“V/H/S/2” is not a direct sequel to last year’s found footage horror compilation but more of a second volume following the same format of people breaking into a house and finding some very disturbing VHS tapes. This installment features four short films all shot largely from a first person perspective, and all from different directors. In addition to the shorts, is a wraparound segment of two private investigators who find the footage.
Both “V/H/S” films are a stark departure from the mainstream horror we are used to seeing in theatres these days. The horror of modern films such as “House at the End of the Street” comes from suspense and tension. The viewer is afraid of what they can’t see or what they fear they might see next. In “V/H/S/2,” the horror comes from what you see directly in front of you, largely due to the POV nature of the filmmaking. The end result is a different, grisly, subversive type of horror that will leave you wanting more, or covering your eyes waiting for it to end.
The first of the four shorts “Phase I Clinical Trials,” stars and is directed by Adam Wingard (“You’re Next”) and is the most relevant and truly scary. Wingard plays Herman, who gets a bionic implant in his eye that records his every move as he sees it. Does this remind you of anything? The twist here is that the implant picks up some sort of electro-magnetic activity which causes Herman to see ghosts. Herman is understandably freaked out and is paid a visit by Clarissa who, as Wingard so aptly describes it, explains it all, and can only hear the ghosts through her cochlear implant. Thank goodness Clarissa knows how to get rid of the ghosts. Now if this were a mainstream horror film, maybe the ghosts could be made to disappear by water, or sunlight, or something else relatively harmless. But this is “V/H/S/2” and the only way to get rid of ghosts is to HAVE SEX IN FRONT OF THEM! This leads to some mayhem which I’ll leave for you as a surprise.
What I enjoyed most about this segment is the relevancy of people having something on (or in) your head that records your every move, and how that may not be desirable. Does this mean that Google Glass will start a ghost lead apocalypse? Possibly, but not likely.
Segment two is “A Ride in the Park.” This one can be summed up very quickly. A guy goes for a bike ride in the woods with a camera strapped to his helmet. He gets attacked by a zombie, and thus becomes a zombie himself. Shit goes down.
This segment is a lot of fun, and is captivatingly disturbing at times but the zombie thing has become a such a cliché and it’s hard not to watch this without chuckling instead of screaming due to the place zombies have taken in popular culture in the last decade or so.
Segment three starts off as something a little different and definitely has a unique feel to it compared to the first two shorts. The piece is about a documentary crew interviewing an Indonesian religious cult leader. Instead of the singular cameras attached to people like in the other three shorts, the documentary camera and a small spy camera are the eyes of the film which makes for a more traditional, and versatile shooting style. The documentary camera is able to capture some nuance that you can’t realistically capture from a first person fixed camera. This is the longest of the four short films so it is able to offer a slow burn until everything breaks into a gory chaos similar to “A Ride in the Park.” Of the four, this is the piece that could most easily be fleshed out into a feature as the characters and relationships between the documentary crew showed potential for a more in depth look.
The final and most bizarre short is “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” which is exactly as it sounds. Much of the piece is actually shot from the point of view of the family dog which creates for a unique, very low vantage point for much of the footage and creates a strong, but suspenseful sense of confusion towards everything that is happening, which is exactly what it would actually feel like if you were suddenly ambushed and abducted by aliens.
The cohesion of all four films is a welcome trait. It makes it feel like four parts of a larger story, rather than just a collection of short horror films just for the sake of it. The camera is the thread that ties the four pieces together. In each film, the camera is the main character and creates a sense of reality to the absurdity of the films. It’s definitely a low budget production so the POV style creates a built in excuse for the amateurish aesthetic.
Pretty much everything is shot on video, so it’s a very shaky, homemade look for the most part, but that’s the point here. That said, the video quality is very good. Everything is big, bright, and clear, so be ready to cover your eyes when those zombies get in to someone’s guts. Even though these are supposed to be found VHS tapes, everything is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio. Yeah, VHS home videos likely wouldn’t be letterboxed but widescreen makes for a better viewing experience and gives the filmmakers more room for creativity so it’s acceptable.
Due to the nature of the films, there is very little music and at times not much dialogue. The DVD is still presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track that puts a lot of emphasis and detail into the vomiting, blood splattering, and gun shots. The strong audio paired with the crude video makes for an intense experience.
The DVD features both the rated version and an unrated theatrical version. Usually the rated version is the theatrical cut. I watched both and saw very little difference between the two so I’m not sure what’s going on there, it may just be a marketing gimmick for people who think they’ll get more gore or sex. There are a few very short vignettes about each of the four shorts and commentary tracks from all of the directors over their respective films. There is also a VHS version of the film available on its own or as part of a combo pack which is pretty cool as a collectible.
“V/H/S/2” is not for everybody. Its main appeal is sex, nostalgia, and perversion. If you’re a fifteen year old boy, you’ll love it, I guarantee. If you’re older than that, you still might enjoy it but you have to be prepared for a lot of gore, some gratuitous nudity and some really out there plots that get dangerously close to crossing the line into comedy. It’s certainly worth a look for horror buffs, but I wouldn’t recommend it to general audiences.