V/H/S may have put the horror anthology format back on the map, but V/H/S 2 truly solidifies it as an effective form of storytelling that can satisfy the masses just as well as any feature narrative. This time around, the film is comprised of four short films connected by a wraparound component, and all achieve a notable degree of innovation and true terror.
V/H/S 2 is currently making waves on the festival circuit leading up to its June 6th On Demand release and July 12th theatrical debut. It already hit Sundance and SXSW and is now wrapping up its run in the Tribeca Film Festival’s Midnight Program. In honor of its Tribeca presence, Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun), Adam Wingard (You’re Next), Edúardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project), and Simon Barrett (You’re Next) all sat down to discuss the art of short form horror.
After having directed the V/H/S wraparound, Wingard goes an entirely different route in the sequel with “Phase I Clinical Trials,” ditching the old school camcorders for a far more advanced perspective – a robotic eye. Wingard stars in the piece himself as a guy who’s left without an eye after a car crash. He’s fitted with a bionic one and gets his vision back, but with the addition of some eerie supernatural entities he never saw before.
Wingard explained, “I wanted to do something that wasn’t necessarily based on any real technology and just do something that had more of a conventional cinematic look that kind of melded with the whole found footage thing.” In order to do that and achieve the bionic eye viewpoint, Wingard wore a body rig that positioned the Red Epic beside his head and a monitor right in front of his face. The setup was so big, Wingard admitted, “You’ll notice if you really look closely in the film that every time I’m going through a doorway I kind of try to make it look like I’m looking around first, but really I’m kind of sneaking through.”
One of Sanchez’s biggest challenges came from the fact that you rarely see his main character courtesy of the GoPro perspective. In “A Ride in the Park,” a bike rider (Jay Saunders) donning a GoPro helmet stops to help an injured woman. Little does he know her wounds are zombie inflicted, so when she dies and comes back to life, he forfeits a significant chunk of flesh.
With the GoPro still running, our helpless main man is then consumed by his own hunger, ready to chow down on any bike riders or even children that come his way. Sanchez was honest with Saunders right from the start, admitting, “You’re not gonna be in this movie very much. You’re only gonna have five or six shots.”
Still, Saunders seized the opportunity, gave it his all and wound up functioning as a rarely seen yet highly effective lead character who carries the audience through the living dead transition and eventually straight into a birthday party.
Fortunately, Sanchez didn’t have to look very far for kids with parents who’d be okay surrounding their little ones with zombie carnage because his daughter and her friends were perfect for the roles. He joked, “The main girl was my daughter so I was like, I could kill her and hit her and stuff.” In all seriousness, he added, “You have to be honest with the parents. As a parent myself, I don’t wanna be tricked into letting my kid do something that’s not right. But it was cool. They had a blast.”
Eisener used a similar tactic in making his portion of the film, “Alien Abduction Slumber Party.” The piece involves a bunch of young kids goofing around and playing pranks, but then going through some pretty freaky scenarios as extraterrestrials come to take them away. Eisener explained, “The main kid is the kid I also worked with on my ‘ABCs of Death’ short.” He continued, “I picked him because he’s also one of my best friend’s younger brothers so I could also be a little bit more rougher with him.”
But the film isn’t all traumatizing alien attacks. A good portion of it is also dedicated to the fun and games of sibling rivalry with one particular prank literally mimicking something Eisener and his brothers did to his sister as a kid. Eisener explained, “There’s a total reenactment, like shot for shot, of the scene where the kids burst into her bedroom and they play the music.”
However, Eisener didn’t take the film prank as far as the real thing. Whereas the film’s older sister simply gets mad and kicks her brothers out, Eisener recalled, “My sister got a bit more pissed. She grabbed the stereo, she pulled out the chord, she grabbed the CD and, no joke … then she just crushed it with one hand.”
Then of course there’s the glue that holds all the segments together – the wraparound. On the first film, Barrett stuck to penning “Tape 56,” but this time he both wrote and directed the V/H/S 2 wraparound, “Tape 49.” The piece focuses on a pair of private investigators hired to track down a missing student. When they get to his house, they find a rather unkempt abode loaded with strange notebooks, a curious TV setup and, of course, a collection of V/H/S tapes.
While the goal for “Tape 56” was to make it feel as authentic as possible, this time around, Barrett set his sights on creating something “more stable,” something that could offer a little breathing room in between the rather crazy short stories. And if you’re looking for even more than that, try to track the connections between “Tape 56” and “Tape 49.”
Barrett admitted it’d be a little tough to break down, but noted, “All the clues are there.” When asked if he had any ideas for how to continue the chronology with a third wraparound, he laughed and explained, “I think if there was a third, whoever ended up writing it, if it wasn’t me, I would finally explain what’s going on.”
You can catch our full chat with Eisener, Wingard, Sanchez, and Barrett in the video interview below and, if you’re up for trying to connect the dots between the wraparounds, hanging out with bionic eye projected spirits, indulging in human flesh from the zombie perspective, stepping into Paradise Gates, or going head-to-head with a team of sleepover-invading aliens, you can catch V/H/S 2 in full on June 6th On Demand or in theaters on July 12th.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.