Score: 4 out of 5 stars
V/H/S 2 is, as was its predecessor, an anthology film comprised of horror shorts by different directors strung loosely together by a framing story. The excuse for getting the tapes together this time are investigators stumbling upon the collection on a search for a missing person. Sure. So how are the tapes?
The first one, “Clinical Trials” I thought was cause for concern. A man’s new artificial eye is doubling as a recording device for its creators’ research. Of course this being a horror film, the eye brings with it the startling additional ability to see the dead. Eventually the patient links up with an eccentric female patient who can hear the dead and panic and chaos ensue. Well made and a bit slicker for having the eye-camera being so super high-tech, “Clinical Trials” just seemed a bit predictable compared to what V/H/S delivered.
If “Clinical Trials” had me worried, the second short “A Ride in the Park” brought me right back on board. A biker mounts a camera to his helmet in order to record his ride through the park when he is unfortunately attacked by zombies. But the mounted camera records regardless. From then on, we get a hilarious look at the POV of a zombie– from the uninterrupted conversion from human to undead, to his bumbling recruitment of his small zombie posse. A bloody climax at a kids’ park birthday party had me cracking up.
“Safe Haven” continued the upward climb of these stories for the sheer number of WTF moments per minute. A film crew looks to investigate a cult leader and his flock in their compound. The Indonesian guru, ominously known as “father”, is surrounded by tons of female acolytes who eventually over power the crew in a deliriously over-the-top and hellish finale. The punchline of this short was my favorite in V/H/S 2.
It’s difficult to follow the madness of “Safe Haven” but “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” does so admirably. Eventually the most serious of the bunch, it relies on a dog-mounted video recorder (he’s the tool in a prank war), to capture a terrifying batch of aliens assaulting a kids’ party. It’s a blur of panicked teens, woods, and that poor dog having to face aliens. The sounds of the alien invasion are what really sell the terror here, but having the dog camera-man makes this one the hardest to watch both for the visual shakiness and his helplessness.
Notable in this installment is often its reliance on broad sunlight over shadows which help tip the scale towards more humor than horror on occasion, while helping to showcase the gore in all its glory. Like the previous film, the setup to our watching this collection is mostly irrelevant but the payoff contains to my mind the most gruesome shot of the film. After what we’ve been through, it’s an impressive feat and a great closer to our trip through this horror funhouse.