Inside a darkened house looms a column of TVs littered with VHS tapes, a pagan shrine to forgotten analog gods. The screens crackle and pop endlessly with monochrome vistas of static white noise permeating the brain and fogging concentration. But you must fight the urge to relax: this is no mere movie night. Those obsolete spools contain more than just magnetic tape. They are imprinted with the very soul of evil.
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★★★★ review by Jeff on Letterboxd
Even though I liked the first installment more than most, it's safe to say that V/H/S 2 bested the original by both fixing some problems and bringing a stronger set of stories.
The wraparound is again the weakest of the bunch, but this time there is at least a story to it.
Adam Wingard's Clinical Trials Phase 1 is easily the next weakest, but still enjoyable enough.
I thought Eduado Sanchez' zombie entry was, despite running a bit too long, quite funny and played its concept out well.
Safe Haven, from The Raid director Gareth Evans, is arguably the best. The guy who plays the cult leader is awesomely creepy, and when the shit finally hits the fan I was totally on board with the craziness being thrown at me.
Finally, Jason Eisner's Slumber Party Alien Abduction... Well, the title says it all, huh? I loved it, and only in part because much of it was from the dog's perspective.
Even if you weren't a fan of the first one, I'd say give this one a shot.
★★★★ review by Hentai Cop on Letterboxd
Film #22 in The June Challenge
Every once in awhile a film comes out that defines it's genre; V/H/S/2 is that type of film. The found-footage horror genre has been one of the most popular in recent years because of their cost:profit ratio. This has resulted in some incredibly lazy films that are only produced in this format for the sake of being inexpensive, and very rarely is the found-footage concept used to its full potential. The most important aspect that a found-footage horror film needs for it to work is atmosphere. Found-footage simply does not work if the situation that the characters are in feels safe (see: the Paranormal Activity series).
V/H/S/2 is one of the greatest found-footage horror film of all time, right next to The Poughkeepsie Tapes and The Blair Witch Project. Forget about every problem in the original V/H/S, as this sequel improves on everything and fucking nails it. Every sequence in this film is infinitely better than those in the first, and this film pushes the boundaries of the genre to their fullest potential. The magic of V/H/S/2 is that every segment puts a unique twist on the format, and none of the stories are like anything I've seen before.
The framing sequence, directed by Simon Barrett, continues the premise of the first film with a couple of people with a camera stumbling upon a house full of tapes. This framing sequence builds on the mythology set up in the first film, and creates an underground network of fucked-up-tape distributors and collectors. The framing concept is great, and provides a reason for how these stories are ending up on V/H/S tapes in the first place. Because of this framing device, the film is able to establish that what is happening in the tapes is real and creates a universe in which people are attempting to join into this underground society (or internet forum) of tape collectors. The ending of Tape 49 is also fucking stellar, and the less I say about it, the better.
Phase 1 Clinical Trials
Adam Wingard's sequence is definitely the weakest of the film, but it still provides an awesome set-up and a unique camera placement. The main character, played by Wingard, gets an artificial eye transplant (with a built-in camera), that suddenly gives him the ability to see ghosts. Although this premise has been done before (with an eye transplant allowing one to see the dead in The Eye), Wingard makes it work with some really bizarre imagery. For one, a girl shows up with the ability to hear the dead, and by restricting the two characters' knowledge by having each comment on their personal perspective, Wingard allows for a lot of tension to build. The ending sequence is fucking fantastic, if a little bit abrupt, but it works perfectly for its length and is an enjoyable opening story.
A Ride in the Park
I still really like Eduardo Sanchez despite his recent string of shitty movies, and The Blair Witch Project is still the defining moment for this genre. His sequence in V/H/S/2 turns classic zombie tropes on their head when he has the main character die first. Shot entirely on a helmet camera, the story follows the recently undead protagonist on his walk through the woods, which includes devouring a couple of bikers and crashing a child's birthday party. He ends the story the second the premise begins to get exhausting, and it's perfect for what it does in a brief amount of time. It's also quite gory, while also kind of funny in a way.
It honestly would not be fair for me to talk about Gareth Evans' and Timo Tjahjanto's perfect story. There is absolutely nothing in the found-footage genre that comes close to it. These directors know how to make a genre picture (The Raid is incredible), and this may even be one of the best horror shorts of all time. Everything in it works (with the exception of some cheap looking CG for three seconds), and it works so damn well that I was speechless by the end of it, then suddenly burst into fulfilled fanboy laughter. That is all I am willing to say about it, and if you don't watch the film if not only for this sequence, you are missing out on the best horror films in the last several years.
