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2013 | 96 min | Not rated | 1.85:1



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Theatrical release date

 12 July, 2013
 14 October, 2013

Country of origin

 United States



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Screenshots from V/H/S/2 Blu-ray

V/H/S/2 Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, June 13, 2013

Fueled by an obsession with low-fi terror and how it could reinvigorate the horror anthology subgenre, 2012’s “V/H/S” misfired more than it maimed. Hobbled by artistic unevenness and a dim-witted wraparound story, the jerky, exceedingly violent endeavor didn’t seem like a natural fit for sequels. However, never underestimate the power of a cult audience. Less than a year later, we’re faced with “V/H/S/2,” which continues the saga of the haunted videotapes, only the quality of the shorts presented here is miles ahead of what’s come before, with a newfound dedication to turning these disparate visions of doom into interesting little slices of POV misery, finding noticeable care poured into the work to form a stronger, more cohesive sequel.

Larry (Lawrence Michael Levine) and Ayesha (Kelsey Abbot) are private investigators assigned to enter the house of a missing college student, ordered to record their every move for future inspection. Stumbling across a pile of VHS tapes and a laptop message from the missing man, Ayesha begins to view the recorded content, sucked into their black magic. In “Clinical Trials” (directed by Adam Wingard), an accident victim (Wingard) is presented with an eye implant that records everything he sees, trading privacy for sight. Returning home, the man begins to witness malevolent ghosts in his presence, soon learning from a fellow patient (Hannah Hughes) that his newfound poltergeist-spotting ability is a direct result of his surgery. In “A Ride in the Park” (directed by Gregg Hale and Eduardo Sanchez), a biker (Jay Saunders) prepares for a refreshing trip through local woods, only to encounter the development of a zombie outbreak. Failing to escape the hungry wrath of the undead, the man joins the pack, soon terrorizing other hapless innocents in the area. In “Safe Haven” (directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans), a group of journalists travels to a remote area of Indonesia to report on a troublesome cult built on the manipulation of women and children. Welcomed inside the compound, the camera-ready observers are quickly paralyzed by infighting and carelessness, witnessing The Father (Epy Kusnandar) commence a ceremony that intends to bring pure evil into the world. And “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” (directed by Jason Eisener) concerns the tomfoolery of kids with a camera, finding their mischief interrupted by charging extraterrestrials out to devour human prey.

As with “V/H/S,” the sequel is defined by the strengths of its segments. It’s encouraging to witness artistic development for the follow-up, which takes greater care with story structure and the positioning of chills, pushing the filmmaking collective to top the previous effort with their own little macabre designs. However, what’s disappointingly retained is adherence to the voodoo of the VHS tapes, which are employed once again to tie the stories into one big bundle of mystery. At the very least, “V/H/S/2” makes a passable case for Ayesha’s viewership, concocting a paranormal hold that emerges from observation, with the cursed investigator unable to break the compulsion to keep feeding tapes into the player, finding each short sapping her soul. The wraparound segments are mercifully brief and more direct with their eerie possession overtones, though I still fail to see the need to dabble in vague motivations to ease viewers into the individual works. The producers seem fearful of launching the concept without an entry point, but the diverse nightmares of “V/H/S/2” need no explanation.

Unlike the original picture, segments for “V/H/S/2” are evenly matched, with one showing a touch more imagination than the rest. Film MVP award goes to “Safe Haven,” which manages to disturb with an onslaught of unknown horrors stemming from a foreign locale and the confusing actions of a cult beginning its ascension phase. Its bloodletting is also remarkably repulsive, building to a full sprint of violence that finds the journalists fighting to escape the cult’s compound, encountering haunting visions of murder and demonic visitation along the way. “A Ride in the Park” wins points for its inventive use of POV cinematography, motivating the presentation through a GoPro helmet cam attached to the Biker, giving the viewer a front-row feel to the birth of a zombie. The script’s (by Jamie Nash and Sanchez) clever play on the baton-pass feeding habits of the undead also energizes the short, preserving surprise.

If there must be a weak link, I supposed “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” fits the bill, overly reliant on blaring noises to scare audiences, while the inherent shaky-cam approach of the “V/H/S” world is worked out to a point of exhaustion in Eisener’s hands, though the alien rampage is genuinely unsettling, offering those with a fear of the greys a thorough psychological workout as the visitors race after their victims.

“V/H/S/2” is refreshingly focused, with a great amount of creepiness to spread around, not to mention offering gobs of gore to supply a few jolts. Its work to course-correct the franchise rewards with a tighter, more adventuresome sequel, smartly using hindsight to build a consistent odyssey of voyeuristic brutality.

Starring: Kelsy Abbott, Hannah Al Rashid, Fachry Albar
Directors: Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Adam Wingard

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