When private investigators (Laurence Michael Levine, Kelsy Abbott) go on the hunt for a missing student (L.C. Holt), they find themselves at his derelict flat, where a collection of disturbing VHS tapes lie, waiting to be watched. As part of their ongoing investigation, the pair decide to watch the cassettes, much to their evident displeasure. Amongst the harrowing, sinister videos, we have Adam Wingard’s ‘Phase I Clinical Trials’, whereby a man (played by Wingard himself) is given a new electronic eye following a car accident, which allows for him to witness supernatural visions.
There’s also ‘A Ride in the Park’ where we see a zombie outbreak filmed from a camera mounted on a cycler’s helmet (directed by Gregg Hale and found-footage originator Eduardo Sánchez), while there is also ‘Safe Haven’ – where a beleaguered television crew infiltrate a sadistic cult in South East Asia, by Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto. Finally we have ‘Slumber Party Alien Abduction’ by Jason Eisener, which, as you probably figured out, is about an alien invasion at a slumber party.
Though this particular style of filmmaking makes for fast-paced, entertaining productions, on the most part, the segments themselves are too short to tell a substantial story with an intriguing narrative, as the filmmakers are constrained by their modest time limitations. As a result – and seeing as a succinct and powerful storyline is difficult to come by – the director’s opt for cheap shock value and unnecessary gore, as a way of being memorable and hoping to make an impact in the small time they are given. However this works in quite the opposite way, as they bring nothing new to the table, lacking in any originality, while there is little psychological impact or suspense, which is so often the most terrifying form of horror.
The way our films have been shot – from the perspective of an electronic eye or a helmet camera, are at least somewhat creative, and disallows the viewer the opportunity to sit there continuously questioning and scrutinising over whether someone would actually film anything in potentially fatal situations. Of the four featured tapes (five, if you include the Simon Barrett interludes), ‘Safe Haven’ is by far the most accomplished of the lot, and the creepiest too. It actually attempts to tell a story, while the departure that comes with this being set in a foreign world, and in another language, adds an air of mystery to it – the sense of the unknown, which is indefinitely perturbing in the horror genre. It’s certainly the crowning achievement of this piece, standing out like a sore thumb in an otherwise lacklustre endeavour.
If you’re a fan of the original V/H/S production, this is bound to compel you, however if you left the last feeling somewhat disgruntled and underwhelmed, don’t expect enough of an increase in quality to sway you this time around – as this superfluous sequel continues to push this tired, found-footage concept as far as it can possibly go.