In the fashion of horror anthology films the concept is the same but our wraparound (segment that ties the other stories together) is different. This time around a pair of private investigators are hired to find a missing student. Their leads take them to a house where they discover some televisions, monitors, laptops, and of course a VHS player. On the desktop of the laptop is a video of the missing student. While the head investigator searches the house for more clues the assistant watches the video. Right away things start to get creepy. The young man on the video starts talking about that you have to watch the videos in order. Something along those lines anyway? The assistant puts a video in the player and thus begins the terror.
The first video/segment is called “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” directed by Adam Wingard (YOU'RE NEXT). Herman gets an eye operation after a terrible accident. The procedure is new and experimental so a tiny camera is installed to record for further testing and research. Everything is recorded, no privacy allowed. Things start getting weird from the get go. That very same evening Herman starts to see strange and creepy things. Images of a young dead girl and the illusion of somebody under the covers laying in his bed.
The next morning the visions have stopped and Herman meets a young woman who he recognizes from the hospital. She tells him about a similar operation done to her ear and that now she can hear dead people. According to Clarissa it's best to just live with seeing “the people” and ignore them. They only bother you if you're freaked out by them. She's learned to tune out the voices and it seems to be working for her. After a very convincing distraction everything seems fine, but apparently Herman isn't that strong and his visions get worse.
“Phase 1 Clinical Trials” worried me about V/H/S/2. It fits the tone just fine but the segment felt very weak as a opener. Somewhere in the middle of an anthology movie would have better suited this short.
The next tape is a segment titled “A Ride In The Park”. This one directed by the guy that brought us THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. It starts off pretty cool with being shot on what appears to be a GoPro camera, the HD video is stunning. So is this student collecting these videos and importing the footage to VHS because he is a hipster? Not a nitpick, just a funny observation. The creep factor is still relevant despite the use of current digital technology. I get a FACES OF DEATH meets THE RING vibe with this new horror franchise.
In “A Ride In The Park” Jay ( I think that's his name) is riding some bike trails through the park. He loves to bike. With his new camera he is ready to get some good footage of his rides. His girlfriend calls him and scolds Jay for loving bike riding more than her. So it's one more ride before heading home when all of a sudden Jay is stopped by a woman screaming bloody murder in the forest. He stops to help only to get bitten on the neck by her. So now “A Ride In The Park” is a zombie movie. Good grief! It's not like we get enough of those nowadays! But wait. This is a POV zombie tale, and I don't think I've seen one of those yet so this could be interesting. It's what you would expect from a POV zombie short which is good and bad. The good. Interesting camera angles. The bad. The usual tropes of a zombie story.
I ended up loving this segment quite a bit. Toward the end I really liked the struggle that Jay was going though being a zombie and how his human characteristics were trying to stay alive. Now I haven't seen WARM BODDIES yet but I have a hunch that the end of “A Ride In The Park” has more impact than that movie.
What have the investigators been up to? After viewing the second tape Ayesha starts to become catatonic but compelled to continue watching the tapes.
The third tape “Safe Haven” directed by Gareth Evans (THE RAID) ended up being my favorite segment and one of the best things I've seen this year. “Safe Haven” follows a group of documentary filmmakers shooting a movie about the leader of a cult. The Indonesian Jim Jones as I like to call him. With video and spy cameras we are able to witness the inner workings of the cult. “Safe Haven” alone is worth the watch of V/H/S/2. I don't want to spoil all the fun so I apologize for sounding vague. Within the cult a ritual is upon us. Unsuspecting to the invited film crew, two of them are extremely welcome. Think ROSEMARY'S BABY meets CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST meets Italian horror. It gets so crazy! I was in shock and awe repeatedly. Things I haven't seen done before in a horror film or at least not done since the late seventies or early eighties. The types of things you'll never see in a mainstream multiplex Hollywood movie today. I loved it! Watching “Safe Haven” made me excited about horror again.
Before getting into the fourth and final tape the wraparound of V/H/S/2 concludes with the student on the laptop video killing himself in the very same house the investigators are watching the videos in. Long story short he's a zombie and he kills, oops sorry, turns them into zombies. The end. Creepy but not nearly as cool as the first films wraparound.
The fourth tape “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” was the funnest segment in the movie. Directed by Jason Eisner (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” follows a group of friends enjoying the summer and also pranking one of the friends older sister. One night the sister plans on throwing a party at the lake house while the parents are away. The little brother and his pals plan the ultimate prank. Mission accomplished, but it never takes much to embarrass your older sister. Her and her boyfriend plan a little payback and let me tell you it's the ultimate payback. Good thing for this kid that shortly thereafter alien's pay the lake house a visit because after what the sister and her boyfriend caught on tape that guy will have to transfer to a different school, out of town. It sounds silly typing it out but believe me this premise totally works. I got pretty nostalgic watching this segment. Back in the day around third or fourth grade I remember staying the night at a friends house. He lived in a big house and that night his older sisters pulled a prank on us that the house was haunted. I love stuff like that.
I really hope this is the beginning to a new horror franchise. The genre really needs something like V/H/S and V/H/S/2. Maybe these films can accomplish what GRINDHOUSE failed to do? I certainly hope so.