Directed by: Adam Wingard, Eduardo Sánchez, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Jason Eisener, Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto
Written by: Brad Miska, Eduardo Sánchez, Gareth Evans, Jamie Nash, Jason Eisener, John Davies, Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto
VHS/2 (18) Running time: 96 minutes
Directors: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Eduardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Gareth Evans, Timo Tjahjanto, Jason Eisener
Writers: Brad Miska, Simon Barrett, Jamie Nash, Eduardo Sanchez, Gareth Evans, Timo Tjahjanto, John Davies, Jason Eisener
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
The first VHS arrived with quite a reputation for being a really inventive and excellent found footage horror anthology. While I did enjoy the film, it was overlong, and not all of the segments worked. Granted David Bruckner’s excellent Amateur Night and Radio Silence’s jaw-dropping 10/31/98 were two of last year’s best examples of the horror genre, but some of the other segments, particularly Glenn McQuaid’s ‘Tuesday the 17th’, really missed the mark. VHS still gained a legion of fans, and many other horror fans were happy to admit to liking at least one of the five segments. When VHS/2 was announced, naturally there were those who were sceptical, but when the directors were announced, things looked mighty interesting. Then, then the first trailer landed and boy was it good, and all of a sudden the VHS anthology idea was interesting even to the haters. After seeing the film, I can 100% confirm that not only is it better than the first, but is a massive improvement to the point that I would say this is one of the best horrors of the year!
The makers have clearly learnt from the (minor) mistakes of the first film, and have gone all out to deliver a bigger, better, funnier, thrilling and most importantly, scarier film than the first. Instead of five overall stories and a warp-a-round segment, here we are presented with four plus the linking wrap-a-round story. Each segment here is faster, louder and more inventive than the first anthology, and VHS/2 injects ideas and ambition to a dying genre, and makes found footage horror cool all over again.
Probably the weakest of the stories here is Simon Barrett’s ‘Tape 49’ which see’s a team of detectives searching for a missing student. While this is the weakest, it is by no means a poor horror short. The story serves as the glue to bring the tapes together, but nothing more, and while there are some impressive, creepy shots and strong tension, the problem with this segment is that it simply acts as a stepping stone between the tapes. The quality is there, and the dark atmosphere and sudden jump moments deliver, but sadly the rest of the segments are simply too good for Tape 49 to compete with.
Adam Wingard, horrors bright shining genius, delivers a wonderful segment titled ‘Phase 1: Clinical Trials’, and this first of the four tapes viewed will have all the doubters convinced that VHS is back, and is much better. Taking its ideas from the classic Korean horror The Eye, Wingard plays the lead role of a man who is given an artificial eye with a camera in it. Already the found footage is given a bright new, and highly inventive idea which gives way to a couple of brilliantly set up jump scares. Wingard builds tension and atmosphere with stunning ease as the horrific visions of dead people get worse. To say anything more would really spoil your enjoyment, but it is quality like this which proves that Wingard is indeed one of horrors key directors right now. He even finds time for exceptional attention to detail with ‘blinking’ being seen on screen, something which was first introduced by Gaspar Noe with Into the Void.
The Blair Witch Project’s Eduardo Sanchez and director Gregg Hale take charge of the second story called ‘A Ride in the Park’, and if you thought you had seen everything the zombie genre has to offer, then think again. This work of genius places the camera on a bike helmet as our main character sets off for a ride around a local park, filming his adventure while leaving his girlfriend at home in bed. He comes across an injured person, and offers help, but his goodwill gesture ends in disaster as he is bitten, and turned into a zombie. This segment is bursting with cool ideas from one of the best ever depictions of turning into a zombie, to a savage but brilliant attack on a birthday party. Ultra dark humour is dropped in for good measure as the zombies look for their next victim, and all the while the trusty camera sits on the man’s bike helmet, capturing all the events as they happen. Bloody, brilliant, funny and surprisingly emotional, zombie fans will adore this bold take on their beloved genre and applaud the inventive ideas.
The highlight of VHS/2 comes in the form of Gareth Evans (The Raid) and Timo Tjahjanto’s (Macabre) stunning ‘Safe Haven’. Running at forty minutes, this is the longest segment of the anthology, and in all honesty I could have watched this for longer. A team of journalists meet with a cult leader to talk about his personal cult, and ask him about his almost God-like character. Saying the right things in the interview, the journalists are invited to his secluded home to delve deeper into his bizarre religion and way of life. At his secret hideout he has a school, rooms for his followers and has pretty much set up a life for his followers away from the outside world. The story builds slowly, but will have you hooked from the start. The story is intriguing and sinister, and Evans and Tjahjanto draw you into this creepy world with confidence and brilliant storytelling. The acting is extremely convincing, and you just know bad things will happen. I cannot reveal anything else, suffice to say Safe Haven is the best horror short of the last decade: it is simply breathtaking and very very disturbing. Evans proved his credentials as an action director with The Raid and Merantau, and now with the help of Tjahjanto (himself building a reputation as a strong horror director), he is proving to be a true master of horror. The arresting story gives way to horrific visuals, violence and haunting sounds to deliver a genuinely unsettling and naturally creepy horror tale. Guaranteed to give you the shivers.
Finally Hobo With A Shotgunn director Jason Eisener delivers ‘Slumber Party Alien Abduction’, a sci-fi horror which beats this year’s Dark Skies hands down for scares and all out chaos. In this maddening short, the camera is tied to the family dog as a bunch of young, mischievous lads play pranks on the older brother and his girlfriend. The youngsters are incredibly natural in their ability to portray, for want of a better word, little shits who enjoy playing jokes on others, but when aliens land outside the house, they also portray being scared very well too. Eisener beefs up the alien abduction genre with a beltering onslaught of sounds and visuals that are spectacular to watch, and often very scary. The final segment is a terrific end to a truly exceptional collection of stunning short films.
VHS/2 really goes for it, and really bumps up the madness and chaos of the project to levels that are totally unexpected. The low budget look and feel is still present and correct, but the sequel feels like the directors here actually had fun rather than the often ‘trying to be clever’ original. Here it felt like each director had total confidence in what they were doing, and total respect for the found footage genre as to inject something fresh, creative and genuinely brilliant. Here is the best horror anthology I have seen in years, and if the makers behind this cool idea can keep up this level of brilliance in (hopefully) a third, then I cannot wait to see it. VHS/2 is a massive improvement on the original and I fucking loved it!