Movie Review: “V/H/S/2”
Searching for a missing person, two private investigators discover what looks like an abandoned house. They break inside only to find a collection of televisions and a collection of suspiciously marked VHS tapes. Not finding any other clues in the house, one of the private investigators decides to play one of the tapes. The private investigators would soon realize that, when played one after the other, the tapes affect their viewers in mysterious ways.
One tape tells the story of a man who gets a cybernetic optical implant that begins picking up supernatural frequencies. The next tape tells the story of a cyclist with a go-pro in the midst of a zombie outbreak. Another tape tells the story of a sadistic cult. Each tape has a different supernatural story to tell, but with each tape, things get progressively stranger for the private investigators.
The Pros & Cons
The Tapes (+5pts)
The Connecting Plot (-5pts)
The Characters (-4pts)
The Horror (+8pts)
Pro: The Tapes (+5pts)
The filmmakers had the opportunity to give audiences a variety of unique stories. With this format, the movie never feels old. We get a collection of short stories that are as sweet as they are short. The audience gets enough time to quickly setup the premise, which quickly transitions into the intensity and then, before the audience has time to get bored from one story, the movie moves right along to the next tape.
The tapes themselves were pretty interesting. Each had a very unique premise that hooked me in for different reasons. As a result of having so many short, unique stories, V/H/S/2 always feels fresh. With each new tape, the audience will be compelled, wondering what they are about to witness next. This type of storytelling has some flaws (which I will get into throughout this review), but the benefit is that the filmmakers get to constantly switch things up by introducing a variety of creative stories.
Con: The Connecting Plot (-5pts)
Much like V/H/S, this movie failed to deliver a connective plot that was even remotely interesting. You may be wondering what I mean when I say “connective plot”. A story like this is comprised of a number of short stories. Between these stories, there is another story that connects them all, which is the story of the two private investigators exploring the abandoned house and watching the tapes. After having seen this story through, I cannot help but wonder what the filmmakers saw that made them think this connective plot was worth telling.
No one is going into this movie wanting a plot that is going to intertwine the short stories. People are only watching this movie for a collection of short stories that will scare them. With that in mind, if you are going to add a connective plot, it had better be a good one. That was not the case with the original movie and it was not the case with this one either. Audiences will not care about the private investigators or what they are doing. The result is a boring connective plot that audiences will use to take bathroom or snack breaks.
Pro: Technology (+3pts)
I was surprised by how well the filmmakers used technology in these stories. There were a couple of tapes that were simple found footage stories, but a couple others used technology in creative ways that made me feel like I was watching an episode of Black Mirror. One unique story was the zombie apocalypse tape. In this tape, a cyclist was wearing a go-pro when he was bitten. We then see a zombie outbreak story from the point of view of the zombie. I have never seen that before because, let us be honest, zero dialogue or development from the main character can be boring. However, this works in a short story format.
In my opinion, the most creative story was that of the optical implant. A cybernetic optical implant is, currently, something you only see in science fiction. We have seen stories with cybernetic optical implants many times before, but this story takes it a big step further. The patient quickly discovers that his device is malfunctioning, as his implant begins picking up paranormal frequencies. He can see ghosts, but cannot here them. Then the ghosts learn that he can see them and he becomes a focal point of their attention. I liked this story a lot. It was creative, unique, captivating, and a great example of how well the filmmakers utilized technology in creative ways.
Con: The Characters (-4pts)
While the stories themselves were interesting and continuously made the movie feel fresh, there was a downside to having so many short stories thrown in here. Due to the limited time that each story had, the filmmakers had barely enough time to setup the premise and deliver unique horror. As a result, they did not have enough screentime to create and develop characters that the viewers would care about. As compelling as these short stories can be, they feel a bit hollow when viewers do not care about the characters and if they live or die. Each tape was entertaining enough, but by having so many short stories crammed into an hour and a half, the characters simply could not get the development that they needed.
Pro: The Horror (+8pts)
I had a few issues with the short story format, but one thing that they were all effective at was delivering intense horror. Each story had a premise that kept me on the edge of my seat in anticipation of the next scare. Some of these stories had the typical jump scares, that you come to expect in horror movies today, but there were some truly memorable and intense horror moments. Some moments were more effective than others, but these stories kept me on the edge of my seat with their captivating and terrifying horror. I will poke a few holes in them through this review, but these stories were successful in their main objective, delivering effective horror.
Con: Impact (-4pts)
This issue is kind of tied into the poor character development. Each story had effective horror, but the stories were difficult to get invested in. This was largely due to the poor character development, but additionally, none of the stories had much of a plot. Instead of having sub-plots for each story, it was like they just had situations in place of plots.
There is no significant setup. The stories just kind of throw you into the fire and, right when you get a grasp of what is going on, you are already at the climax of the story. Each story had effective horror but I thought they were all missing well written characters and properly developed plots. This is a horror movie, and I am not saying I needed or expected moving, Oscar worthy stories and characters, but having a basic level development (of the characters and the plot) would have made these stories much more impactful. They were all intriguing and mildly entertaining, but all made me feel like something was missing.
Grade: C+ (78pts)
Much like its predecessor, V/H/S/2 is a mildly entertaining horror movie. The horror is effective and the stories are unique, but the short story format is responsible for all of my issues with the movie. The connective story is boring, uninteresting, and will leave viewers begging for another tape to start. Each tape has a unique premise but, due to the limited time the filmmakers had to tell each story, the characters were poorly developed and the individual stories did not get the proper setup.
Based on my issues, I do not want you to think that I am being overly critical. The reason this hurts the movie is because, without character development or proper setup, the stories lose impact due to the viewers not being properly invested in what is happening. The horror is definitely entertaining, and the premises in each story are unique and interesting. There is a lot of intense horror, but you simply will not care about the characters in these situations. If you are looking for a average horror movie as we approach Halloween, then this movie is not a bad choice. The horror is decent, but the movie definitely had room for improvement.