When it comes to horror films there is nothing new under the sun. There is only so many ways a psychopath or an angry demon can torture and dismember a victim, besides, the amount of blood being used in today’s scary flicks would even cause Dracula to vomit uncontrollably. Maybe that is no longer a problem since director Fede Alvarez probably exhausted Hollywood’s supply of fake blood with his Evil Dead remake not too long ago. Equally detrimental to the genre is this idea that CGI actually makes things scarier or more realistic; obviously the studios got it all wrong. Ironically, a lower budget approach as the one seen in most of the “found footage” examples in recent years, V/H/S included, creates a more frightening atmosphere by immersing the viewer into familiar settings with amateur-looking images that pack a terrifying punch.

 

While the first installment in the series dealt with an equally varied range of paranormal manifestations, those shorts felt certainly more serious and contained. The sequel, which is made up of fewer stories, continues with the “pick-your-fear” approach but in a balls out, WTF, deranged manner that is as gory but with overtones of dark, very dark, humor. The wrap-around plot that holds the film together is better this time around.

The excuse for finding the tapes is the search for a missing college student by a couple of private investigators. As they walk around the boy’s house they encounter the expected videotapes, plus a computer in which the kid himself addresses other “tape collectors”. One can speculate that in a third film the connections will be revealed and explained, if that’s even possible with all the outrageous brutality fest on screen.

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As for the individual segments, well, they differ in tone, length, and overall success. Each one of the four entries deals with a different embodiment of terror: ghosts, zombies, cults, and aliens. One must be thankful with the selection of nightmarish creatures here presented, take your pick, as they are all quite disturbing.

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First off is the technology-fearful short “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” by Adam Wingard. Long story short, a man gets an artificial eye implanted which now allows him to see evil apparitions in his apartment. Creepy no doubt, but some of the ghosts feel like ready-to-use costumes from Party City’s bargains rack. This piece is most effective when another paranormal-sensitive girl visits him and the pool turns into a malevolent vehicle for murder. All of it takes place in a cool first-person point of view that keeps a grip on the viewer till the very end. The second best out of the four.
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Ready for some humor? Probably not what anyone is looking for walking into this film; however, the second and fourth entries are adorned by some LOL moments that justify some energetic giggles. Zombies and aliens are so far apart on the spectrum of otherworldly monstrosities as anything could be. Yet, both “A Ride In The Park” and “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” connect through the ridiculousness they deliver. One stars a young biker and his GoPro camera as he rides through the woods only to be turned into a zombie after being bitten by a random woman. Obviously, as any honorable zombie would do, he joins his fellow flesh-eaters to attack a kid’s birthday party for an often funny, surely bloody ride.
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The final short (there is a reason why I skipped the third one) is a pet-loving, teenage episode of The X Files. Left home alone by their parents, a pack of  prepubescent kids spends the weekend annoying one the kid’s oldest sister. Evidently it all comes to an end, as bigheaded extraterrestrial beings appear to chase them and take them into their ship. This one is sort of weak in terms of story since the family’s puppy is in charge of recording the alien encounter, but it surely has some hilarious moments. Something this writer wasn’t expecting.VHS2-Clip26Now, the one entry that takes the cake for bat-shit craziness and shock value is Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans’ “Safe Haven”. For those familiar with Evans’ Indonesian newborn classic The Raid: Redemption, the level of insanity achieved here won’t be a surprise. This piece stands out above any of the stories in V/H/S or this sequel, it is so diabolically grotesque and packed with twists that make it hard to forget.

The set up is simple; a crew of filmmakers is making a documentary about a cult known as the People of Paradise Gate, a group lead by the quintessential maniacal Cult leader, who they call “Father”. What ensues is one of the most fucking deranged trips ever seen (excuse my language but this merits it). Secrets of an unwanted pregnancy are revealed as the group prepares for a massive communal suicide that includes children, then a group of creepy nurses appear to deliver what is the literal incarnation of the devil. This is not for the faint of heart. There is gore galore and explicit violence orchestrated in a thrilling build up that keeps on raising the bar until the last shot. The piece  is pure diabolical genius.

Although not a wholesomely satisfactory experience, the ingenuity and cleverness of the set of directors is undeniable. It leaves the audience with a sense of disorientation about what one has just seen. In particular the ending sequence dealing with the wrap-around story lends itself for an epic conclusion should there be a third film. Too many questions are left unanswered, which, if handled with the same creativeness as these segments, could make for the most achieved horror trilogy the genre has seen.

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Final Verdict: V/H/S/2 is a bonanza of outrageous violent fun. As explained above some of the individual parts are of a greater caliber than others. One of the upsides of this film over the original is the more developed and intriguing wrap-around canvas over which the singular pieces are set. The unavoidable problem is whether the humor was deliberate or involuntary, in any case it is disorienting and detracts from the overall seriousness of the film. Nonetheless, if this was a 3 star film, it got bumped a half star just by the inclusion of the outstanding “Safe Haven”. Trust me, you will be wondering about your sanity when the newborn son of Satan starts calling out for his daddy. No joke.

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V/H/S/2 is out on Video On Demand (VOD) June 6th, 2013  and in theaters July 12, 2013

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  • I was REALLY disappointed in the first one and was dead set against going to the sequel… until I read this. Sounds pretty awesome!