in it’s predecessor, V/H/S/2 has a wrap-around story that connects all of the short films that are to follow. Here, we have a private detective and his girlfriend who are on the case to find a missing college student and are lead to his house, which seems at first to be uninhabited. What they find are a bunch of TVs set up in a room, a few peculiar notebook entries, and some pre-recorded messages on a laptop from the student. As the detective searches the house, his girlfriend watches the messages and then proceeds to start to watch the VHS tapes that the student seems to be talking about:
Phase 1 – Clinical Trials: In addition to directing the wrap-around story, Adam Wingard (You’re Next) directs and stars in the first entry about a man who loses his eye in a car accident. A secret cooperation gives him a temporary bionic eye, making him a walking experiment, as they monitor everything he does or sees with a special recording chip. Only problem is that there are glitches and side effects, like seeing dead people. Bummer man. A girl shows up to his house, seeming to have had the same experiment, but with her hearing instead of her vision. What follows has a bit of an old school haunted house feel, but lacked in the scare department for me. I became somewhat bored and I’m not sure if it was the spotty acting, or the previously mentioned lack of true scares. Somewhat disappointing for the opening short, but the good news is that things would get much better.
A Ride In The Park: Zombies are all the rage nowadays, what with The Walking Dead and all, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the genre is touched on here in this funny and gory short written and directed by Gregg Hale and Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project). With a Go Pro cam attached to his helmet, a bike rider runs smack dab into the middle of a zombie outbreak. And when he himself becomes a zombie, the helmet cam keeps filming and we get to see things from the zombie’s perspective. It’s a nice spin, and so are the laughs and gore that are to follow. What we have here is a highly entertaining short, with a satisfying, and surprisingly sweet, ending. Things seem to be moving in the right direction.
Safe Haven: Welcome to Paradise Gates. Come for the beautiful scenery….stay for the mass suicides and evil demonic offspring! Talk about hitting your stride, this next entry comes from Gareth Evans who gave us the mind-blowing action flick, The Raid, last year. His story revolves around a documentary film crew who make their way to Paradise Gates to interview the leader of a cult that has more than one issue going on. You want ‘Holy Shit!’ moments? There are PLENTY in this one. To ruin them for you would be a disservice, so I won’t. Just know that the film crew goes to the compound and shit gets VERY crazy. I muttered to myself, “I’d hate to be the one who has to follow that one”, as it ended. Come on down Jason Eisner!
Slumber Party Alien Abduction: The last and final short comes from Jason Eisner who gave us the sick and enjoyable, Hobo With A Shotgun, in 2011. His entry involves a group of kids having a slumber party, when some aliens decide to show up and crash it. Like I said earlier, following up Safe Haven was a next to impossible task, but I dug what Eisner put on the screen for the most part. There are some creepy alien images, a lot of loud noises, and a kid getting caught masturbating while his friends are sleeping. Most of the story is seen through a cam attached to a dog’s head, which is interesting to say the least. Not anywhere near what the previous story about a crazy cult brought, but not a bad way to cap off an anthology movie either.
As we move to climax of the the wrap-around story with the detective and his girlfriend, things feel a bit uninspired and lazy, and I much preferred the wrap-around from the original V/H/S. Having said that, V/H/S/2 improved on everything else from the first one, and I think it was very smart to keep the amount of short stories to four. I liked the variety, and part of me wished that there was a full length version of Safe Haven available. Seriously – it was that good. V/H/S/2 starts off ok, then pushes things full throttle in the middle, before coming back down for a safe and somewhat predictable landing in the end. If they can keep things consistent though, I’m going to love seeing what they come up with in V/H/S/3, because we all know it’s inevitable that it’s coming. No complaints here though on that.
Phase 1 – Clinical Trials: (3 out of 5)
A Ride In The Park: (4 out of 5)
Safe Haven: (5 out of 5)
Slumber Party Alien Abduction: (3.5 out of 5)
(4 out of 5 overall)