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Directed by Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Huw Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sánchez, Timo Tjahjanto, Adam Wingard
Starring Fachry Albar, Oka Antara, Lawrence Michael Levine, Mindy Robinson, Jay Saunders, Adam Wingard
Originally Released: January 19, 2013
Just in time for Halloween, Netflix has updated its line of horror movies, and I was thrilled to see V/H/S/2 had been added to their selections. Having thoroughly enjoyed the first anthology collection of found-footage horror stories, I was surprised to find that not only is the sequel superior to the original in all senses, but far more skin-crawling and overtly chilling. This is the perfect movie for Halloween!
Like V/H/S, the sequel is a collection of short macabre stories, all depicted in the found-footage style, with an overarching story / frame narrative that takes place in between each story; and actually continues the frame narrative of the first film. In fact, I believe it to be a prequel to that – the original frame narrative is titled “TAPE 56,” while this one is “TAPE 49.”
Or perhaps not…after viewing the film, there’s something odd about that house that these characters are finding all the tapes in. There is some kind of dimensional skewing of some kind, making it impossible to decipher how each fits with the other chronologically. And while that makes the overarching universe intriguing, this movie’s frame narrative suffers from a lot of logic gaps and believability.
That being said though, the strength of V/H/S/2 lies in the individual stories. Kicking off the anthology is “Phase I Clinical Trials,” a story filmed with a bionic eye that has the ability to capture and view spiritual dimensional aspects beyond the ordinary human senses. While the direction, acting, and horror elements don’t exactly knock-it-out-of-the-park with this story, it functions well in establishing the feel and vibe of the overall movie.
Zombies finally get a turn in the V/H/S universe with the second story, “A Ride In The Park.” Inventively caught and filmed (mostly) with a Bicycle Helmet GoPro Camera, the rapid tale follows the outbreak of the undead in a park area. Uniquely, the story is told completely from the zombie’s visual perspective, adding a little intelligence to the tale but also to the characters themselves.
“Safe Haven” is the highlight of the movie. Take all of the compound cult stories you’ve ever heard of, from David Koresh in Waco to the horrific tales of suicide cults; and amplify them by a thousand. Set in South-East Asia, a documentary crew successfully infiltrates an Indonesian cult to film their lifestyle.
Using small spy cams in addition to the HD documentary cameras, the tale begins with the filmmakers hoping to expose the “Father” / Leader of the cult using religious dogmatic principles to have numerous sexual relations with the underage children involved in the group. The truth is far deeper and more menacing than their assumptions, as quite literally, all hell breaks loose.
This is one of the most chilling and skin-crawling horror tales I have ever seen in my life, with plenty of shock and gore to match. The eerie beginnings of investigating a cult evolve quickly into a disturbing gorefest that is difficult to watch – and is essentially what Kevin Smith’s Red State should have been. This is amazing filmmaking right here, friends – it’s a gold standard in the realm of horror as far as I am concerned.
Rounding out the short stories is “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” – and the title pretty much says it all. It is Close Encounters crossed with Signs crossed with Seed. While it lacks the punch of Safe Haven, it’s still disconcerting and creepy, with some moments that are a little hard to watch. It is a good concluding tale to round out the movie, and ends with a chilling scene that is as heart-breaking as it is horrifying.
Like with the first film, the movie deviates from its namesake by using other forms of capture to film the stories. While I was rather critical of this in V/H/S, in V/H/S/2 it plays to the movie’s advantage. The innovative and distinctive manners in which the segments are filmed make for a far more exciting viewing experience, and coupled with much improved direction, amplify the frights as well.
For the horror fans, V/H/S/2 is a must-see. The gore is plentiful, and the frights are exceptional. On top of that the storywriting is very solid, with a lot more subtext and symbolism added for good measure in a few of the tales. Questioning humanity is dabbled with in the zombie story, while Safe Haven not only questions cults, but the power of organized religion as well.
V/H/S was good, but V/H/S/2 is an absolute gem of a horror flick. This is the perfect movie for Halloween viewing. Switch on the stream, switch off the lights, and get prepared for nightmares – V/H/S/2 is one of the best horror films I have ever seen.
Overall Rating: 666 out of 5