VHS 2 continues the horror anthology format of the first film, tied together by the overarching story of a couple that works together as a sleazy, paparazzi-style private investigation team, assigned to track down a young man who has gone missing. The couple tracks the boy to the same creepy house from the first film, where they discover the infamous stack of televisions and pile of video cassette tapes, each of which contains a bizarre and horrible account of death and murder.
The short films this time include the story of a man whose cybernetic eye allows him to see the dead; an extreme biking enthusiast whose wilderness adventure is interrupted by the onslaught of a zombie apocalypse; the story of a documentary crew that investigates a strange Indonesian cult and finds something more horrific than they could’ve imagined; and a slumber party that goes terribly wrong when malevolent aliens show up looking for fresh abduction victims.
On the whole, VHS 2 is an improvement on its predecessor in just about every way possible: the directing talent is much better; the visual composition and effects are too; the reconfigured structure of the anthology (a “quality over quantity” approach this time) is more streamlined and efficient; and the implementation of the found-footage format is more logical and effective. At the same time, the film is still a somewhat uneven mix of parts; certain segments are less effective than other clear standouts, but even the weaker segments in part 2 are still times better than the many weak parts of the first installment.
Directing talent this time around includes Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption), Jason Eisner (Hobo With a Shotgun), Eduardo Sánchez (Blair Witch Project), Adam Wingard (You’re Next) – along with a few helping hands. Of the bunch, it is Evans (with co-director Timo Tjahjanto) and his segment, “Safe Haven” (about the Indonesian cult), which emerges as the clear and undisputed winner of the contest. Evans gained worldwide notice for his innovative Indonesian action-thriller The Raid, and “Safe Haven” demonstrates that his ‘creativity on a budget’ resourcefulness is as effective in the horror genre as it was in the action genre.
Sánchez (with co-director Gregg Hale) and Wingard present segments (“Phase I Clinical Trials” and “Ride in the Park”) that are more inspired and creative than actually scary; Eisner, unfortunately, follows Evans’ triumph with a lackluster (and dizzying) finale in “Slumber Party Alien Abduction.” All things considered, one almost wishes that Evans had been allowed to stretch his idea out into a nice, quick, feature or extended short, as it would’ve probably been a much more worthwhile experience overall.
Still, this crop of directors (both the new and returning players) still execute better (pun) than the rag-tag team that cobbled together the first VHS. One can only hope that the improved quality of the sequel is taken as a sign by other skilled filmmakers, so that we continue to see better and better talent contributing to the (almost certain to be made) future installments.
VHS 2 is currently available On Demand, on iTunes – it also begins a very limited theatrical release starting today. Check with your local theater for availability. It is 96 minutes long and is Unrated (though it contains instances of sex, nudity, violence, gore, profanity, alcohol/drug use and frightening or intense scenes).