Alien Abduction Slumber Party
Jason Eisener is the fucking king. The creative genius behind Treevenge and Hobo with a Shotgun, Eisener brings forward what is definitely the scariest story in this anthology. The aliens in his story are fucking terrifying, and are definitely one of the best alien creature designs I've seen. The film also does a great job at building up some innocent young characters, right before pulling the covers off and subjecting them to mind-boggling terror. The kid drowning, while trapped in a sleeping bag and sinking in a lake, is one of the most claustrophobic sequences I've ever seen in a horror film. The idea of why the camera is being used (it was strapped to the family dog for a hilarious reason), worked perfectly in the film and provided one of the most shocking images I have ever seen at the end of a film. It is absolutely stunning, and is definitely the best alien movie to come out in recent years.
Overall, V/H/S/2 is one of the best horror films to come out in a long time, and definitely trumps everything else in the found-footage subgenre. Every sequence in this anthology is fucking golden, and provides a great balance of genuine terror and what the fuck?!? moments. Some of the sequences in here are as good as modern genre films can possibly get, especially Safe Haven and Alien Abduction Slumber Party. This is a sequel that improves on its predecessor in every way imaginable, but also provides solid content to a genre that many fanboys feel is dying. V/H/S/2 may end up just being a fluke, especially when considering the great level of talent involved, but I'm actually excited for another sequel. Very rarely does a horror franchise come along that is of this level of quality, and I can only hope that they keep getting better (if that's even possible--like fucking seriously, you need to see Safe Haven right now!).
★★★★ review by Hollie Horror on Letterboxd
In spite of the disappointment I experienced with V/H/S, I was still looking forward to V/H/S/2 for various reasons, most importantly word of mouth from one horror fan to another and then there's also Timo Tjahjanto (director of Macabre '09 and one of the better segments of ABCs of Death) who is my new horror movie darling. Timo Tjahjanto is breathing new life into the genre and it is fresh and invigorating, I predict that it wont be long before he is a household name among genre fans.
With V/H/S in mind, as soon as V/H/S/2 ended I was a fist-pump short of TOTALLY STOKED when I said "Now THAT is how you make an anthology!!" In comparison to its predecessor, it had a more straight-forward but entertaining wraparound with a redheaded woman, a dark haired man who, together, reminded me of Friday the 13th: The Series, I enjoyed every single segment, they did not waste too much time pointing out the cameras and how we are coming across the found-footage in the beginning of the segments and the unrated version of V/H/S/2 is not just soaked, but submerged in blood (this can also be in thanks to Timo!!).
Everyone has mentioned Safe Haven as the best segment by far and while I really, really loved it (as in it was my favorite), I think it is almost unfair to say it is leagues better than the others, as I found each to be original, enjoyable and the right amount of everything, especially the inclusion of the supernatural in each segment.
V/H/S/2 wasn't a pleasant surprise because I went in with high expectations and I came out on the other end all smiles. That is, indeed, the one true sign of approval from one horror anthology-lover to another.
★★★★ review by DirkH on Letterboxd
Well wasn't this a bundle of fun!
As far as anthologies go, this not only surpasses the first part, but it is also better than most recent outings. But this is not only an anthology, it is also part of the dreaded found footage genre, a genre I don't dislike but one that is frought with danger. Even though not all five stories are consistent in quality, they all manage to avoid the found footage pitfalls pretty well. I'll run them down one by one.
The wraparound story and, like in the first one, the weakest. People watching tapes, shenanigans in the background, a tiny bit more explanation of the backstory, bit of gore and that's it. It serves its purpose, nothing more, nothing less.
Phase 1 Clinical Trials
I knew pretty quickly that I wasn't really going to like this one. It has a great gimmick for the camera point of view, but that's all there is to it. It opens nicely, only to repeat the same scare tactics over and over again to end up being a bit bland and not really memorable.
A Ride in the Park
I loved this. It's funny, creative and disgusting. Again, the camera works and it makes sense that what we're seeing is actually being filmed. The zombie perspective is fantastic and the sound design here is scrumptiously crunchy. The lightest of the bunch, but definitely the most fun even though it outstays its welcome somewhat.
This segment borders on perfection. It understands the genre so well and doesn't shy away from a deliciously slow burn that instills atmosphere first, only to go batshit insane next. And when I say batshit insane I mean batshit insane. You won't know where to look, there is so much carnage and mayhem, making it a very rewarding pay off for the perfectly, but slowly paced opening. The best of the bunch by far.
Segment 4 with a title that I won't mention as it betrays what it's about and half the fun of this segment is not knowing what it's about.
Whoa, did not see that one coming! This has, from the opening to the end a fantastic frenetic energy. It builds up to something and I loved what it led me to. This actually has a doggy cam, which was hilarious. The sound, the visuals, the nature of the bad guys, all come together in a neat bundle of genre affection.
VHS 2 is an excellent collection of horror stories, with the weakest link being average and the best of the bunch a slice of horror perfection.
★★★★ review by Larry on Letterboxd
It was a night much like last night, when I finally decided to watch the first V/H/S film. I was in a daze of insomnia and those eerie, scratchy tapes gave me the creeps. But they also sacrificed a lot of other things. It wasn't a great film, but the anthology horror setup in the form of found footage showed lots of promise. And it payed off marvelously here.
