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