Less than a year ago, V/H/S showed up virtually out of nowhere. It was an anthology film based around “found footage” that had been either captured or transferred onto old school VHS tapes. The story framing the film(some Jackass-aping nogoodniks are roped into stealing a specific tape from a seemingly abandoned house but find scores of tapes to sift through) was more or less inconsequential. The true meat lied in the standalone short films contained on those VHS tapes.
While those films ranged in quality from poor to surprisingly frightening, there was still an element of excitement to the endeavor as a whole. The idea was that this could be a delivery device for up-and-coming filmmakers to experiment with the found footage format in whatever ways they desired. That idea has yielded some thrilling results this time around in V/H/S/2, a sequel that truly improves upon the original and has produced at least one jaw-dropping film that is deserves to be seen by every fan of horror.
The frame story is much more tolerable this time around and V/H/S/2 loses the misogynistic streak that plagued the majority of the first film. While the short films here tread well-worn genre conventions(a ghost story here, an alien abduction story there), each entry adds something new and fresh to the mix to warrant a viewing. And each one succeeds in eliciting shrieks and even laughter. But one film stands apart from the rest.
“Safe Haven” comes from the writer-directors Gareth Huw Evans and Timo Tjahjanto. Evans’ last feature-length film was the action-packed wonder The Raid: Redmption. Knowing that he was behind one of the segments of V/H/S/2 was enough to get me excited about it, and rightly so. “Safe Haven” is a jarring, unsettling play on the cult infiltration trope. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything further, but I’m not even sure that’s possible as it contains some of the most astounding images we’re liable to see on-screen this year. There is virtually no way to overhype this short film. It truly has to be seen to be believed.
The rest of the entries are each entertaining and effective in their own right. The second and fourth entries are especially fun and rollicking. (The only part I balked at was an instance of a family pet put in peril. It’s a cheap way to elicit emotion from an audience, and one I’m tired of seeing in film after film.) But “Safe Haven” makes V/H/S/2 the can’t-miss horror film of the year.
V/H/S/2 is currently available on VOD and various On Demand services. It opens theatrically in the US on July 12.