The Ninjabot

All 9 V/H/S segments ranked from best to worst

Posted on January 12, 2014 at 1:04 pm by Nathan Tolle

V/H/SThe two V/H/S horror films have been polarizing to say the least, but they have provided lots of excitement for junkies of one of the most important subgenres of horror: anthology films. As tired as I am with found-footage movies, I’ve always been a huge sucker for anthology films and I’m happy that they are finally making a comeback. Ever since the popularity of Trick ‘R Treat (and the excitement surrounding its future sequel), it’s been obvious there is still a hungry audience for these little slices of terror and hopefully the horror gods will keep them coming.

While there was much to admire about the 2012 found-footage horror anthology V/H/S, it had so many flaws that sitting through it was a real chore at times, which is why it took me awhile to check out the sequel. Released less than nine months after the original, V/H/S 2 is a massive improvement in every possible way and now I will be one of the first people in line if we are to be graced with a third installment.

Here is how I would rank all nine of the V/H/S segments, from best to worst. I won’t be counting the bookends that interweave the tales, which involve people trespassing in creepy houses and stumbling upon a mountain of videotapes piled in front of a television.

1. Safe Haven, directed by Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto
V/H/S 2

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When the trailer first surfaced for part 2, there was no shortage of creepiness, carnage, and chaos, but the most indelible (and gruesome) images came from what appeared to be a story about an Asian cult. Safe Haven is the best of all of the V/H/S tales because of its methodical pace and how it slowly unpeels different layers of horror even up to the final frames. We know it shouldn’t be difficult in making a religious cult look absolutely terrifying, but “Safe Haven” clearly wanted to be much more than just another take on the Jonestown Massacre. A news crew manages to talk the elusive and distrusting leader of a controversial Indonesian cult into letting them enter the compound and conduct interviews. Much like The Blair Witch Project and REC, here we are placed directly into the action, and thanks to clever camerawork and convincing delivery, we feel like we’re tagging along with this unfortunate crew in this haven that is anything but safe. Whether we’re peering inside a classroom full of children or a surgical room that we’re supposed to stay out of, I was a nervous wreck the whole time, yet still capable of giggly anticipation. So much shit goes down in the final ten minutes that I felt the same kind of exhilaration as I did during the ultimate monster mash climax of The Cabin in the Woods.

2. 10/31/98, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, and Chad Villella
V/H/S

When four different people are credited for writing and directing a single segment for an anthology film, it’s either going to be an incoherent mess or something that resembles a Halloween bag overflowing with delicious treats. After two disappointing segments in a row, I was getting really impatient and frustrated with this movie, but then “10/31/98” arrived and made everything so much better. In this Halloween-themed entry, a group of teens head to a Halloween party, but what awaits them inside the house is much more than your average paper Mache décor, cobwebs, and fog machines. It’s really fun and engaging, and in many ways feels like walking through an elaborate haunted house during October, knowing that someone or something is waiting for you around the corner. And like the best of haunted houses, they wait until the end to show off their most amazing tricks.

3. A Ride in the Park, directed by Gregg Hale and Eduardo Sanchez
V/H/S 2

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Diary of the Dead made me a believer that zombies and found footage shouldn’t mix, but to my surprise, “A Ride in the Park” makes the brain-munching living dead ghouls more fresh and interesting than they’ve been in years. With a Go-pro strapped to his helmet, a young man on a bike ride stops to help an injured woman but his good-Samaritan instincts are rewarded with a nasty zombie bite. The idea of a long, continuous zombie POV shot might not seem that entertaining, but it’s truly fascinating to get a first-person perspective of someone undergoing the horrific metamorphosis from man to monster. It would be heartbreaking if it wasn’t so damn fun!

4. Phase 1 Clinical Trials, directed by Adam Wingard
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Quite possibly the scariest one of all, this nerve-frazzling terror tale is about a man who goes through a bizarre procedure at a doctor’s office after a car accident has robbed him of sight in one eye. Once again, he can see, but there is a catch: a camera has been implanted in his eye so that the doctor can monitor the progress anytime he pleases. And like every horror movie involving implants has taught us, the real horror begins once you leave the doctor’s office. To have your mind and vision manipulated the way this poor sap does is a fate worse than death—it’s like constantly having one foot inside The Further from Insidious, even while doing mundane chores around the house.

5. Second Honeymoon, directed by Ti West
VHS

Even though most of it involves a young couple casually videotaping their Westbound vacation, I wasn’t bored for a second because I know Ti West is a true master of slow-burns and awesome payoffs. So once the mystery cameraman grabbed a switchblade with his other hand and ever-so-slowly sauntered over to a man getting his zzz’s, I knew neither he nor I would be getting off easy this time. Ever since Lost Highway, the idea of a stranger videotaping someone sleeping has given me the willies, and this segment plays on that kind of violation and vulnerability brilliantly.

6. Slumber Party Alien Abduction, directed by Jason Eisener
VHS 2

From all of the reviews I’ve read, it seems to be a consensus that this loud and kinetic entry is the weakest part of part 2, and while I agree, it must be stated that “Safe Haven” is a nearly-impossible act to follow. It gets off to a believable and entertaining start as a group of youths take turns pranking each other—these days it’s probably a common reaction to scream “don’t put this on Youtube!” the moment you realize your trickery has been immortalized on video. But sadly, once the aliens crashed the party, I started to lose interest because the extra-terrestrials didn’t look anything special, and I was never able to accept the silly idea of a dog running around with a camera attached to its head.

7. Amateur Night, directed by David Bruckner
VHS

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My opinions may change with a second viewing, but I had a real hard time sitting through “Amateur Night” so I was surprised by how it seems to be a favorite among many reviewers. The characters are so obnoxious and unlikable, and not in an entertaining way, and after fifteen minutes of enduring their shenanigans through dizzying camerawork, I came extremely close to turning off the movie with no intentions on watching the rest. My patience was rewarded, though, once these jackass characters started dropping like flies at the feet of one hell of an intriguing killer.

8. The Sick Thing that Happened to Emily When She Was Younger, directed by Joe Swanberg
VHS

A doctor-to-be has a Skype session with his girlfriend, who is worried that her apartment might be haunted. With a Paranormal Activity formula and stationary cameras, we’re pretty much just staring at two faces the whole time reacting to doors mysteriously slamming shut and childlike phantoms dashing at super-speed. Because I didn’t particularly care for either of the characters, I was bored, and the random uses of nudity to spice things up just came off as desperate. However, I’ll give this segment credit for its bizarre and ambitious conclusion which I certainly didn’t see coming.

9. Tuesday the 17th, directed by Glenn McQuaid
VHS

This one never takes itself seriously, and does its best to cover all of the obligatory 80’s summercamp-slasher ingredients except, sadly, suspense. A rowdy group of teens on a camping trip find themselves in the same location where a massacre occurred exactly a year ago, but instead of a hulking, masked brute with a machete, we get a blurry, glitchy, unconvincing editing trick doing the slicing and dicing. Nothing memorable or exciting here, I’m sorry to say.

vhs 2From the nine V/H/S segments thus far, I would say five of them are very solid so I’m all for a third installment. Obviously, I’d be much happier with the announcement of a real Creepshow III or another Tales from the Darkside movie, but whatever, I’ll take what I can get. Hopefully in five years from now, I’ll have the option to rank all 15 or so Trick ‘R Treat tales—for junkies of horror anthologies and Halloween, it would be a huge tragedy for this series not to succeed so let’s give Michael Dougherty all the support we can!

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