When V/H/S launched last it was met with mixed reviews. The concept was undoubtedly amazing and the return of the horror anthology was an idea beloved by all. However, V/H/S didn’t quite meet the lofty expectations. Through shoddy camera-work, average production values and a series of shorts that just didn’t deliver scares, the film was dismissed by most. That hasn’t stopped the creators though, and a year later they are back with the sequel V/H/S/2. Below you’ll find my short by short review…
What let down the first film was arguably the obnoxious and poorly conceived wrap-around. This time the wrap-around story is directed by Simon Barrett, who has been working with most of these guys for a long time as a writer. Tape 49 is a lot better than the wrap-around of the first film, it is much shorter and has a better hook. Whilst it is hard to build tension in 2 minute intervals, Barrett manages to and his short might just be the most intense of the bunch. Sadly though it doesn’t deliver on the scares from the tension, but it already marks a step in the right direction for the sequel.
Phase I Clinical Trials
Adam Wingard’s short is disappointing to say the least, however it is thankfully the first one up and it allows the next three to build nicely into each other. The premise is good but doesn’t work within the confines of a short film. The goings on within the short are left unexplained and will likely leave a lot of people stretching their heads wondering what was happening. Phase I Clinical Trials isn’t all bad, it has some genuine jump moments and some fantastic lighting and sound effects. This is the only short in the bunch that may work as a feature length and it could be fun to see it further explored in that longer platform.
A Ride in the Park
Directed by Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale (The Blair Witch Project), A Ride in the Park is the required ‘comedy’ short. Whilst in a lot of ways this might be considered the worst of the bunch, its premise is so great it makes you wonder why it has never been done before. A rider with a GoPro camera on his helmet is besieged by zombies and eventually becomes one. After that the short literally just follows this zombie as he rampages his way through a forest looking for food. It is very funny and entertaining, providing a slightly lighter short in a film full of horrific ones.
Gareth Evans (The Raid) and Timo Tjahjanto (L for Libido in The ABCs of Death) are at the helm of the Indonesian set Safe Haven. Billed by most critics as the best of the film, Safe Haven takes up a huge chunk of the run-time (I wouldn’t be surprised if it was half) and is all the better because of it. Set in a religious-cults base, the film follows four journalists as they interview the cult leader. Evans and Tjahjanto use the time wisely, doing everything they can to build a villain and the main characters. It doesn’t work perfectly, but does help in the building of the tension.
The second half of the short is, sorry, fucking insane. If I have one-knock on Safe Haven it is that it isn’t really scary, but it is exciting, brutal and wholly enjoyable to watch. It goes to extreme places and is by-far the most gore-drenched short of the bunch. Evans further continues to stretch himself and show what an incredible talent he is, and I also can’t wait to see what Tjahjanto does next.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction
When I watched the trailer the short that jumped out at me the most was Jason Eisener’s Slumber Party Alien Abduction. The camera is strapped to a dog and we witness an alien abduction at a slumber party. Eisener directs this with confidence in his idea, the production values are incredible and his use of sound and lighting is scarier than anything else in the film. It is the shortest of the bunch and uses every minute perfectly, providing perhaps the most intense and edge-of-your-seat 10 minutes of my life. Safe Haven pips it in overall quality, but Slumber Party Alien Abduction is terrifying and it is the reason why most of you will walk of V/H/S/2 with a rush of adrenaline.
In summary, V/H/S/2 is everything we were promised the first would be and then more. The creators have thankfully learnt from the missteps and made the necessary improvements to make this a significantly better film. The camera-work is instantly the noticeable improvement, and the quality of shorts is also a huge up-tick. I honestly can’t speak highly enough for V/H/S/2, my expectations were low and this comfortably blew them away.