V/H/S (2012) was one of these multi-director anthologies that attempted to give a unique spin on things by requiring that all of the directors make their episodes in the Found Footage format (as though shot by video cameras in the middle of the action). V/H/S enjoyed a reasonable popularity both in video/cable release and limited theatrical screening. V/H/S/2 is a sequel featuring a different line-up of directors. This time the production team have even recruited Eduardo Sanchez, one of the co-directors of The Blair Witch Project (1999), the massive hit that created the Found Footage genre.
The opening and wraparound segment Tape 49 comes from Simon Barrett, a producer on V/H/S and writer/producer on most of Adam Wingards other films, who also wrote the screenplays for Dead Birds (2004), Frankenfish (2004) and Red Sands (2009). This feels a more substantial wraparound than the one in V/H/S did, while returning to the theme of people breaking into a house and viewing the tapes they find there. This time the episode bothers to wind the show up with a proper resolution that arrives at some shock effect in contrast to the first film where you came to the end and the wraparound just petered out. From this, you start to expect promising things from V/H/S/2.
Adam Wingard, otherwise the director of feature-length films such as Pop Skull (2007), A Horrible Way to Die (2010), Youre Next (2011), The Guest (2014) and Blair Witch (2016), directs the first segment Phase I Clinical Trials. This plays out as a variation on the Pang Brothers The Eye (2002) and its dull English-language remake The Eye (2008) in which a woman received a corneal transplant and started seeing ghosts. Wingard (who also plays the central character) offers up a Found Footage spin on this where there is also a video camera placed into the eye. However, the appearances of the ghosts are routinely handled, there is a nominal rationale offered (and an entirely gratuitous sex scene), before the whole episode is almost instantly forgotten.
A Ride in the Park comes from Eduardo Sanchez, co-director of The Blair Witch Project and solo director of Altered (2006), Seventh Moon (2008), ParaAbnormal (2009), Lovely Molly (2011) and Exists (2014). His co-director here is Gregg Hale, a producer on all of Sanchezs other films who made his own directorial debut with Say Yes Quickly (2004). A Ride in the Park is a Found Footage variant on a zombie film, which one argues is something that was already done with Diary of the Dead (2007) and [Rec] (2007) and sequels. This segments novelty is to have the zombie be the one with the camera a cyclist with a camera mounted on their helmet who gets bitten. This allows the segment to present a number of familiar aspects of the zombie film zombies tearing open stomachs and munching on intestines, being blasted away with shotguns, even scenes where they are stabbed in the head by a barbeque fork and run over by a vehicle in terms of the novelty of seeing them from the perspective of a first-person camera. Other than that, A Ride in the Park rarely rises out of the routine and feels like another amateur film, of which there have been too many plumbing the vein of the zombie genre.
Safe Haven comes from Timo Tjahjanto, the Indonesian director who co-directed the gore-drenched Macabre (2009) and subsequently the psycho film Killers (2014) and non-genre action film Headshot (2016) with Kimo Stamboel under the handle of The Mo Brothers. Here Tjahjanto co-directs with Gareth Huw Evans, a Welsh filmmaker known for the Found Footage film Footsteps (2006) and who previously travelled to Indonesia to make the international action hit The Raid: Redemption (2011). (This makes for the first entry in the V/H/S series that is not only made by non-Americans but also shot outside the US). Safe Haven seems at face value to be about a venture into a cult and a variant on the theme of films like Believers (2007), End of the Line (2007) and Proxima (2007) where nutty beliefs held by cult members appear to be coming true. A few minutes in however, Safe Haven takes a turn for the apocalyptically blood-drenched. Things explode out as the cult leader (Epy Kusnandar) abruptly leaps across his desk and stabs one of the camera crew in the neck, the others run out into the hallways of the compound pursued by cult members who then become zombified, while the female film crew member (Hannah Al Rashid) gives birth to a demon figure that pursues the remaining survivor. No rationale in the slightest is offered for the proceedings but Safe Haven creates an admirably full tilt bloodbath during its running time and is the only episode to raise the energy in an otherwise lacklustre anthology.
The final episode Slumber Party Alien Abduction comes from Canadian director Jason Eisener, who gained his fame with one of the fake trailers contributed to Grindhouse (2007) that he then expanded out as the full-length Hobo With a Shotgun (2011), which became an international cult hit. Slumber Party Alien Abduction starts well with the pranking among the kids and babysitting sister and her boyfriend, which Eisener shoots with a fair verisimilitude. With the entry of the Grey aliens, things alas slip into the routine. The rest of the episode simply becomes one with aliens pursuing and snatching people. Eisener gets a couple of jumps in but the Spielbergian backlit mist effect that accompanies the aliens every time they appear soon starts to feel overdone.
V/H/S Viral (2014) was a further sequel and is the best of the series.