Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // July 12, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted June 5, 2013
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Some horror fans rejoiced, while others raged with anger when V/H/S was released last year. After playing at numerous film festivals, it divided audiences. While some labeled it as one of the better anthology films around, others thought it was dreadful. I personally found it to be an enjoyable horror feature with some solid concepts. After receiving such a substantial amount of hype, a sequel was inevitably announced. However, it features a different group of directors to handle each of the videotape shorts that are connected by a plot that links the snuff films. One of the major problems about these horror pictures is that some shorts will surely be better than others. This will primarily be based upon personal preference, especially since each filmmaker has his own style within the genre. The issue with V/H/S/2 is that none of them are genuinely scary and there are only a couple stand-outs. However, it manages to be considered passable.

Two private investigators search for a missing student, as his mother hasn't heard from him in weeks. The duo break into his house at night, but find only a few televisions blaring white noise and a large collection of VHS tapes. They begin to investigate the student's house, computer, and videotapes. Each cassette provides a series of incredibly disturbing content, which makes the private investigators realize that the tapes might have something to do with the student's disappearance. With each tape they watch, the duo begins to see into his deep and dark obsession.

Clinical Trials is the first tape that plays. It follows the story of a patient who received an eye transplant, but it records everything that he sees in order to provide the doctors with data. However, this particular eye allows him to see ghosts, who become increasingly malevolent. The second story, A Ride in the Park tells the narrative of a bicyclist who decided to ride in the woods. He comes across a hysterical woman who turns him into a zombie. He starts wandering the woods and biting any human in site. Safe Haven is next, as it tells the narrative of a group of documentary filmmakers who are exposing a cult compound. This seemingly simple project quickly transforms into an incredibly disturbing fight for survival. The final tape is Alien Abduction Slumber Party, which explores a group of humans having a sleepover. Unusual occurrences begin to take place, as unwelcome visitors terrorize the group.

V/H/S/2 begins in a similar way that its predecessor did. The film doesn't give its audience a single reason to care about the main characters. Neither of them receive any disposition and their actions are utterly unconvincing. The story that ties all of the tapes together is clearly the weakest portion to be found here. Once the first tape is slid into the VHS player, I was excited to see this round of horror segments. Clinical Trials is directed by Adam Wingard, who was behind the camera of the upcoming motion picture You're Next. Unfortunately, this short is far too familiar. The plot itself clearly steals from Hong Kong's The Eye, which was later remade for American audiences in 2008. Wingard has an acceptable build-up, although it doesn't lead to anything scary. Once the video goes out, it left me shrugging. Next is Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale's A Ride in the Park. These filmmakers are known for The Blair Witch Project back in 1999. This is an interesting segment, as it provides moviegoers with a zombie POV experience. This is a worthy addition to the motion picture, since it explores some intriguing content in an entertaining fashion.

The third videotape happens to be the picture's best entry. It's called Safe Haven, which was directed by Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption) and Timo Tjahjanto. They deliver an unusual story, which has numerous eerie moments. This twisted short is exactly what target audiences will be craving. Unfortunately, the movie ends on a disappointing note. The final entry is called Alien Abduction Slumber Party, which was directed by Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun). Instead of delivering a genuinely creepy plot about alien abduction, it never scares or engrosses. The camera offers point-of-view shots from the dog's perspective, which allows for some interesting camerawork. Otherwise, it's a huge letdown that left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Afterwards, writer/director Simon Barrett attempts to wrap-up the story that connects the videotapes. If you thought that the ending to the first V/H/S was bad, this is much worse.

Since the title is still named after the analog recording cassette, the entire movie looks as one would expect. The picture is presented with a low-quality resolution. This fits the atmosphere and develops a similar tone that the previous entry displayed. Each videotape offers each directors' individual style and color palette, which allows the visual design to work. Each one has a handheld style, but they all deliver different perspective shots. Unlike most of these motion pictures, it's always easy to see what's going on here. However, the creepy tone that was presented in the previous entry is gone. In fact, it rarely feels as if it's trying to be scary.

Even though I'm in the minority for liking the first V/H/S, I can't entirely get behind the sequel. The majority of it lacks tension, scares, and originality. While Safe Haven and A Ride in the Park are the two best entries, the remainder simply doesn't fit. The central story that ties everything together is surely the worst portion of the motion picture. Fortunately, there are some redeeming qualities that allow this film to barely receive a passing score. Similar to the previous entry, there's no guarantee that you'll enjoy this, as it will surely divide moviegoers. V/H/S/2 is entertaining, but it fails to improve upon the original. If you're still interested in checking it out, the film comes out on iTunes and Video-On-Demand on June 6th and hits theaters on July 12th. Rent it.

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