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"V/H/S2" is Crazier Than the Original, but Not As Scary

I'll give "V/H/S2" credit: they went for it. There's a brazenness with respect to the scares that outdoes even the original “V/H/S” (except for "Amateur Night"). No coy leave-it-to-your-imagination stuff. But in terms of images that stick with you and make you keep the lights on, I think “V/H/S” had more impact.

The connective story, "Tape 49," involves a young PI couple investigating the disappearance of a college kid. They break into his apartment and discover a bunch of V/H/S tapes, which the woman proceeds to watch while the boyfriend explores the apartment.

The best of the bunch is "Safe Haven," from Gareth Evans ("The Raid"). It involves a documentary film crew investigating a religious cult and its leader, who is eerily and convincingly portrayed by actor Epy Kusnandar. He's to "Safe Haven" what Hannah Fierman was to "Amateur Night," and a creepy actor can go a long way to making a horror movie a memorable experience. What works here is that all the cult stuff is believably freaky and the set up is tense. Something about the fact that everyone is speaking what appears to be Indonesian amps things up a bit too. The gore factor is off the charts, but there is something about the build up to this one – not to mention the over-the-top finale – that just makes it an instant cult (no pun intended) classic. It's my favorite of the group.

Next in line would be "A Ride in the Park," about a young cyclist who is attacked by zombies during his ride through the eponymous park. He's wearing a helmet cam, so after he "turns" we get to experience his transition from bewilderment, to illness, to hunger. It's a very interesting take on the zombie genre from the director of "The Blair Witch Project." As crazy as it sounds, he actually manages to conjure up empathy for the main character who has basically forfeited a pretty rocking life to become one of the undead. When he accidentally butt-dials his girlfriend at the end and realizes everything he's lost, even in his zombie haze, it's a poignant moment that leads to tragic results.

Third in line for me would be "Slumber Party Alien Abduction." This entry is just a lot of fun and its boldness in showcasing the aliens is both a strength and a weakness. What I liked about Slumber Party was the teenagers misbehaving trope we've seen in so many horror movies. This entry is not really scary and the shaky cam aesthetic is pushed a bit too far, but it's still a solid outing. (Question: why is there a blackface Santa in this movie?)

Speaking of scary, there is a section toward the end of Tape 49 – the wrap around segment – that probably provides the most significant scares in the entire flick. Let's just say that if something comes back to life after its head has been twisted completely around, it can provide some frightful moments.

Finally, the first story, “Phase 1,” is pretty good if only because it is fast paced and entertaining. It also has a few jolts.

All of the V/H/S2 stories are kind of weak on character, but you don't have much time to set up character in a short film. Ultimately, this sequel feels like it was
trying to top the first one. But I suppose that's the curse of any sequel: whether knowingly or not, it is always attempting to surpass its progenitor.

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