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Where V/H/S was a raw, lo-fi and frightening odyssey via
POV, its sequel is—and from the very outset—bigger, weirder and even reflective
of its predecessor. In the first few minutes alone, V/H/S 2 runs through almost
every format previously explored, from spy camera to camcorder to iChat; and
almost every perspective as well, from investigative to voyeuristic (often both
at the same time) to daily doings. And while less traditionally dreadful, where
it all leads is infinitely more thrilling.
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the duo behind A HORRIBLE
WAY TO DIE and the upcoming YOU’RE NEXT flex their muscle first. Barrett
handles directing duties on this film’s wraparound, the similarly titled “Tape
47”, while Wingard helms and stars in the anthology’s premiere segment (written
by Barrett). Both filmmakers (the only returning from V/H/S and seeming guides
of the two pictures), present each piece like they have something to prove; like
they want to take the audience deeper. Barrett is one of the first people on
screen, and quickly on full display. V/H/S/2, within 30 seconds, displays the voyeuristic,
gratuitous nudity the original was often maligned for, only to follow it
immediately with its director laid bare. Barrett could be using the moment to
declare fearlessness, or a call for everyone to let their guard down; the case
could be made for both. It’s certainly an opening statement.
The camera that captures him in throes of passion is that of
a private eye (Lawrence Levine), finishing one assignment and on to the next as
he and partner Ayesha (Kelsy Abbott) break into the home of a missing college
student. The house, in squalor, is seemingly empty except for more tapes. Soon enough,
they start seeing what’s on them.
In a device that seems to parallel David Bruckner’s “Amateur
Night” from V/H/S, Wingard’s segment begins as his character opens a new eye.
Removing spy glasses from the equation, the protagonist is undergoing early testing
of a sort of cyborg-eye (we are actually a part of him) connected to a chip in
his brain and, for research purposes, will record his every move. As he moves
about his lavish home, Wingard finds the tech tunes to a frequency he’s
A spookshow, Wingard’s segment brings a neat twist to classic
haunted house territory with specters materializing at any moment, providing both
expected stings and moodier frights. It’s a classic warning of man’s advancement
as the closer to God we get (creating new organs), the closer we come to things
we may not want to experience. There’s also a case to be made that it’s
connected to V/H/S’ “The Strange Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was
Younger,” but that’s for another time.
Mixing the simple/classic with clever is often where V/H/S/2 shines. Eduardo Sanchez and longtime producer Gregg Hale (THE BLAIR WITCH
PROJECT), arguably two of the gentleman responsible for why films like V/H/S
exist, tell a tale of zombies by zombies. As an active cyclist with a GoPro
attached to his helmet is beset by the living dead, he falls to the ground. The
camera, as in the climaxes of so many found footage films—BLAIR WITCH,
included—falls with him. But that’s when the short really gets going. Our main
eye jerks back to some semblance of life, eventually becoming part of a horde
and revealing affecting remnants of humanity within. That’s not to mention some
finely repulsive gore and a fantastic first-person car trampling.
The latter half is where V/H/S 2 gets incredible. A leaner
film, V/H/S/2 is still bursting with energy as Gareth Huw Evans, of THE RAID:
REDEMPTION fame, alongside co-director Timo Tjahjanto (MACABRE, THE ABCs OF
DEATH) craft a docu-like chronicle of an Indonesian cult that flies so high, its
Fulci-esque destination will leave fists in the air. Quite probably the most
insane, “Safe Haven” brings supernatural, demonic reckoning upon on a team of
filmmakers who’re finally besieged by a climactic creature with an entrance so very
gleefully, savagely rowdy, it’s unforgettable.
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN’s Jason Eisener finally brings the house
down with his penchant for both mischievous sweetness and reckless genre
abandon. “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” breathes new life into the traditional
design of grey, black-eyed extraterrestrials, as their elongated bodies,
constantly creeping, are framed in stylish, eerie, chaotic silhouette. The key,
though, is adoring the on-the-cusp-of-teenagedom kids wreaking havoc on an
older sister with their parents gone. Like the dizzying HOBO, which transcended
its influences, the segment quickly and firmly establishes real character in
its ensemble, and like ATTACK THE BLOCK, manages to find (instead of just ape)
a real deal Amblin feel. It also manages to find real childhood scares, as one character
trapped in a blanket and filmed so tightly, evokes a suffocating sense of being
too small for the world, even your own bedding.
V/H/S/2 is a rare breed of anthology in which every segment is not only good, but cracking with creativity, even. And lots and lots and lots of blood.
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