Two private investigators looking for a missing student break into a house and discover its strange contents of static video displays and piles VHS cassettes. VHS is back with a new collection of found footage shorts from a variety of up-and-coming directors.
This time around we have four shorts and a wrap around story called Tape 47. Let’s start with the wrap around. It continues using the same format (I’m not quite willing to call it a story) as the first VHS film. A questionable choice, as the format was weak to start with, offering very little in the way of structure and only loosely connecting each segment within the film. I can only think it’s been done to give some consistency between the two films. Tape 47 doesn’t really develop the narrative established in Tape 56, the wrap around from VHS, and much like the first is rather bland and unimaginative.
The first segment is called Clinical Trials, and is directed by (and staring) Adam Wingard. Hang on, we know that name right? Yeah, this is the guy we have to blame for the Tape 56/wrap around story from original that has continued into VHS2.
Clinical trials revolves around a man who, following a car accident, is fitted with an artificial electronic eye. An unexpected side effect of the new eye is that the he starts to see ghosts in his apartment. What can I say about Clinical Trials? Well, it looks professional, at least as professional as a found-footage style film can look I suppose, and you do get to see some boobs…so it sorta has that going for it, but as you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t really like this segment. I found it a bit cliche; just another predictable and unoriginal ghost story. Not a great start to VHS2.
The second segment is a zombie film called A Ride in the Park, which is directed by modern ‘found footage’ architects Gregg Hale and Eduaro Sanchez, the team that arguably put found footage horror on the map with The Blair Witch Project in 1999.
This is where things turn around for VHS2. There isn’t much story to A Ride in the Park, but then, we all know the zombie story. What we do have is a gory, darkly comic and thoughtful zombie short that has a charming and surprisingly innovative feel for the tired zombie genre.
The third segment is called Safe Haven. Filmed in a documentary style, it follows a news crew as they investigate the practices of Indonesian cult. It is directed by Gareth Evans, who gave us the brilliant nonstop action thriller The Road, and Timo Tjahjanto. They have packed in a lot into this segment, it’s the only one that truly feels like a complete story, and even comes with traces of sub plots and superb character development, all of which culminates in an action packed ending. What stood out for me was the foreboding sense of doom and intensity felt throughout the segment. A brilliant piece that could have easily been made into a full feature film.
The last segment, Slumber Party Alien Abduction (award for best title) is my favorite. The title pretty much explains the story, but it does little to sum up what you are about to experience. I sort of ended this segment like ‘what the hell did I just watch?’ but with a big smile on my face. This segment is crazy, in the best possible way. Directed by Jason Eisener, who is most well-known for directing modern grindhouse cult classic Hobo With A Shotgun. Although, don’t expect anything like that here. Slumber Party Alien Abduction is more like an 80s movie on steroids. Some of the edits and cuts are very disjointed, however, so much so that I suspect that this was deliberate, and adds to intentional chaos and rapid pace.
Overall, VHS2 has a bit of a feeble start, but stick with it. The last three segments might be some of the best found footage style filmmaking you’re likely to see for a while (VHS3?). A sequel far superior to it’s predecessor.
Tape 47: 3.0/10
Clinic Trials: 5.0/10
A Ride in the Park: 7.5/10
Safe Haven: 7.8/10
Slumber Party Alien Abduction 8.0
I’m not going to include Tape 47 for the overall score because I feel that it’s broken into such small parts that there is very little negative impact to the film as a whole package. If nothing else it serves as great time to get up and grab a drink or snacks between the segments.