Anthologies are largely a mixed lot. While some stories shine there are others that work to bring the entire production down around it by being tonally off. The second installment of found footage franchise V/H/S suffers from this to a large degree, making it the weaker of the two entries.
The first installment (we’ll talk about the wraparound later), Phase 1 Clinical Trials (directed by A Horrible Way to Die‘s Adam Wingard) gives us an interesting take on the POV method by following the recipient of an ocular implant who soon learns that the price for his new eye might be steeper than he thought. I like the idea of true POV here and I think this was interesting use of the found footage approach. Unfortunately, asides from the last few seconds of footage, I just don’t think the story was dynamic enough to get us off to the kind of start we were looking for. I’m also, not admittedly a fan of Wingard’s work. Although A Horrible Way to Die was revered among a lot of fans as a great piece of horror cinema, I just didn’t get it, so I wasn’t expecting much out of thist first vignette. This would have been a fantastic opportunity to have surprised me, but alas, we were treated to some quick cuts of spectral assailants, a phantom form underneath the covers of a supposedly empty bed and creepy little girls, which frankly have become such overused staples of horror that they rarely produce a scare now. So, despite the novelty used to present the story, we weren’t off to a great start.
Eduardo Sanchez’s (The Blair Witch Project) A Ride in the Dark puts us behind the eyes of the undead as a we follow a cyclist whose morning ride leaves him infected with a desire to eat the flash of the living. This could have been SO much fun but I think it was the lack of bat shit craziness that made this one fall well below its potential. We needed to see a bigger scale here. We needed to see some crazy visual f/x and dammit! we needed to see some serious brain feasting. Although we do get treated to a fork in the eye and a nice POV vehicular maiming, we just don’t see anything that we haven’t seen before a market that is currently SATURATED with the shambling resurrected. This probably represented the biggest disappointment outside of the wraparound for me and looking at the film as a whole it just comes across as filler.
I LOVED The Raid. To such an extent in fact that it has almost singlehandedly renewed my enthusiasm for the martial arts action genre. With that said, director Gareth Huw Evans gives us the best, most well rounded installment of the entire film. In retrospect, it probably would have been a good idea to scrap the idea of a V/H/S sequel all together and just throw the entire budget at Evans, who managed to pull together a terrifying, engaging and exciting short film out of the running time he was given. Aside from some questionable physical effects near the end, Safe Haven is undoubtedly the standout entry in the picture and worth the price of admission alone.
Hobo With a Shotgun‘s Jason Eisener treats us to Alien Abduction Slumber Party, which is about, quite literally exactly what the title says its about. If anything, Eisner should be remembered for his inventive titles. Abduction is quite simply a LOT of fun as it follows a slumber party abruptly interrupted by a group of murderous aliens. This is probably the most humorous entry in the series and allows us to take a break from the film’s more horrific elements long enough to catch out breath before our alien vs. human game of cat and mouse begins. Abduction relies on its forward momentum and its confidence and pace delivers, bringing us the second best story of the anthology.
Wraparounds are rarely strong enough components of an anthology to even be considered a full story. V/H/S 2’s wraparound is no exception and is even less memorable that its predecessor. Two private investigator’s, in search of a missing student take us on our V/H/S journey while inspecting his house/apartment and we watch the tapes as they do. The story behind the more horrific images just isn’t developed enough here to have any real impact and we are left wondering if we really need a wraparound going into the second film at all.
V/H/S 2 is worthwhile viewing for Eisner’s and Evan’s contributions alone but its starting to feel s though V/H/S’ anthology format tricks us into thinking that half a movie is just good enough.
V/H/S is currently available on demand and in theaters everywhere July 12th. Contact your local cable provider for VOD information and availability.