Director: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener
Cast: Lawrence Michael Levine, Kelsy Abbott, L.C. Holt, Adam Wingard, Hannah Hughes, John T. Woods, Jay Saunders, Bette Cassatt
RunTime: 1 hr 36 mins
Rating: R21 (Violence and Gore)
Released By: GVP
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/VHS2
Opening Day: 13 February 2014
Synopsis: Searching for a missing student, two private investigators break into his abandoned house and find another collection of mysterious VHS tapes. In viewing the horrific contents of each cassette, they realize there may be terrifying motives behind the student's disappearance.
Like its predecessor, ‘V/H/S 2’ is structured as a collection of found footage horror stories that are meant to have a ‘shock and awe’ effect on its audience. Yes, you better believe that R21 rating you see on the poster, for what you’ll get are four blood-soaked short films which trade in as much violence and gore as the rating allows to offer up some flesh-crawling scares. Is it any good? Well, that really depends if you’re a hardcore genre fan - and yes, we’d warn you that only the most diehard ones need apply to this indie omnibus.
Framed similarly with a story that provides the connecting tissue for the rest contained on the titular video cassette format, it opens with private investigators Larry (Lawrence Michael Levine) and Ayesha (Kelsey Abbot) breaking into the apartment of a missing college student whom they are hired by his mother to track down. There, they discover a stash of videocassettes, a laptop and a setup with multiple TV monitors playing back static onscreen; and while Larry goes from room to room searching for any trace of human presence, Ayesha starts viewing the video footage on the TV.
First up is Adam Wingard’s ‘Phase I Clinical Trials’, which establishes itself by finding a surprisingly inventive raison d'être for the first-person format. Wingard himself plays the rocker dude Herman, who receives a prosthetic eye implant following a car accident; because the implant is just in its test stages, it also doubles up as a video camera so its manufacturer can use the data to record its performance. Once home, Herman starts seeing dead people all around his house - and though the rest of the ‘I see dead people’ conceit unfolds rather perfunctorily, it moves at a breakneck pace and packs a number of good ‘in your face’ scares to keep you on edge.
The same cannot be said of the next short, original “Blair Witch” alums Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale’s ‘A Ride in the Park’. Zombies are the order of the day, which begins as a unnamed mountain biker (Jay Saunders) stops to help a woman, gets bitten and turns into z zombie in the matter of minutes. This ‘pass it on’ syndrome continues somewhat ad nauseum until a sizeable enough horde reaches a children’s birthday party, whereby the already over-the-top nonsense just goes ballistics. As guts are spilled and heads are blown off, what becomes clearer is just how the filmmakers are grasping at straws to keep their audiences from getting bored from the brainless (pun intended) onslaught.
It gets much better with ‘Safe Haven’, a made-in-Indonesia short from Timo Tjahjanto (‘Rumah Dara’) and Gareth Huw Evans (‘The Raid’). A TV crew interviews the head of a mysterious cult named “Father” (Epy Kusnandar) and gets permission to film inside his gated compound where he runs a school for young children. Easily the most developed of any of the shorts, it even has some character development as it comes to light that one of the reporters, Lena (Hannah Al-Rashid), is two-timing her fiancé, Adam (Fachry Albar), with one of the camera crew and is now pregnant with the latter’s child.
No thanks to the constraint of time, the proceedings feel rushed and a little underdeveloped; nonetheless, the combination of exoticism, religion and fanaticism make for a particularly intriguing watch that culminates in a jaw-dropping conclusion which has to be appreciated for its low-budget and grungy nature. The f/x isn’t top-notch to say the least, but this is one short we would really like to see expanded into feature length with a bigger budget.
The last of the lot is “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” from Jason Eisener (“Hobo With a Shotgun”). It doesn’t get more straightforward than that, as some teenage hijinks for a weekend without mom and dad become much more terrifying when aliens (yes, aliens) that look like they walked off an episode of ‘The X-Files’ stumble in and start abducting them one by one. There is no explanation nor any backstory, but thankfully Eisener keeps it brief and doesn’t let it last beyond its welcome.
It does end off though where it started, in the house with the two detectives Larry and Ayesha, who are beset by the same horror which had possessed the house and its occupant (i.e. Larry’s target) in the first place. For fans of the ‘V/H/S’ series if there are any, it opens the door for yet another chapter to advance the mythology of just how these tapes are made, even though we hardly think the revelation will be anything as profoundly scary as ‘The Ring’ despite the obvious similarities.
Like we warned you earlier on, this is a strictly genre exercise that has no restraint nor any knowledge of excess. It is grotesque and decidedly so, gory, violent and deranged in every sense of the word. Check your sentiments about watching something like that before stepping in - and if that piques your interest, well ‘V/H/S 2’ will be right up your alley.
(Strictly a genre exercise for hardcore fans of the horror genre - this gory, grotesque, violent and deranged collection of shorts is hardly for anyone else)
Review by Gabriel Chong