V/H/S 2 (2013): The Clamshell from Hell

The original title of V/H/S 2 was the more fitting S-V/H/S, named for the improved tape that quickly upgraded home video quality, but for my money they might as well call this one V/H/S and go back and call the first installment BetaMax. The sequel is an improvement overall in the average of the stories, but in the end, it still doesn't add up to a solid anthology horror film. The highs pitch higher than before, and the segments that work really work. One of the other main improvements was the wraparound segments  actually culminated into something (actually something pretty great) to end the film. It didn't feel like a complete throwaway just there to stitch together film film. Most anthology horror movies don't pull that off to my satisfaction, and with just enough intriguing mythos into the effects of the film's collection of tapes, the writers were smart enough to tease out more backstory while leaving more to show in future installments. From here on out I'm going to give super briefs reviews of the segments. I can't say much because when dealing with these short segments the twists they turn on are generally right at the surface.

Phase 1 Clinical Trials directed by Adam Wingard (You're Next, A Horrible Way to Die, Home Sick)

Super supernatural kickoff keeps it brief, gory, and exciting out of the gate. This isn't the most original tale, but the EC comics flavor it showed off sold me. Plus, it inspired me to watch more Wingard and check out A Horrible Way to Die right after.(In fact, you should look for a full review of that film coming up this Sunday!) Wingard is one of the more imaginative directors working in the horror field right now, and he sets a great tone to get things going early on. Unfortunately, the segment is so brief and to the point that saying much at all specific ruins the effect here. 

Bugg Segment Rating: 3.5 of 5

A Ride in the Park directed by Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project, Lovely Molly) and Gregg Hale (The Blair Witch Project, producer)

If I had known it was the Blair Witch guys that directed this segment beforehand, I would have been set against it from the start. Thankfully, I didn't have to know to dislike it. All I had to do was realize it was all filmed from the POV of a camera mounted on the helmet of a bicyclist who gets zombified. Sure, it has a moment toward the end of the segment that is intriguing, but in the face of Warm Bodies, zombie first person has been done much better. The initial inertia i felt after Clinical Trials has slowed to a slight roll. 

Bugg Segment Rating: 2 of 5

Safe Haven Directed by Gareth Evans (The Raid:Redemption, Merantau) and Timo Tjahjanto Macabre, The ABCs of Death)

I was in the minority who neither loved or hated The Raid, but rather found it a goodness time watch that leaned a bit too video gamey to me. (Though some would say to go back to Bruce Lee's Game of Death for the inspiration.) what I did think was that it showed great promise, and while I haven't gone back to see his first film, Evans has already cashed in on that promise by delivering V/H/S 2’s finest segment.

Here's some things that work to give me the heebie jeebies: weird foreign religions or cults, people acting like maniacs because they believe in strange, mystic dogmas, and then the absolute pants crapping reality of  native superstitions being real. This segment has it all. Maybe it's because I'm an agnostic. Any kind of religious horror scares the bejesus out of me. You couldn't pay me enough money to roll up in some Indonesian religious compound where sketchy shit is already going on and mess about, I may not believe in much, but I'm not taking my chances that the old gods wouldn't love to craft me a new one.

Frenetic and horrifying, some will have a problem with the segment's final moment. For those folks, I have four words, Night of the Demon. Plus, it's Indonesia. Would you expect anything else? This segment had me jumping, had my palm sweaty, and had me tense. I'm here to say that's kind of a tall order. While I may never watch the whole film again, there's a good chance I might just throw on Safe Haven as a short film appetizer before hitting something like Serpent and the Rainbow as the main course. V/H/S 2 has me back, and I'm hoping the final segment will really blow me away. 

Bugg Segment Rating: 4.5 of 5

Alien Abduction Slumber Party Directed by Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun, Treevenge)

Here's what I loved about the segment, the aliens. They look cool in a Whitley Strieber kind of way, but scary, intense, and formidable. As if they were exactly what Fox Mulder would be looking for, but not want to find in a dark alleyway. 

Here's what I didn't like about this segment. First, kids. Kid actors are tough to pull off, and in the scant time AASP gives me to get to know them, they all seem like little shits. Secondly, a camera angle that generally had a fake set of dog ears and snout in it because the conceit is that the camera was attached to the dog for most of the action. Why, you ask? To catch a kid jerking off, but there's no reason to get into that here. Or perhaps anywhere. I don't want pooch POV for anything, ever. Maybe a commercial for Beggin' Strips, but I think I draw the line there. I didn't like Treevenge even though I like Christmas horror, I didn't like Hobo with a Shotgun despite my adoration of Rutger Hauer, and now Eisener's segment closes out the film and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Bugg Segment Rating: 1.5 of 5

In the end V/H/S 2 comes in about the same as its predecessor or perhaps a little higher. V/H/S I did not V/H/S 2 comes I'm at 2.6 by the same math.(I'm rounding up to three based on my own enjoyment of the segments I liked.)  The real difference in score comes from the improved wraparound, but unlike V/H/S, V/H/S 2 had a couple of killer segments while the first film was completely middle of the road. So the highs are higher here, and the lows lower. So while V/H/S left me feeling bleh,V/H/S 2 leaves me feeling like with some fine tuning there might be a great installment in this franchise someday, or at least great short films to be contained within. What shouldn't probably happen next time is a rush job. I can see how the the format would be easy to turn out, but the producers shouldn't oversaturate the brand or the films will assuredly get worse and not better. I think they got lucky turning around a second part so fast, but my advice would be to be kind and rewind for a while before that third generation tape.

Bugg Rating

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