Directed by Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans and Jason Eisner
It may take its name from analog technology, but this horror omnibus is an ode to digital: each first-person segment is captured not on some old-school JVC camcorder but on a series of different modern marvels: a GoPro, a button-sized spy cam, an artificial eye. Unlike its predecessor, this sequel nods to an old medium but hardly celebrates it, though the films' framing devices are similar: here, two private investigators (including Greenpoint-filmmaker Lawrence Michael Levine) break into the home of a missing person and find a stash of cassettes, which they pop in. It's like a horror-focused Tropfest-for- one, recalling (as the first film also did) the way that genre aficionados, in that weird time between movie theater-hegemony and online streaming, would experience scary movies: in a marathon, a stack of rented tapes shoved consecutively into the VCR.
But V/H/S/2 isn't a throwback; each short employs horror cliches—ghosts, zombies, cults, aliens—but, like in the first season of Buffy, also twists them, most notably in "A Ride in the Park" (directed by a codirector and producer of The Blair Witch Project), in which a bicyclist filming his trip through the woods with a helmet cam gets attacked by the walking dead and becomes one, giving us a first-person view of rampaging zombiehood. In "Slumber Party Alien Abduction" (directed by Jason "Hobo With a Shotgun" Eisner), Roswell Grays invade a suburban sleepover (spoiler?); with the camera tied to a dog's collar and the aliens making a spectacle, the short is so illegible as to be essentially abstract.
The best of the bunch is Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans's "Safe Haven," about a documentary crew filming on a cult's grounds when some serious shit goes down. It's not scary so much as brilliant, packed with startling imagery (like a room full of men who simultaneously shoot themselves in the head) and an underlying allegory about the trouble unleashed by infidelity and betrayal. V/H/S/2 might not add up to more than the sum of its parts, but, unusually for an anthology film, horror or otherwise, its sum is still considerable.
Opens July 12