V/H/S 2 (2013) Review

Be careful about what you watch.(Courtesy of Magnet Releasing)
Be careful about what you watch.
(Courtesy of Magnet Releasing)

The original V/H/S was charming in its presentation, but perhaps not entirely successful in entertaining viewers. Nevertheless, credit was due the filmmakers for rigidly staying with the “found footage” concept, mostly presenting the stories in seemingly single takes or with cuts that made sense within the found footage reality. V/H/S 2 offers a similar experience: An overarching plot comprises a handful of unrelated, shorter segments; all of them displaying some kind of horrific event. But while V/H/S 2 is definitely more polished than the first, it also cheats the concept to various degrees, which will disappoint some.

Two private investigators are hired to find a missing college student. They break into his house and discover a room with recording equipment and stacks of VHS tapes. While one investigator explores the rest of the structure, the other is tasked with poring over the videos to see if there are any clues regarding the student’s whereabouts. What she finds are several disturbing stories, ranging from a zombie attack to an alien abduction. Unfortunately, the horror isn’t limited to the content of the tapes, and whoever views them might be affected in worse ways than psychological.

Overall, V/H/S 2 is a much better production than its predecessor. Not only do the stories in the tapes feel a little more connected to the overarching story, but the individual stories are all well done, ranging from good to excellent. At no time will audiences be disappointed with a particular segment. The plots are all engaging, the characters interesting, and the acting fully committed. Special recognition goes to the team behind the Slumber Party Alien Abduction tape. Not only is the concept refreshing, but it’s amazing how much depth the filmmakers were able to plumb in such a short amount of time. But choosing this segment as being a cut above the rest is like picking a winner at a beauty pageant – they’re all great to look at.

With that said, V/H/S 2 does bend the rules a little bit. In the previous film, not every story was presented as a continuous shot, but when there was a cut in the footage, it made sense. Maybe the camera person stopped recording or there was a malfunction with the equipment. In this film, however, the tapes are clearly and inexplicably edited. For instance, in the segment titled A Ride in the Park, the story follows a bike rider who has two cameras on him for recording his ride. One is on his helmet while the other is on the handlebars of his bicycle. When the private investigator watches the tape, the footage switches smoothly between the two cameras, which means someone had to edit both footage together. While the presentation is, in some ways, more satisfying because viewers get a more traditional vantage point to the action, it also feels a little more produced. Worse yet, it raises unnecessary questions, like who edited the footage together and why? Other times, there are definite, purposeful cuts in the footage. This, of course, saves time and is for the benefit of the audience, but, once again, it bends the rules of the concept.

Finally, the original V/H/S made a good attempt at making the use of VHS tapes somewhat believable. The year of the recordings – and the larger story – was kept ambiguous in most parts, with one segment throwing in clues like the use of a pager to help orient viewers. So the use of dated technology like VHS tapes made sense. V/H/S 2 is clearly set in present day, which makes the use of VHS tapes completely unbelievable. None of the segments are recorded on VHS, which means someone took the digital content and then converted them so that someone could watch them on legacy machines for some reason. This inconsistency in logic won’t necessarily destroy the experience of the work as a whole, but it will distract.

V/H/S 2 is a pleasant compilation of wonderful short horror pieces. There’s just enough content to suitably fill each segment without making audiences wish any one story could be expanded into a feature-length film. While some sections are downright scary, others are simply disquieting, but anyone looking for quality horror will find something to enjoy here.