Earlier this month, I took a chance and viewed the 2012 film “V/H/S.” To my relief, it isn’t all that bad. Nevertheless, the film is not without its flaws. Inevitably, the general success of “V/H/S” garnered a hastily made sequel, “V/H/S 2”, promising to make up for its perceived inadequacies. Even though the latest film earned higher ratings than its predecessor, it pains me to realize that, in this case, all it takes to please certain audiences is the substitution of originality with utter stupidity.
Like the original, “V/H/S 2” is a horror anthology told through found-footage format. The framing narrative involves a couple of private investigators breaking into a strange home in search for a missing person, all the while recording their activity. Within the home are a number of unmarked video tapes. In the hopes of finding clues as to the whereabouts of the young man in question, the videos are screened, each one weirder (not scarier) than the first.
If It Ain’t Broke…
According to the trailer’s quotations of critical praise, “V/H/S 2” is compared to the original as being “leaps and bounds beyond its predecessor” (Shockya), and “infinitely more thrilling” (Fangoria). The original film frustrated critics for its lengthy run time, its hodgepodge of sparsely explained stories, and for failing to answer several logic questions in its frame narrative. All are legitimate complaints, but in my own review I essentially argued that whatever the movie lacked in logic and explanation, it made up for in authenticity and a respectable use of the Fear of the Unknown. “V/H/S 2,” however, is far less complex and mysterious. This may have led to the film’s warmer reception, but it is what makes it an inferior movie.
What Kind of an Idiot Do You Take Me For?
Found footage films create a strong sense of Fear of the Unknown as they play with perspective. From the character’s point of view, audiences may have less insight into the source of the scariness, but they experience it on a deeper and more personal level. Simply put, “V/H/S 2” does away with this technique by flimsily injecting crappy explanations for every situation. I imagine the writing process went something like this:
–Why does this man see ghosts?
–Because his ocular implant provides him with a sixth sense. Also a random woman has to show up to explain this AND take her top off. It’s the plot of “The Eye” but in first person perspective – and with nudity. Who doesn’t like a predictable movie with nudity?
No intrigue. No puzzles. No mental effort. In addition to the story outlined above, it feels as though several cliched films (having to do with cults, zombies, and aliens) have been remade and filmed in first person perspective. They are then sloppily squeezed into a run time that won’t exasperate the impatient viewer. Tie this up with a ridiculously lame “explanation” at the end of the frame narrative, and you have yourself a sequel designed to pander to its critics.
Just Be Yourself.
In its desperation to please audiences, “V/H/S 2” sacrifices any ingenuity it could have potentially carried forward from its precursor. The camera work may be less shaky and the stories more gory, but gore is not the key to an effective horror film. Subtlety, tension, mystery, and suspense are only some of the building blocks needed to create a scary movie. While “V/H/S” makes a distinct effort to convey these, its successor loses all confidence and screams for mass approval. See this movie if you like, but whatever you do, do not expect it to have the same integrity as the original. Even though the first “V/H/S” has its faults, at least it makes a genuine effort to be its own film.
Overall Rating: 3.5/10