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Director: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener
Cast: Lawrence Michael Levine, Kelsy Abbott, L.C. Holt, Simon Barrett, Mindy Robinson, Mónica Sánchez Navarro, Adam Wingard
Length: 95 min
Rating: Contains both the Unrated Theatrical and Rated R versions
Disks: 2 (1 BD, 1 DVD)
Label: Magnet Releasing
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH
Within the independent horror scene, the most provocative, and polarizing, anthology franchise has been the V/H/S series, which utilizes the “found footage” aesthetic with low-budget resourcefulness, showcasing the talents of some of horror’s up-and-coming talents. And while the films have been warmly received after their success on VOD, home video and the festival circuit, individual segments have caused many debates amongst horror die-hards, especially within the first installment of the franchise. Some critics argued the facts that the first film had difficulty establishing continuity and focus between the aggressive scare tactics, while others stated that the films flaws were miniscule as opposed to the frights and shocks the film had in spades. Nevertheless, there was a line drawn in the sand, and when news came around about the sequel coming to Sundance earlier this year, fans and detractors both were ready to sink their teeth into a second round of debating.
However, V/H/S/2 was a resounding improvement over the first film, adding focus, drive and ambition to the next chapter of the franchise. With V/H/S wrap-around director Adam Wingard returning and V/H/S scripter Simon Barrett returning behind the directors chair, the mythology of the original was expanded upon as a new breed of directors attacked the segments, breathing in some of the most visually stunning and outright audacious filmmaking in the history of found footage. Out of V/H/S/2, many detractors resigned their doubts in the franchise and speculation ran rampant on future installments as the sequel became one of the “must-see” genre films of the year.
Although the grit, nihilism and inherent dread of the original V/H/S is mostly gone from this sequel, the film instead is a lean, mean psychological horror show with an unparalleled relentless tension and gore factor for an anthology film. Every segment is a home run, from Adam Wingard’s endlessly eerie and frequently funny “Clinical Trials” to Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale’s simplistic and gut-wrenching “A Ride in the Park” to Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans masterfully mind-melting “Safe Haven” to Jason Eisener’s nostalgic and fun “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”. Dark humor, savage violence and genuine scares are abound in each segment, but more importantly, every segment has a sense of structure, purpose and relationship. By understanding the subgenre in which they inhabit, each filmmaker eases their subversive filmmaking tactics gradually and allows the audiences expectations to fill their headspace, which makes the impressive feats of every segment all the more terrifying. Even the wrap-around segment, this time helmed by Simon Barrett, is more embedded in the mythology of the series and makes more sense in this context rather than the previous film, and keeps a tonal balance between each individual segment as well.Technically speaking, V/H/S/2 is almost miraculous, pulling off some incredible practical and digital effects in almost every segment. Wingard, working off a script from Barrett, provides a demonstration in editing and scene staging, while Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale do incredible with the concept of multiple point-of-views and on-screen special effects. Tjahjanto and Evans pull off world-building and stage elaborate, long-take set pieces that are absolutely spectacular, and Jason Eisener pulls off some of the most impressive looking practical alien costumes and lighting effects in recent memory. Even if the scripts are limited by the resources and time constraints, the segments are loaded with an imaginative sense of determination, even providing many stronger performances in these shorts as opposed to the first, especially in “Safe Haven”.
The video quality of the Blu-ray varies, as in many instances, the concept alone is antithetical to a Blu-ray conversion. But considering the cameras this time around are more advanced and even, at times, high definition, the transfer works just fine, providing an appropriate sharpness and definition. Video stand-outs include “Clinical Trials”, which is shot entirely on HD video, and the low point would be “Tape 49”, in which the grain factor is heavy and the image tends to get blurred during rapid action.
The audio transfer from Magnolia is great, as the sound design of the film is spot-on and is clearly replicated for this transfer. The dialogue, when used, is clear and there’s is no evidence of unintentional hiss or issues with syncing. Those with surround sound systems will definitely benefit the most from this transfer.
The features are varied, of course, but also mostly consistent. There are featurettes for each individual segment, as well as an informative and at times odd Filmmakers Commentary. Also included is a ho-hum AXS TV Spot and a BTS Photo Gallery and Trailer.
With the help of fun, ambition and resourcefulness, the directors behind V/H/S/2 earned a lot of respect, listening and constructing against the criticisms of the first film. V/H/S/2 is better sequel and one of the best horror films of the year. Attentive viewers that can keep up with the projects mythology will find a little more to love, but even on their own volition, these segments work big time and raise the bar for the next set of found footage contributors.