V/H/S/2 offers a bombardment of grisly horrors, and though it possesses little replay value and grows somewhat tedious after a while there is enough impressive innovation from these daring directors to warrant giving it a go. I haven’t seen the much-maligned V/H/S, but I am glad I took the opportunity to see this one. The clever utilisation of point-of-view, and the writing of inventive motivations (and somewhat believable ones, often a problem with the genre) for the continued filming of the events, is especially notable.
Whether the camera is a bionic insertion that substitutes for a damaged eye, is strapped to the helmet of a cyclist or attached to the back of a dog, the footage is raw and often difficult to watch on an aesthetic level, but some of what fills the frames of this film will burrow into your soul.
These short films are essentially collaborated YouTube videos – crazy events documented in what is meant to amateur fashion that unveil some of the sinister supernatural things that ‘could’ happen in our world. For fans of the ‘Found Footage’ genre - my experience is limited, my interest normally minimal - I expect this will be a rousing addition.
The frame narrative tracks two private investigators, Larry and Ayesha, who are investigating the disappearance of a male college student. In his home they discover several TV sets, a large stack of labelled VHS tapes and a functioning laptop. While Larry investigates the house, Ayesha listens to a recording made by the student and starts watching the tapes as he suggests. As she switches between Phase I Clinical Trials, A Ride in the Park, Safe Haven and Slumber Party Alien Abduction she grows increasingly disturbed by what she witnesses.
Adam Wingard (You're Next), who also stars, directs the first film. After returning home from a procedure involving the insertion of a camera to aid the return of his sight, a man begins to see strange things. This is shot completely in first person and involves nifty mirror tricks. The tension mounts because we are revealed to the tormentors just as the protagonist is. There is some weak acting and I wasn't so keen on the involvement of a woman with a similar affliction.
The second film, A Ride in the Park, is directed by Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project) and shot almost entirely on a helmet-mounted camera. When a cyclist tries to help a hysterical woman covered in blood, he finds himself the victim of a Zombie attack and joins the increasing horde in an attack on a family celebrating a birthday in a nearby park. The gore effects are grisly and the Zom-POV is a clever idea, resulting in some amusing moments - he spends a significant period of time with a meat fork protruding out of his skull.
Then there is a stretch – and it comes in the third chapter, directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans – that this film completely loses all control. When a news crew investigates an Indonesia cult and interviews the leader what they discover reaches levels of extreme, bloody frenzy. A drenched-with-dread atmosphere is established before the unleashing of subsequent grotesque terrors. Even a seasoned horror fan would find this tough to stomach.
The final chapter, directed by Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun), features a slumber party of childhood debauchery interrupted by an Alien abduction. The alien design is suitably creepy, the intensity escalates and some of the lengthy takes are astounding considering where the predominant camera is perched.
Not for the squeamish or the easily repulsed, V/H/S/2 unsettled me but left me in awe. It is a wild ride. Not all of it works, but Tjahjanto and Evans certainly deliver.
[rating=3] and a half
Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22
Andy Buckle is a passionate Sydney-based film enthusiast and reviewer who has built a respected online voice at his personal blog, The Film Emporium. Andy will contribute reviews, features and be our resident film festival, and awards expert.