Cast: Adam Wingard, Jay Sanders, Fachry Albar, Hannah Al Rashid, Zack Ford
Running time: 96mins
The lowdown: Follow-up to the hit anthology original that retains the same structure but loses some of the surprise and scares that made V/H/S a winner. The Raid director Gareth Evans delivers the best episode, with other instalments coming from Jason (Hobo with a Shotgun) Eisener and Eduardo (The Blair Witch Project) Sanchez, plus You’re Next’s Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, who previously contributed to V/H/S.
The full verdict: It is fitting Eduardo Sanchez contributes to V/H/S2 (aka S-VHS) as he practically invented the found footage genre as co-director of The Blair Witch Project. Sanchez’s episode, “A Ride in the Park”, co-directed with Gregg Hale is a cheeky undead gorefest, with a biker’s helmet cam recording an orgy of flesh-eating when he’s turned into a zombie.
The episode is short, snappy and fun, but throwaway, which sums up V/H/S2.
Adam Wingard, director of the widely lauded You’re Next, directs the more original “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” about a man (Wingard himself) with a camera replacing his damaged eye who starts seeing dead people. Played as Peep Show meets The Sixth Sense, there are few scares but one first class gross-out when the hapless hero turns on his camera-eye.
V/H/S2 ends with a bang in Jason Eisener’s “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”, a home movie that captures, Cloverfield style, spectacular extra-terrestrial goings-on. Marred by a cast of kids so obnoxious you want them to be abducted and organ harvested, Eisener still manages standout moments including an alien briefly glimpsed swimming in a lake and a well-executed home invasion that suggests he could handle something much grander.
But, the film belongs to Gareth Evans and Tjahjanto’s “Safe Haven”. An Indonesian religious cult shocker, it is the only episode that remembers to be scary. Evans proves himself equally adept at horror as he is with action, plunging a documentary film crew into a nightmare when they infiltrate a religious compound that is witnessing odd occurrences.
Filled with unnerving images, including unhinged nurses wheeling a pregnant woman to a delivery room and a classroom of dead students, “Safe Haven” also contains one “ewwww” moment involving a particularly (real) runny nose. Thank Christ it wasn’t made in 3D.
The framing story, involving a PI and his assistant viewing the tapes in their search for a missing teen, is as perfunctory as in the original V/H/S.
More disappointing is that this instalment is as much of a boy’s club as the first movie. Gratuitous breast shots and a lack of female talent behind the camera means V/H/S will have to rethink its sexual politics if part 3 is an option.
Agreeable, but the tape’s been slightly chewed since part one.