Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

After the success of the original V/H/S, a sequel was probably inevitable. Like its predecessor, this film uses found footage to present an anthology of short horror tales embedded in a larger, and weaker, meta-plot. As in that that film, however, the plot isn't really the point - this is a showcase for ideas about new ways to approach the genre. In that regard, it is both entertaining and inventive.

The premise, this time around, centres on two private detectives who break into a house to look for a missing student. We know they're private detectives because we first meet one of them spying on a woman as she strips off for her married beau (the attitude to women here is just as problematic as in the original, all naked flesh and very little personality). On their new mission, they find the requisite pile of old tapes, and one of them settles down to watch whilst the other blunders around upstairs doing something unspecified. Gradually, it becomes clear that something is wrong with the watcher. This is no Ring, however, and its real appeal lies in its rubbishness - it's the stuff of drunken teenage parties where anything 'scary' will do. As such, though it would be tedious to watch on its own, it frames the other stories nicely.

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First among these is Phase I Clinical Trials, which presents up with a young man who has just had a mechanical eye implanted after losing his own in an accident. Harking back to 1947 noir Lady In The Lake, it allows for a much more flexible perspective than the hand held camera approach or even the glasses used in Das Experiment. The story doesn't really do a lot with this - our hero sees ghosts and meets a formerly deaf woman with an implant who can hear them, before things go spectacularly and incoherently wrong - but it's boldly played and functions as an invitation for similar experiments in future.

Next up is A Ride In The Park, which scarcely bothers with a plot but instead just plays around with the idea of bike helmet cameras recording a zombie outbreak. Here the directors are properly inventive in the range of viewpoints they offer and there's quite a bit of fun to be had, with genre cliché's excusable because the point is to present them in a new way. The format means it can just about get away with looking desperately cheap and it manages occasional moments of genuine wit and charm, giving it a likeability that the meta-plot could really have benefited from.

After this comes the strongest segment of the film, Safe Haven, which takes us back to the familiar unfinished documentary approach. The version of this that I saw had no subtitles and worked amazing well without, but apparently they are there on the DVD - if you own the film in this format, it might be worth watching twice, with and without reading them. As we explore what seems to be either a school or the headquarters of a cult, a kind of gentle creepiness emerges with shades of The Wicker Man. The horror that comes later flirts with Indonesian grindhouse tradition but the disjunction between these elements just makes the story all the creepier. It's a great bit of work and worth sitting through the earlier part for by itself.

Last but not least comes Slumber Party Alien Abduction. As the title suggests, there's little that's new here and there's no pretence of it, but instead we have a new perspective: dog cam. Brief clips of other film introduce the dog, rather as we are introduced to Hud in Cloverfield, establishing hm as an endearing character in his own right and then the camera is strapped to his head so he can run around and watch as things go wrong. This allows for some great set pieces as the dog simply behaves like a dog, sometimes watching danger come closer without realising he should be running away or warning people; slung over a shoulder to be carried, he sees what's in pursuit when the human hero can't. This section also benefits from excellent naturalistic dialogue and performances from its young cast, creating a real sense of fun before the horror comes. It's made by the film's biggest established talent, Hobo With A Shotgun's Jason Eisener, and it shows.

Altogether then, this is a mixed bag, but the latter two segments make it well worth looking out for. The most exciting thing about the horror genre these days is the extent to which it functions as a creative conversation. There is plenty here to spark great ideas in future.

Reviewed on: 12 Oct 2013
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V/H/S/2 packshot
An anthology of short found footage horror films using inventive visual perspectives.
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Director: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener

Writer: Simon Barrett, Jamie Nash, Timo Tjahjanto & Gareth Huw Evans, John Davies

Starring: Adam Wingard, Lawrence Levine, LC Holt, Kelsy Abbott, Hannah Hughes

Year: 2013

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US, Canada

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