V/H/S/2 (God, I wish they stuck with the original "S-VHS" title) is the horror cinematic equivalent of the best first-person shooter that you've ever played...in anthology style. It's chock full of wonderfully inventive frights and is among the very best examples of what a finely crafted found footage horror anthology can look like. Let's review....shall we?
First thing's first. This is one of those sequels that vastly improves on its predecessor. On every level. Full disclosure...I really enjoyed the first film. Tho, I definitely admit to grading it on a sort of curve because of its innovative spin on a tired pair of sub-genres. I really championed V/H/S for its ability to inject a fresh new mentality into the horror genre in general and to shake things up a little. But, I still enjoyed my experience in watching the film. Even made the best of 2012 list. So, when it came time for me to watch this new sequel, I was completely excited and sort of scared that the film might not live up to my built up expectations.
Well, it did...and then some.
This time around, V/H/S/2 boasts some really exciting talent behind the camera. The first film had some great filmmakers helming each particular segment but, I felt there were some pretty noticeable low points that ultimately kept everything from being truly great. However, V/H/S/2 not only features some amazing filmmakers...it also lives up to each one of their promise with ambitious verve.
The most recognizable names from the genre are Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project, Lovely Molly) and Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die, V/H/S). Both filmmakers have been contributing quite a bit to the genre as of late. Wingard, himself, starring in his own directed segment in this sequel, as well as directing the greatly anticipated You're Next, hitting us in August. Sanchez has had a bit of a resurrection recently with his underrated Lovely Molly and his upcoming big foot horror, Exists, has been getting some decent buzz.
Also on board for this entry are Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption) and Jason Eisner (Hobo With A Shotgun, ABC's of Death, Treevenge). Two absolutely arresting filmmakers who take genre cinema to another level. Hobo With A Shotgun is one of my absolute favorite films of the last couple years and The Raid really made me rethink what an action movie can feel like. So, to say that I was excited to see what they whipped up in a horror anthology would be a sore understatement.
"Phase 1 Clinical Trials" is probably my least favorite of the bunch. It boasts some really cool elements, particularly a bionic eye that can see much more than what the patient wants to. This one's directed by Wingard and I just felt like it could've been fleshed out much more. While I did enjoy it for what it was, it just feels like the calm before the storm in terms of the rest of the cinematic offerings that V/H/S/2 has in store. On the other hand...boobies.
"A Ride in the Park" is perhaps my favorite segment of the film. It pretty much has it all. In its short running time, this particular story weaves emotional anguish, human deterioration, innocent love and fucking zombies! It's great. And a welcome premise to the overall V/H/S experience.
A really close second for me is the next segment titled "Safe Haven". There is so much tension bleeding out of this particular storyline that when everything finally hits the proverbial fan, you are already exhausted from all the edge-or-your-seat madness taking place in its quiet build up. Also, cults tend to be a favorite subject of mine in horror films...so, it was only natural that I loved this story.
"Slumber Party Alien Abduction" is an obvious audience pleaser. It hits all the main beats and pretty much never lets up once it starts its immediate course for a horror/sci-fi thrill ride. Plus...Jason Eisner is at the helm...so, it makes for a truly striking segment. Technically, it is the best narrative that this sequel has to offer. It is Eisner at his most restrained...while also hinting at the explosiveness that he possesses as a storyteller. Great, great stuff.
Hell, even the wrap-around story was really good. Worlds better than the empty hipster framework of the original film. "Tape 49" gives us a legitimate excuse to find all those supernatural VHS tapes and watch them...while also maintaining its own identity within its own story. And once the payoff comes, it serves to be creepy and unsettling in its delivery. Usually a writer/producer of Wingard's films (including You're Next...can you tell that I really wanna see that film?), Simon Barrett does a fine job executing first-time directing duties for this particular narrative about a detective couple trying to find out where a college student has gone. It not only creates a riveting story all its own but, it also fills a void that the first film left.
The SFX is that of a higher quality than you'll see in bigger budget films. While sometimes the rubber intestines look like rubber intestines, the grue is served up in healthy portions of bloody fun...particularly in "A Ride in the Park" and "Safe Haven".
As a whole, V/H/S/2 emphatically improves on its original counterpart in pretty much every way possible. If you were on the fence with the first one, this film will push you right over into the side of the fence with evil Goblin Sharks waiting to devour your soul. Demons, zombies, ghosts, aliens and crazy-walking dead females. This found footage anthology horror film has it all! Highly recommended!
By the by...I think I'm in love with Hannah Hughes. It's a young resplendent love that takes time to nurture. As a matter of fact, I've already picked out promise rings at the local flea market that I'm gonna surprise her with. I think she's gonna really love 'em. I think our matching tattoos are gonna look so cute, too. *sigh* 'Cause she's the cheese...and I'm the macaroni. Restraining order...schmestraining schmorder. True love cannot be stopped.