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I am a huge fan of the horror anthology format, movies that have a handful of good ideas and just split them up into smaller stories. Horror for those with a short attention span, if you will. I also dig the "found footage" concept when it's done right, as it can add a lot of realism to a film. It can also come across as a cheap gimmick, but hey, can't anything? Now, I really enjoyed the first V/H/S movie, so I don't think it's terribly shocking when I say that I was looking forward to the sequel.
Review by Chad
Added: October 10, 2013
This sequel gives us four new stories from this universe, along with the obligatory wraparound sequence that is its own little story. It's a weak story that really only serves to string the "real" segments together and briefly explain the concept to those new to the series, but it's a story none the less. As mentioned, each of the stories use the "found footage" technique, and aside from Safe Haven, each one does it in a pretty unique way.
Directed by Simon Barrett
This is the wraparound story - it both opens and closes the film, and we also see bits and pieces of it in between the other stories. It focuses on a private investigator and his partner / girlfriend, and the two have been given the task of tracking down a teenager who has come up missing. They track him to an old house, and when they enter, they don't find the person that they're looking for... but they do find a bunch of television sets and a whole lot of VHS tapes. The guy starts to explore the house while his female friend pops in a few of the tapes, and the content on those tapes are the segments that we watch.
The beginning of this segment, the chunk that opens the film, is perfectly acceptable. It sets things into motion and I wouldn't call it bad by a long shot, but I will also say that it's nothing special. It sets the tone and gets the ball rolling, but that's about it. However, I will say that the ending chunk of it was pretty campy, and not in a good way. Thumbs up, really? You'll know what I mean, and you'll likely agree with how silly that was.
Phase I Clinical Trials
Directed by Adam Wingard
The first "real" story on the disc, this one centers around a guy who has recently received an experimental operation after losing an eye in a car accident. A doctor has put a new eye into his head, and this eye works by recording everything it sees and sending the data to his brain. It also sends the footage to the research team, a small price to pay for the chance to see again. The eye works wonderfully, but it also has a small side effect: it allows him to see ghosts. He eventually meets up with a lady who understands his predicament, having been given an operation to restore her hearing (and thus hearing the ghosts), and she explains to him that the more you pay attention to these spirits, the more they can interact with you. Our hero finds it difficult to quit paying attention to the ghosts in his house, but really, can you blame him?
Alright, so the story borrows liberally from The Eye, but it does bring some new stuff to the table. The explanation for the "ghost vision" worked better for me in this telling, and the ghosts themselves were pretty damned good. There's the typical ghostly little girl, but there's also an uncle that is incredibly disturbing (especially when you consider the implications behind the scene). Overall, it's a pretty enjoyable tale, but it's nothing to gush about either.
A Ride in the Park
Directed by Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale
A bike enthusiast straps a camera to his helmet to record his high-speed ride through the woods, when suddenly, a woman comes running out of the woods and asks him to help her boyfriend. Our leading man picks up a big stick and walks a little into the woods, where he discovers a few zombies shambling towards him, and... he runs away like a little girl. He runs back to the woman and tries to get her to come with him, but there's a few problems here: one, she has been bitten, two, she has turned while he was away, and three, she chomps down on our hero. He dies and turns into a zombie, and we then get to see the beginning of a zombie outbreak from the undead's perspective.
I really liked the basic concept here, the way that the found footage angle was incorporated into the story, but this is otherwise pretty standard zombie fare. The leading man takes a bite out of a couple of people, those people turn, they all head towards a child's birthday party and wreak havoc, you know the drill. Still, seeing it from the perspective of a zombie was damned fun. The only thing that hurt this one, and this may be a personal thing, was the way that the main zombie was slightly humanized. He retains some memories from before his first death, and those memories influence his actions towards the end. It's not a complete deal-breaker, even for zombie purists, but it did cause me to roll my eyes a bit.
Directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans
An investigative news team heads out to do a story on an Indonesian cult which is led by a man who claims that he will take his followers to the promised land. He and his followers, a healthy group of twenty children and dozens of adults, live in a compound out in the middle of nowhere, and our leading men - and woman - quickly realize that things are a little odd out here. They chalk it up to nothing more than an insane man and his equally insane followers, but they soon discover that the man is on to something.
I don't want to spoil too much of this, so let me just say that it involves demons from Hell, Baphomet in particular, being brought into our world. The story is shown through the cameras being used to record the story for their report, a fairly safe way of playing things, and it neither adds to nor distracts from the overall presentation. However, I will say that the story itself, along with the extreme gore effects used in it, make this the best segment on the disc. The leader of the cult is a damned good actor, and his character really sucks us into this story and shows that things are going to get weird very quickly... and then when things really start going wrong? It's just an awesome story with a great ending.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction
Directed by Jason Eisener
The parents are out of town for the weekend, and this allows a brother and sister pair to get into all sorts of mischief. The mischievous son, a young lad of about twelve or thirteen, invites a few of his friends over for a slumber party, while the darling daughter invites her boyfriend over for a weekend of drinking and premarital sex. The son enjoys making home movies, and one of his tricks is to strap his camera onto the family dog and have the dog "record" things for him... a trick he also uses to torment his sister by recording her having sex with her boyfriend. It's all fun and games, until a UFO shows up and a bunch of aliens set about tearing shit up. The camera is still strapped to the dog, and we see things from his perspective.
It's pretty campy on paper, and truthfully, it's not much better on the screen... but I still have to admit that I liked this one. The way that the aliens are handled was incredibly effective, with the various lighting and build-up techniques used to enhance them, and the costumes were also pretty good. I wouldn't say that those costumes were incredible, but better than average would be a fair way to put it. The storyline, once it really gets going, never lets up and keeps you on the edge of your seat, and it ends in what I believe to be the best possible way. I can't say that they saved the best for last, but second best? That's a pretty safe statement.
The conclusion of the wraparound story plays out after that segment, and we have ourselves a film. I enjoyed the overall product, but I will say that it was a small step down from the original V/H/S - it almost felt like these were the stories that were cut from that movie. They have the same feel and none of them are awful, not by a long shot, but they just don't measure up to the ones found in the original. I don't think that fans of the original will be let down by this one, but I also don't think that many of them will disagree with my comparison either. Those who hated the first movie, or who dislike "found footage" in general, would be well-advised to steer clear of this one: it's not going to change your mind on the series or the format. I'm going to go with a pretty solid rating for this one, but dock a few points if you're not a fan of horror anthologies and / or cinéma vérité. 7/10.