FrightFest 2013 Review: V/H/S/2

PrintE-mail Written by Paul Risker

Review: V/H/S/ 2/ Cert: 18 / Directors: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Lawrence Michael Levine, Kelsey Abbott, L.C. Holt

From its earliest days, FrightFest was not only a journey into “the dark heart of cinema”, but was a coming together of genre fans in celebration of genre cinema. It could not be more fitting, then, that the V/H/S anthology series, a collaboration between genre filmmakers, should find a home at FrightFest.

Under the stewardship of V/H/S and ABCs of Death – not to forget Britain’s Little Thrills - the horror anthology or portmanteau, an integral part of a ‘Heritage of Horror’, is undergoing a resurgence.

The question on everyone’s lips on day three of FrightFest 2013 was whether V/H/S/2 could surpass its predecessor. V/H/S had proven to be a divisive film, the Marmite of horror cinema that provoked a love-hate relationship. 

The trick to creating a successful anthology film is the consistency of the sum of its parts, as the cyclic nature of its construct is a doubled edged blade. On the one hand it permits an opportunity to feature a series of ideas through mini horror shorts, but if lacking the said consistency, it can deliver blunt force trauma to the audience’s focus and interest.

Whilst V/H/S/2 should be judged on its own merits, it is difficult not to compare and contrast to understand its weaknesses. Wingard and Barrett’s  ‘Phase I Clinical Trial’ and Eisener’s  ‘Slumber Party Alien Abduction’ that bookend the sequel pale in comparison to their predecessors, and Barrett and Wingard, who are riding the You’re Next high, display their creative frailty. Moreover, Barrett’s ‘Tape 49’ private investigators are a mundane thread compared to ‘Tape 56’s unsympathetic but surprisingly interesting hooligans.

V/H/S/2 struggles to match the creative ideas of V/H/S, but owes a debt of gratitude to newcomers Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto, whose  ‘Safe Haven’ is the high point amongst the faltering sequel. The two do however break away from the V/H/S norm by creating more of a narrative, though still adhere to the idea of the presentation of a fragment of a wider story.

It’s not a detrimental addition to the anthology that will most likely expand into a fully-fledged franchise, but the inevitable V/H/S/3 will be charged with restoring a consistency, not only between the individual episodes, but a restoration of the series to the creativity of the first.

Ironically, V/H/S/2 feels the better paced of the two, each story limited to twenty minutes, whereas V/H/S had its pacing struggles, particularly the early stories, long for what they were. Equally, the use of the camera point of view is smoothed out in the sequel, the voyeuristic gaze of the camera more believable.

In or out of the shadow of V/H/S, the sequel is a pedestrian effort, warranting only a single viewing. Minus ‘Safe Haven’, there is little to recommend in what is chalked up as another disappointing sequel.

Expected Rating: 8/10

Actual Rating:

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