Last year’s V/H/S was an unexpectedly strong entry in not just the horror genre but also—even more surprising—the tired found-footage subgenre. Sporting a murderer’s row of gifted directors, the anthology film was able to concentrate on horror’s natural strengths (kinetic energy, social commentary) while limiting the genre’s weaknesses (an often-fatal apathy towards character development and nuance).V/H/S/2 is more of the same, but shows how vulnerable the formula is to become tired and repetitive.
The sequel features four short standalone horror films, loosely linked by a framing device in which a team of private investigators watch videotapes to find evidence about a person who is missing, possibly a zombie. Each film is well made enough from a technical perspective, but all follow the same pattern: camera placement (embedded in a character’s eye, attached to a bike helmet or dog collar), initial scare, full-out attack, end. With each assuming the form of a monster movie, and two using the same basic type of monster, they start to blend together. Unless the inevitable V/H/S/3 involves other types of horror (i.e. psychological, not supernatural), the series will simply devolve into a showcase for make-up artists. Dropping the found footage gimmick would also allow some much-needed style diversity (and who downloads their eye camera onto a video tape?). The directors do create some fun gotcha moments, and you can’t argue they don’t give audiences exactly what they want. “This will keep the ghosts away,” the cute redhead says. Then she takes off her top.