*. I thought the first V/H/S was OK for what it was, but most of what it was was just more of the same. So more of more of the same is . . . V/H/S/2?
*. Pretty much. I don’t have a lot to add to the general notes I made on the first film. In brief: crappy video quality (full of jerky editing and “glitches” that tend to get particularly bad during climactic moments); an almost identical set-up or frame story (which doesn’t make any sense); a lot of jump scares; more leering at boobs. So let’s dive in to the individual stories.
*. “Tape 49”: this is the frame story. As noted, it’s very similar to the first film, only the gang of hoodlums has been replaced by a pair of private investigators. I don’t know why they wanted to go down this same route, since it’s just as awkward here as it was in V/H/S. I assume they’re trying to build up some kind of “mythology” to the franchise, sort of related to the original haunted-videotape horror Ringu. But they sure aren’t doing a very good job.
*. “Phase I Clinical Trials”: actually has a somewhat interesting premise, but it doesn’t lead to anything more than the usual. In this case that means a ghost story told from the point of view of a guy with a bionic eye that allows him to see dead people. Nothing you want to think about too much, because it leads to asking questions like why he can’t see the ghost(s) that are attacking Clarissa in the pool, why he wants to get rid of his eye so desperately even after Clarissa tells him it won’t make the ghosts go away, why he is being targeted by these ghosts in particular, how such an encounter, which was all being recorded by the clinic, wound up on this video cassette, etc.
*. “A Ride in the Park”: another interesting premise (a zombie wearing a GoPro) that doesn’t go anywhere. I’m also pretty sure that it doesn’t belong in a movie like this. Because . . . what? The zombie apocalypse has already happened? And nobody noticed? I think this one was meant to be funny, and zombie fans should enjoy it, but it’s really out of place here.
*. “Safe Haven”: this is the “biggest” of the four films, with so many different cameras and so much editing it doesn’t look at all like a found-footage movie. It also makes you wonder who put it together (and even added the subtitles). The story itself is pure craziness, with a carnivalesque Takashi Miike vibe to it. It seems as though another kind of apocalypse is going on here. By this point, however, I’ve given up on internal consistency and verisimilitude.
*. “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”: there’s been a zombie apocalypse, the devil has been raised, and now aliens have arrived. The films here certainly didn’t want to play small ball. I didn’t care for this one very much though, as it just seemed to disintegrate at the end, with some pretty generic looking aliens chasing kids around. Very X-Files, and not much more than that.
*. Concluding thoughts.
*. I was initially excited that they’d cut half an hour off the running time of the first film, but then I realized they just had four stories instead of five. So things don’t necessarily move faster, there’s just less of it.
*. You could say that the stories here are more ambitious. Or you could say they’re a lot sillier. Or you could say both. It certainly takes more of a comic approach than the first film, which I think helped. I mean, as with so many of these movies you know you’re stuck in situations where everyone is going to die in the end. So you might as well have some fun.
*. Some of the directors were more experienced, and it shows. “Safe Haven” (co-directed by Huw Evans, who did The Raid) even seems at times like a real movie.
*. Overall, I found this to be a lot more enjoyable than the first V/H/S, which isn’t to say I thought it was great. They made it in a rush on a shoestring and that still shows. Some of it remains scattered and I don’t think the whole is more than the sum of the parts, but if this is your thing it’s entertaining enough.
*. Finally, I want to mention how Rex Reed caused a bit of a stir when he “reviewed” this movie after only watching the first story. He shouldn’t have done that, but this kind of trolling (as it was accurately described at the time) is something that’s becoming more and more acceptable in critical circles. It’s a phenomenon I’ve written about before with regard to literary criticism and it doesn’t surprise me to see movie reviewers doing the same. But let’s face it, the only reason Reed got called on it is because he insisted on talking about the parts of the movie he hadn’t seen and getting basic plot points wrong. Otherwise he might have gotten away with it. And would it have made a difference?