This review was originally published on January 28, 2013 and referenced the original title of S-VHS; Review has been edited to reflect the title change…
I’m not much of a fan of anthology films from any genre. The constant shuffling of my attention to new characters and stories tends to break up my movie watching rhythm and by the time I find myself re-involved with the story, the film moves on to another set of standards. Plus there’s inevitably going to be some stories which I really like and want more of and others that do very little for me. That’s not to say I dislike all anthology films, I still love “Creepshow” and really dug “Holy Motors” (which I feel is an anthology film), however I still remain a skeptic of the idea in film. All that being said, I loved “V/H/S/2.”
The film is the follow-up to 2012’s “V/H/S” which, you guessed it, I was pretty hot and cold on. I totally loved a few sections, actively hated others and, overall, could take of leave the film. Yet in the follow-up, everything is kicked up a notch. The scares are more intense, the gore flows more freely and the filmmaking across the board seems tighter and better thought out. I also suspect a somewhat larger budget may be the root of all these positive changes. But perhaps the main reason I loved “V/H/S/2” so much is that the middle section, directed by Gareth Huw Evans and Timo Tjahjanto is so freeking awesome, I could have watched it five more times in a row.
I wish I could say the Evans/Tjahjanto section didn’t take away from the rest of the vignettes, but I’d by lying; that’s not to say they’re bad because they aren’t. Adam Wingard directs the first installment of the film which involves him as a character who is implanted with a camera eye following an accident. The eye then begins to allow him to see freaky stuff before all hell breaks loose. I liked this section quite a bit as there were good scares and a real tinge of classic Poe or Lovecraft horror with a thoroughly modern twist.
Next up is Edúardo Sanchez who is given a shot to reclaim the throne he created when he directed “The Blair Witch Project” back in 1999. He arguably started the first-person POV/found footage/documentary style of horror filmmaking that’s lined the pocketbooks and filled the pants of millions since it became mainstream and his section here is tons of gruesome fun. I won’t go into specifics as to plot but I’ll just say “zombie with a go-pro camera.”
Then comes the heavy hitter, the big Kahuna, the champion, all-time best horror anthology vignette since that freaky a*s one in “Trilogy of Terror” where that creepy troll terrorizes Karen Black, “Safe Haven” directed by Gareth Huw Evans and Timo Tjahjanto. Frankly, I feel this mere part of the film may be the best horror film I’ve seen in at least ten years. It’s visually stunning as well as shocking and it’s just brilliantly made, not to mention incredibly violent and gory. Yet the blood and gore are just the frosting on the cake, which is layer upon layer of incredibly well designed visuals that are still in my mind days later. The story being told is that a documentary crew gains entrance to a weird Indonesian cult that is under heavy public scrutiny for their “ways.” The doc crew provides the audience’s point of view and, from there, it goes off the rails in all the best ways. I don’t mean to be a vague dick about it, but giving anything away here would be dirty pool. You simply have to experience this segment for yourself. ‘Nuff said.
Lastly is Jason Eisener’s “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” which I felt suffered from having to follow the Evans/Tjahjanto section but also because the characters within it are beyond obnoxious. Any and everything that happens to them (and if you can’t figure out what happens due to the title, I cannot help you) is well earned but the thing that really turned me off was Eisener’s choice for a final shot. Not cool man, not cool. But still, the segment is really fun with some great visuals and a unique choice for the camera POV.
Of course “V/H/S/2” wouldn’t be a sequel to “V/H/S” if there wasn’t a wrap around story involving bizarre VHS tapes that mesmerize and manipulate viewers in the film. I felt that the wrap around in the original “V/H/S” was creepy and unsettling but I never really understood what it was about. The wrap around in “V/H/S/2” is tighter and better constructed but still left me a little flat.
Overall though, “V/H/S/2” is an improvement on the original but is also quite different, almost to the point of not being able to compare them. The scares in “V/H/S/2” are totally different and more jump oriented than the eerie, slow builds in the original. And again, I can’t wait for this film to hit the streets so horror fans worldwide can experience “Safe Haven.” Meet me back here when it happens and we can discuss.