When I began this project my initial idea was that I was going to explore horror anthologies as a stepping stone for young indie directors to make their mark within the genre. I felt confident about my initial research, and it shaped my first conversation on the topic, but then social media reminded me that not everything Andy believes is true. An email from a friend mentioned that V/H/S was the case of a distribution company who had lost money with some horror films to make one for a small amount and sell it for a larger amount. It was also the case of a group of friends who were bored and gathered to make a film on the cheap. This had me thinking, perhaps my argument is wrong, perhaps what I should be looking at is the business of horror anthologies. Are horror anthologies a perfect way to finance either another film project, or to pull yourself out of debt? I will explore this a bit using V/H/S 2 as my backdrop.
Using a nearly identical framework, V/H/S 2 utilizes the skills of directors Simon Barrett (YOU’RE NEXT and THE GUEST), Jason Eisner (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN), Gareth Evans (THE RAID & THE RAID 2), Eduardo Sanchez and Greg Hale (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), and Adam Wingard (YOU’RE NEXT and THE GUEST) to bring four more horrific tales through the head of a VHS tape (though, in perhaps a nod to the next in the series V/H/S VIRAL, a Windows app is used for one). In terms of where this anthology fits with the original, it loosely has VHS tapes in it, though this time we are on the hunt for a missing person by WILD CANARIES own Lawrence Michael Levine (who is married to Sophia Takal who was in V/H/S … connection?). Together, influenced by money, they barge into a house and begin just watching videos, thus our seed is planted.
In terms of quality, V/H/S 2 fits like any good sequel (even horror anthology sequel) it is basically exactly the same, except for the monsters, as the original. This time, we have children running from aliens, a mechanical eye that makes you see ghosts, zombies in the woods, and finally – some really bizarre stuff from Gareth Evans. Evans’ SAFE HAVEN may be the saving grace of this set, purely based on the insanity that Evans produces. I had no clue where this story was going, and even now, after seeing it, have no idea where it went, but it was one hell of a ride. PHASE 1 CLINICAL TRIALS felt like a broken record, with the exact same circumstances repeating themselves night after night causing more boredom than fear. The cinematic “trick” of having the the video feed happening during the disastrous chain of events during A RIDE IN THE PARK and in SLUMBER PARTY ALIEN ABDUCTION (sounds like a bad 80s B-movie) just failed on an entertaining level. It is a double-edged argument when I watch found-footage films, I hate the overall shakiness of the camera, but then question the realism if it isn’t always jumping around. Yet, for these two, it just felt pointless. One attached to a zombie biker, the other to a dog, on paper probably sounded great, but execution felt cheap and unfocused.
To loop back to my earlier comment about how V/H/S was created (see bored friends) made me believe that this sequel (of sorts) was probably mirrored in the same fashion. With friends, and friends of friends, and friends of co-directors joining the ranks, the fun could be witnessed – the opportunity to have the freedom to do what these pioneers wanted to do was obvious, but alas, control needed to be used. The stories repeated versus continued, meaning that developed storylines were pushed away for cliche scares and standard horror fare. As far as budget, I can only assume that the film was made with a small budget and sold (or recouped much of its costs – maybe, a quick online search claims a variety of different numbers seemingly low to high), but outside of the standard blood canisters, not much went into production. On an aside, some of this was filmed in Frederick County, MD – not far from our fair city (obviously a Sanchez implementation).
As warned by my friends and horror enthusiasts, V/H/S 2 was a poor successor to the original concept. The overall stories seemed sloppy and lacked that perfect blend of originality and frights. It was disappointing to say the least despite the quality of the directors behind the projects, but as we continue to discuss money, it obviously did well enough to support another entry – V/H/S VIRAL which will conclude this series of discussions about both horror anthologies, the money for cinema, and bored friends. While VIRAL has received even worse reviews by many, I think my impressions will surprise many of you fellow readers. Despite my digital hesitancies, I found myself pulled back into the V/H/S world in a compelling way – but more on that as I conclude this three part series.