Tape 49/Frame Narrative
Much like the frame narrative from the original, this one is largely uninteresting until the end, and really only serves to link all the tapes together (obviously). That doesn't mean they couldn't have tried harder, but in the grad scheme of things it showcases the upped production value and lighter pacing that the rest of the film would exemplify. So in the big picture, even though the frame narrative doesn't surprise, it really doesn't matter. It links some stellar tapes together and immediately tells you "this is how we are going to do things."
Bigger and better.
Overall, a couple chilling moments but it could've been much better. And I can tell you right now that V/H/S 2 is much better than the original, so don't let the first low score scare you. Be reminded that the frame narrative is an episodic story within an episodic story so I didn't know I was disappointed with this tape until the whole film ended. It does a decent enough job at leading into more tapes that will come to define this stellar sequel. 6/10
Phase I Clinical Trials.
This one starts out a little silly, (eyeball implanted camera) but eventually evolves into one of the most unsettling tapes. It's jump scare galore and even though the methods of building tension are a little unfair, it still delivers some moments that made me nearly leap out of my chair. The sound design on this tape (along with all the others) is excellent and it makes watching this film with headphones on in the dark a very daunting task. Like I said, its just fear of the next loud jump scare which is a little cheap and unfair, but ultimately it does its job. It got me a few times. The man with the eyeball implanted camera starts to have what he thinks are "malfunctions" with the device. He starts seeing dead people and they begin tormenting him. That's all I really need to say for this one. A silly story with loads of dumb details but a very creepy start to events. 7/10
A Ride in the Park.
This one was interesting. It went a different route than I expected but eventually ended up being a lot of fun. I have to mention that this one isn't scary at all but instead goes for the "gross out" gag. It starts with a cyclist mounting a helmet cam and a handlebar can before setting off into the woods on his bike. The only things we really know about the character comes from some cheesy expository dialogue. After tats its all carnage. He finds a "bitten" crazed woman in the woods and all Hell breaks loose. I think you can kinda imply what this story is about.... Crazed bitten people? Infections? Gross out gags? Ring any bells? I thought the interesting thing about this sequence was how it shows the origins or beginning chaos of the outbreaks you see in the big movies. This one has got some queasy practical gore effects and is overall a lot of fun to watch. It was a great little break considering the segments that come before and after it. 7/10
Holy crap. What a segment. I was told this was probably the best segment in the movie, and when I heard that I made sure to not make the same mistakes the first time when I heard someone say Amateur Night was the best segment from the original. With this news about Safe Haven I did 3 things: 1. I made sure the person knew what the fuck they were talking about.
2. I didn't get my hopes up.
3. I didn't spoil it for myself.
This obviously worked amazingly because as it turns out, Safe Haven is a Hell of a short on its own. There aren't a whole lot of shorts from both the original and this one that are deserving of their own feature length film. But Safe Haven is the exception to that rule. It builds more atmosphere and creates more mysterious uneasy feelings than the whole first film combined. It's one of the only shorts that has a cohesive story with real characters. Raid director Gareth Evans did a wonderful job creating buildup and a masterful release of thrills, scares and gory fun. The ending was batshit insane and totally awesome. This short is where V/H/S 2's newfound budget and talent shine through. This film is worth watching just for this segment. It's cheesy and ridiculous fun. 8.5/10 (is that allowed?)
Alien Abduction Slumber Party.
Where the previous segment struck the best balance between atmosphere, shock and fun, I think this one set out to just be a creepy blast. I definitely had the most fun with this one out of the whole bunch, but I think that was meant to happen when coming off the heaviness of Safe Haven. Its also the first segment to ever center around children. Unsupervised children at that. Unsupervised children at their lakeside house having their weekend slumber party crashed by visitors from another world. The kids (and some neighbor kids/friends) have the house to themselves this weekend and the action follows them at first as they have water gun and water-balloon fights, basically doing everything in their power to torment the older sister and her boyfriend. It's a playful and highly entertaining first few minutes. A lot of the footage even comes from a camera mounted on the family dog. Shortly after, strange lights start coming off the lake and loud machinery can be heard overhead. The playful tone soon turns to chilling atmosphere and there are some good scares here. Overall its a great, fun little short. I even watched it again this afternoon. The aliens offered up some good scares and the kids bring an element to this series that we haven't seen yet. It's a grim ending for an otherwise great short, but then again who ever has a good ending in V/H/S? 8/10
Overall, this was a great sequel that smoothed out some rough edges and continued the shocking and visceral element created in the first. It's still not perfect, but it was a large step in the right direction for what could end up being a great series if it stays talented, stays focused and stays small. A few fans wouldn't hurt either.
I guess after this one you could call me a fan.
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