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Review: V/H/S 2

If you've been following Nerd Mafia or my writing, you'll know that I was pretty impressed with V/H/S when it had its Toronto premier at Toronto After Dark last year. The selection of short horror films within a horror film were varied, scary, and did what the main story of the film could not: they impressed. V/H/S 2 is more of the same, which would be great if more than one, maybe two, of the short films within the film held the same level of creepiness.

This time we have directors from such films as The Raid (Gareth Evans), Hobo With a Shotgun (Jason Eisener), You're Next (Adam Wingard) and The Blair Witch Project (Eduardo Sánchez). That's a lot of hype to live up to - just like the first V/H/S.

V/H/S 2's main story thread, directed by Simon Barrett, is possibly the weakest part of the film. A lot of people walking by doors while a witless private investigator watches some of the tapes trying to find a missing person is much too much of a rehash from the first film and doesn't lead to any good scares. It's definitely the films within that are meant to bring the scares and some do. Adam Wingard's segment, Phase I Clinical Trials, starts off with a premise that horror fans will recognize from 2002's The Eye (or Gin gwai). It's got some good atmosphere to start the film off, which leads to the next tape: Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale's A Ride in the Park. Not only does V/H/S itself borrow from the Blair Witch, found footage trope, but so do Sánchez and Hale for their piece - only this time with zombies. Slumber Party Alien Abduction doesn't need much of an explanation for Jason Eisener's tape. It's rote in the worst kind of way: part Close Encounters, a little Fire in the Sky, and more shaky cam footage than you can throw a stick at. Luckily Gareth Evans nearly saves the day with his part, Safe Haven. Safe Haven brings to mind Silent Hill (the game, not the movie), only in a documentary style following a Manson family-like cult.

Safe Haven and Phase I Clinical Trials were the two films that brought some scares; the rest were too generic to be frightening. Barrett's Tape 49 left something to be desired, which might be the movies' downfall if the whole film wasn't a group effort. Even still, I can see this one being a popular choice along with the first V/H/S for Halloween party screenings simply because a series of short horror films that you don't have to pay all too much attention to would work well on any Hallow's Eve. The visuals in each are well done, even if the shaky cam thing gets a bit annoying - but that is to be expected with a series of found footage tapes within a found footage film.

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