Quickie sequel ‘V/H/S/2’ is slightly better than the first

Zombie bikers are one of the highlights of the found footage horror anthology Zombie bikers are one of the highlights of the found footage horror anthology “V/H/S/2.”
Credit: Magnet Releasing

‘V/H/S/2’
Directors: Gareth Evans, Eduardo Sanchez, etc.
Stars: Many
Rating: NR
3 (out of 5) Globes

Tossed-off, quickie sequels to modestly successful exploitation fare is nothing new. “Black Caesar,” to name just one, made enough money in 1972 that it had a sequel, “Hell Up in Harlem,” later that year. The first found footage horror anthology “V/H/S” premiered at Sundance 2012, and though it made but a pittance, the low underhead — it’s shot with inexpensive HD cameras, with some light, albeit impressively organic, special effects — all but assured there would be more. “V/H/S/2” is, of course, more of the same. Once again, the shorts blithely break the rules, with “found” videos that have nonetheless been edited after the fact from multiple sources. (It’s no spoiler to reveal in every case the cinematographers wind up gorily dead.) Once again, most of the actors resort to panicking, artless swearing. And once again, title be damned, no episode is on grimy, retrograde V/H/S.

The quality, however, is slightly better. As with the first, name auteurs sit in with newbies, and the names mop the floor with them. The only returning director is Adam Wingard, who did the silly, semi-sensical wraparound story there, but not the silly, semi-sensical one here. In “Clinical Trials,” a young man’s new camera eye leads to him being plagued by some kind of ghostly, belligerent demons. It embodies the male-dominated, fanboy worldview of the first, where women exist to be badasses who whimsically offer their naked bodies to weak men. “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” manages to avoid this problem, specifically by redoing “Cloverfield” on a small scale, with a family and the camera somewhat inventively attached to a dog’s head.

These are fun, but the ones by the established pros go deeper. “A Ride in the Park” brings Eduardo Sanchez, of the classic of the genre “The Blair Witch Project,” and gives him zombies with tiny GoPro cameras atop their bike helmets. It’s the rare (though not only) zombie film to “humanize” zombies (as much as one can), with certain undeads finding glimpses of their body’s previous life. The centerpiece comes from Gareth Evans. The director of the relentless (and exhausting) Indonesian martial arts smack-em-up “The Raid: Redemption” (and its forthcoming sequel) heads to a cult commune, and then keeps topping himself, piling one bloody insanity atop another till the thing’s about to burst. If anyone ever makes an anthology film of the too-rare gems from anthology films, Evans’ would be a must-have.

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