The films play, sometimes to brilliant effect, with four horror genre staples: the ghost story, zombie attack, demonic possession, and alien abduction.
And each follows the found-footage format: Everything we see has (supposedly) been shot by cameras operated by the characters.
Adam Wingard, director of the finely crafted shocker A Horrible Way to Die, directs and stars in the ghost story, Phase I Clinical Trials. Wingard plays Herman, a video-game-playing layabout whose right eye is replaced by a miniature camera after a car accident.
Things go funny when Herman goes back home: He starts to see dead people. They congregate around him as if the camera were a beacon. Wingard has a lot of fun using clever camera tricks to disorient and terrify the audience. This is a lovely genre exercise. And scary.
Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale codirected the most accomplished film, the zombie piece A Walk in the Park.
An amazing, funny, and tragic love story, it's shown for the most part through a mini-cam on top of the unnamed protagonist's bike helmet. At turns terrifying and poignant, the film is an intimate portrait of a man's dying moments after he's bitten by a zombie and his first taste (ahem) of undead life after he's reanimated.
For pure freaky terror nothing in V/H/S/2 comes close to codirectors Gareth Huw Evans and Timo Tjahjanto's demon piece Safe Haven. A group of young TV journalists are given access to a cult leader's compound, where they hope they'll find evidence that the self-appointed guru has been raping members of his flock, including young children.
They find something very different. They've arrived on the day the world ends, when this gargantuan demon dude is to emerge and take over the world. The scene when the demon is delivered is so creepy and so bloody, it'll tickle fans to no end.
Jason Eisener's Alien Abduction Slumber Party is the collection's weakest entry. The title pretty much sums up the story: A bunch of prepubescent kids are having a grand old time when their parents are out of town. It's all fun and games until the aliens come.
The set pieces are shown through a mini-cam (supposedly) mounted on a fuzzy, yapping dog. The footage is bewildering and confused, not scary.
V/H/S/2 is likely to be as popular with fans as its predecessor. It certainly earns that right.
V/H/S/2 **1/2 (out of four stars)
Segments directed by Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans & Timo Tjahjanto, Gregg Hale & Eduardo Sánchez, Adam Wingard. With Lawrence Michael Levine, Kelsy Abbott, Adam Wingard, Hannah Hughes, Jay Saunders, Fachry Albar, Hannah Al Rashid. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 mins.
Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (profanity, nudity, extreme violence, gore, demonic apparition)
Playing at: area theaters
Contact Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.