The last few years have revealed a new trend in the horror film market by way of the collaborative anthology. A group of independent filmmakers banding together to create one vision filtered through each of their own distinct concepts…and the fans reap the benefits. The standout in this niche was 2012’s V/H/S. It included the talents of hot shit names like Ti West, while exposing the world to the abilities of several other up & comers, namely Adam Wingard (You’re Next). Considering the success of it’s first installment, it was inevitable that we’d see a sequel shortly thereafter. Here we are, a year later, discussing said sequel: V/H/S 2.
V/H/S 2 came to the plate with a lot of momentum working in its favor. Along for the ride this time is another all star roster of genre studs. In addition to Wingard and Simon Barrett (Wingard’s collaborative homie), you have veteran Eduardo Sanchez (Blair Witch Project), Jason Eisner (Hobo With A Shotgun), and director Timo Tjahjanto as well as a slew of others. The odds seemed stacked in the favor of the second installment, but the end result falls far short of its predecessor’s mark.
What worked for the original V/H/S was the consistency of its various segments. While some were stronger than others, the overall presentation was evenly spread. Each of those segments had an unspoken theme that tied them together. Even the wraparound story (which is always tricky in an anthology) had a place in this puzzle. V/H/S 2, however, is a roller coaster of a movie…but not in a good way. The highs reach heights the original did not, but the lows were monumental misfires. My favorite of the segments (which may be my favorite of both films) is Tjahjanto’s segment (which was co-written by Gareth Evans of The Raid fame), “Safe Haven”. In (what appears to be) his style, “Safe Haven” is a ball bat to the mouth. Explosive violence, a dark storyline, and a balls out finale left me reeling. It wouldn’t have been something you would have been able to put into a feature length format, but man, what a blast in the gut! On the flipside, you have segments like Sanchez’s “A Ride In The Park” that conceptually has all the right moves, but comes off pretty flat. I have to admit, as a fan of Sanchez’s I was kind of bummed out to leave his segment with a shrug of the shoulders. It feels like once conceived, the idea just didn’t translate visually. Seeing an zombie-like outbreak in its beginning stages should have been far more exciting than it was. The zombies look good and the gore is decently executed, but the film itself plays out in a very amateurish manner. I’m completely understanding of someone being green, but with a track record like the one Sanchez rocks, it really shouldn’t have happened. The tension should have been much more dense for a movie that was supposed to be showing us a catastrophe we weren’t meant to see.
The other standout was Eisner’s “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”. If you weren’t familiar with his previous work, you may find this particular segment obnoxious. The characters are punk kids and asshole teenagers who are left unattended. Sex jokes and illicit underage activity run amok until the flick takes a hard left into invasion territories. From that moment on, the tension doesn’t bubble…it’s erupts. You get all the chaos one would expect from an alien abduction being captured on film. It’s funny, obnoxious, scary, and all things in between. Much like “Safe Haven”, “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” is a huge standout in the V/H/S family. This leads to what makes part 2 less desirable than the first. Those peaks are extremely entertaining. But the segments that do NOT work are such a bummer. The other 2 unmentioned segments that round out V/H/S 2, “Tape 49” and “Phase/Clinical Trials” fizzle with a ho-hum fashion that give you the impression they weren’t priority pieces of this installment. Again, as previously stated, the original film had an even delivery of its product. There were ups and downs, but the end result is evenly presented. V/H/S 2, simply by having such incredible standout segments padded with such forgettable flicks leaves the viewer with a feeling of disappointment. That’s certainly not the sentiment I anticipated coming from this.
I’ve spoken with friends/fellow reviewers who’s reaction to V/H/S 2 is vastly different from mine. In fact, I’m aware that I may find myself in the minority when all is said and done. I’m also aware that I’m making all my comparisons to the first one to explain my disappointment. But, if you consider the post-V/H/S work these folks have released, I’m pretty comfortable in saying I did expect more! V/H/S 2 will reach its audience in a big way, no doubt about it, and to that point, could very well be followed up with a third sequel. Unfortunately, for me, 2 just didn’t have the balance that the original delivered. Explosive ups and downs left me wanting more out of the movie. I was hoping for that same distribution of emotions and instead had a couple really great short films surrounded by others that do not reach the bar set.