A P.I. and his assistant break into a house during the course of an investigation to find it full of videotapes. On viewing some of them they find that each features someone’s personal, twisted and weird story.
Anthology movies, that is to say, feature films made up of many smaller films, have been going through a bit of a resurgence of late; that’s not to say that they’re becoming mainstream or that more are being made than previously, those who regularly attend horror film festivals will attest that there’s usually one or two on the line-up most years, but their popularity does seem to have increased in general.
Just over the last year or so we’ve had the V/H/S and ABCs of Death films, that proved so popular, relatively speaking, that each spawned a sequel almost immediately; and why not? Anthologies are an easy and cheap way for smaller filmmakers to participate in a feature that has better odds of making it into the marketplace than a short film would, and without putting anymore work or risk into it than they would a decent short.
You have to take the rough with the smooth though, because, within the same film, for every spark of genuine ingenuity, which is worth watching the entire film for, you’re probably going to have to watch two average presentations and a bit of a stinker. This was certainly the case with the first V/H/S film… but not so much with the second, although that’s not to say it’s better than the first.
So, beside the wraparound segment described above, which is a weaker facsimile of that of the first instalment, V/H/S/2 is made up of four twenty-ish minute segments.
The first sees a young man become a genie pig for a pioneering electronic eye replacement; as one does in these situations, he starts seeing dead people before things go crazy. This is hardly an original or incredibly well written story but it IS creepy and has some decent jump scares.
The second segment is a POV account of someone’s descent into zombieism. Again, we saw this kind of idea in the film, Colin, but this short isn’t without its charm, though it probably is the least interesting of the segments.
In the third a documentary crew investigate the goings on at a remote, Asian cult commune only to discover that their worst fears don’t even scratch the tip of the iceberg. This is definitely the most interesting segment of the bunch, mixing many, many horror staples to form something quite unique.
The last casts a group of young kids, having a sleepover, into a nightmarish alien abduction scenario. Here the use of intense lighting and sound creates such a chaotic sense of dizzying panic that you just about forgive it for it almost total lack of story.
The central conceit of the V/H/S films is that every story is presented in the increasingly hackneyed ‘found footage’ style, and while it is much less tiresome in this short format it must be said that the writers and directors, in their pursuit of finding original ways of using the format, are generating much more contrived situations, with the aim of getting more cameras into the action or alternative and original viewpoints for a single camera.
It’s easy to understand why, but sometimes simple, elegant solutions are the best ones. However, it can’t be said that V/H/S/2 is the worst perpetrator of this; big budget outings such as Chronicle and The Devil Inside totally butcher the format, so V/H/S in all it’s low budget, indie glory easily gets a pass, and all that besides, it’s a pretty solid horror movie; the visuals are, for the most part, pretty seamless, the editing, despite a few obvious ‘tricks’, is sharp and pacey, and the narratives are straightforward.
V/H/S/2 probably won’t be the scariest horror flick you see all year but as a whole it is really quite charming and interesting, holding a more consistent standard that the first film lacked, though for sheer quality the best single segment is still in the first. Details aside, if you like horror films you should give it a go, there’s certainly more meat to it than the average horror film currently at you local multiplex.
C+ grade – for originality
B+ grade – for pacing
B grade – for visuals
C grade – for storytelling
B grade – for horror content
Overall grade – B-