It's rare these days that we get a horror sequel that's better than its predecessor. 'V/H/S/2' is tighter and has a better pace than the first installment, and it has a shorter run-time. By deciding to have four shorts rather than five, and having a better overall story arc that combines each segment, we get better scares, and less time to dive into "what went wrong." In this fantastic sequel, we have a new group of directors who seem to have taken the criticisms of the first film to heart. One thing is for sure, this second outing is a lot of fun with genuine scares and buckets of blood.
The overall story arc is called 'Tape 49', which was made by Adam Wingard and Simon Barret, who are the directors who made the framing story from the first film, which was titled 'Tape 56'. I'm guessing this is a sort of prequel to that. More or less of the same scenario, we follow a guy named Larry, who is a private detective who works with his assistant as they film people cheating on one another in seedy motels. Yes, in the first minute of the film. Larry gets a call from a woman who says she hasn't seen her college student son in a few days, but might know his whereabouts. The two head to a house and discover many tube tvs and monitors lit up with piles of VHS tapes littered around. Larry investigates the house while his female assistant starts to watch the videotapes, completely unaware that there is someone lurking in the shadows.
That brings us to our first segment, which is entitled 'Phase I Clinical Trials'. Again this is Wingard and Barrett's segment, which could be described as "'The Sixth Sense' amped up to eleven." The camera this time is implanted into the eye of a guy named Herman, who lost his eye in a recent accident. His doctor explains that this is a new technology and that everything he sees will be recorded for a few weeks as they run some tests. He basically has a bionic eye that can record, amongst other things. As Herman walks out of the doctor's office, some strange yet pretty girl named Clarissa takes notice of him as he walks out. But once Herman is home, he soon realizes that he in fact sees dead people, and not only does he see them, but he sees that their intent is evil and they can interact with the living. Clarissa somehow shows up to Herman's place and warns him of his new eye's capability, but the evil forces he sees might be too strong for the two of them.
The second segment is called 'A Ride in the Park' and was made by Greg Hale and Eduardo Sanchez, whose names were in the spotlight a decade or two ago with their hit film 'The Blair Witch Project'. This is the zombie segment, which should mostly satisfy us undead fans as it tells the story from the zombie's point of view. We follow Jay as he is on a bike trail in a wooded park with a camera mounted to his helmet and his iPhone camera mounted to his bike. After a few seconds of riding, he is attacked by a bloodthirsty and puking zombie. Thus begins his quick transformation as he looks for fresh flesh and blood. He even tries to eat himself, but quickly spits it out. As a few other zombies join in on the carnivorous fun, they hear the sounds of a birthday party for a young girl, which the undead attack. There is plenty of gore in this one.
Next is by far the best segment and my personal favorite called 'Safe Haven', which was directed by Timo Tajahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans ('The Raid: Redemption'). This is the scariest, goriest, and creepiest short film I have ever seen. Things go from bad to worse, then to complete Hell in a matter of minutes as a group of young filmmakers in Indonesia are trying to document and out a local religious cult group, which is rumored to deal in child slavery and rape. The film crew interviews the leader known as Father, who oddly agrees to let the film crew come to their compound and shoot footage. But, Father has another agenda. Once the film crew is there, they soon realize that this place is not normal and is packed with tons of adults and about 20 kids. But when the bell rings, Father gets on the PA system and begins letting his followers know "It's time." The following could be described as pure terror as it mixes demons, zombies, mass graphic suicides, exploding people, the devil, and a sick and twisted birth scene. This segment will truly keep you up at night.
The last segment is called 'Slumber Party Abduction' and was directed by Jason Eisener ('Hobo With A Shotgun'). Yes, this involves aliens from another world, and besides the fact that these aliens look the same as we've always seen them over the years, this was a decent short, however it shouldn't have been placed at the end. When a young kid and his older teenage sister are left at their lakefront home for a holiday weekend, the kid invites a few of his friends over, while his sister invites her boyfriend over for the overnight party. What is unfortunate in this segment as that virtually every character is unlikable and comes across as rude, mean, and douche-bag-like. You wouldn't want to be friends with any of these characters. But as night falls and everybody is picking on everyone and trying to ruin everyone's good time, bright lights, loud noises and aliens begin to appear. Aliens that can teleport anywhere or make things disappear. The characters are picked off one by one by the aliens who show up with long arms, but only when a loud crescendo happens. Interestingly enough, the camera this time around is put on the family dog, as a means to spy on the sister's intimate moments with her boyfriend.
Then we have the final moments of the overall story arc, which are pretty terrifying, I would say even better than the previous segment. Most of these segments start out very creepy, and then end with people literally running for their lives as the world around them caves in with monsters, aliens, demons, and zombies. It's a simple formula, but very effective. The point of these 'V/H/S' films is to scare you, make you laugh, and have a great time, which this sequel does very well. I'm excited that there will be a third one.
'V/H/S 2' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It's always difficult to talk about the video presentation with these types of films. This "found footage", all by different directors with different gear would make your head explode in talking about all of these different aspects and presentations. Not to mention to distinguish all of the flaws that were done on purpose to give an authentic VHS handmade look to it versus actual compression issues.
I will say that this time around, there isn't much shakiness to the whole film, as the directors wanted to steer away from that effect. Rather than have a person with a camera in their hand running and the picture being so choppy that you want to throw up half the time, we have characters that put hidden cameras in their clothing or hats, or even put their cameras down in order to get a wide shot of something. It all has a very steady-cam feel to it, which made for a much better viewing experience.
The detail is almost always soft and given a layer of grain in the editing bay. But depth is never a problem. In the daytime outdoor scenes, the detail becomes sharper, but most of the time we're in soft mode. Colors are mostly muted, but when the gorier scenes take place, colors are heightened to get that gooey red color to pop off screen. I would say the most color was from the zombie segment, as we see in a POV shot in which a zombie devours someone's insides.
Blacks aren't always deep and inky and contrast levels seem to fluctuate often. All of the damage, dirt, and debris that pop up here are all done purposefully to give that damaged and found look. In other words, the picture is great for what they were going for.
This release comes with a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. Unlike the video presentation, where they were trying to recreate what a VHS would look like, with this audio track, they went full on digital and up to date. There are no pops, cracks, hissing or any other issues to speak of that would usually crop up on a VHS tape, or even DVD.
The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. But it's with the sound effects that the true genius of this track takes place. The sounds of the zombies, monsters, demons, screams, and things that go bump in the night are very effective and pour out of the surrounds. The gunshots are eerie and feel like they're coming from all directions. We are literally placed in the center of this sound and it is terrifying. LFE is well balanced, with some good bass kicking in from time to time.
'V/H/S/2' is even better than the first. It flows better and has more genuine scares. These horror anthology films aren't over yet, as #3 is on the way. The video and audio presentations are great with some decent, if not too brief extras. This is a perfect film for Halloween. Highly recommended.