This Schlocktober, Comics Bulletin will be exploring the world of horror cinema, featuring thirty one notable films released between Halloween 2012 and Halloween 2013. Next up is V/H/S 2.
I was an unabashed fan of V/H/S. I loved it. Sure, the framing narrative wasn’t great, but I felt there was only one weak entry in the film and even that was creative and kept me entertained. Unfortunately, I’m not as fond of the sequel, V/H/S 2 (originally titled S-V/H/S, which I prefer immensely). However, with that said, the strongest sequence here, “Save Haven” by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans may be the overall strongest of both films (despite some logic problems — but sometimes you just gotta ditch logic and go with your gut).
A quick breakdown: “Tape 49/frame narrative” is this time written and directed by Adam Wingard’s writing partner, Simon Barrett. It’s interesting, but as with V/H/S‘s framing narrative (which he also wrote), it’s skeletal by design and by necessity. The way it ends is fairly nonsensical, but does pack a scare. Maybe two.
“Phase I Clinical Trials” is also written by Barrett, but is directed by Adam Wingard. These two usually have a solid chemistry and have done pretty good work in the past (and You’re Next — coming up later in the 31 Days countdown was one of my favorites of the year), but this one falls short for me due to its predictability. I mean, a guy gets an experimental eye treatment and starts seeing the dead. Then bad shit happens. The end. It’s a clever way to work in the Found Footage conceit, but the story is way too easy. No surprises here.
“A Ride in the Park” is written by Jamie Nash and directed by his recurring directing partner Eduardo Sánchez, with Gregg Hale along for the ride too. I’m not sure how the division of labor went here, but Sanchez is a very talented horror director (his alien abduction adventure Altered should be checked out immediately) and this tale of a zombie plague is nicely done, but again doesn’t really break any new ground beyond a brief glimpse at zombie interaction and a nice bit as the lead zombie (Jay Saunders) almost reconnects with his humanity. Aside from that, pretty simple, really.
We’ll skip “Safe Haven” for a moment, so we can end on an up note, and jump to the final piece in the anthology, “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” co-written by John Davies with co-writer/director Jason Eisener. Being familiar with Eisener’s work already (the holiday short, Treevenge and the insane brilliance of Hobo with a Shotgun) I was really looking forward to this, but that title is exactly what you get. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s almost boring despite the flashing lights, loud noises, and everybody being abducted or dying. What happened to the dog probably put me off the most, as irrational as that sounds.
With all that said, though, I’d still recommend seeing this film because your mileage may vary with the discussed entries (many critics found this film to be superior to the first), but mainly so you can see “Safe Haven.” Tjahjanto and Evans take us into an Indonesian religious cult with a group of documentary film makers and the results are creepy as hell before finally exploding into bloody, insane violence.
This is the sort of thing that made V/H/S work so well for me. The story starts one way and then takes a bizarre twist that opens up into sheer madness and over-the-top scares. This is the only segment of V/H/S 2 to really throw surprises into the mix. You really don’t quite know what to expect with this one, and that’s what makes it my favorite segment.
The whole point of the V/H/S concept, I thought, was to do Found Footage short films with a twist. This time around, most of the creative teams just focused on figuring out how to get a first person perspective and then forgot to give us an interesting story. But “Safe Haven” has enough meat on its bones to make up for the shortcomings of the others, in my opinion, making this worth a rental at least.
Read our previous review of V/H/S 2 here.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor/editor for Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK, along with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation (US & UK). He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s (US & UK) and has kicked off Comics Bulletin Books with Mondo Marvel Volumes One (US & UK) and Two (US & UK). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.