Are you confused by the wealth of horror talent that’s behind this week’s new release horror anthology release V/H/S/2? No one could blame you for such confusion – after all, we are in the middle of a kind of horror anthology renaissance (if you’re willing to call the wide release of three horror anthology films in just one year’s time – the two V/H/S films and The ABCs of Death – a renaissance, which we very much are, because our local theaters were so deprived of such a genre for so long and come on), so the sudden influx of so much hot, fresh horror into your terrified eyeballs might be a bit too much to not only stomach but also to remember in terms of resume listings.
Just who did what? And what are they doing next? And why does that name sound so familiar? Let us guide you, thanks to an actual guide created for this specific reason. At the very least, it will give you something to reflect on while you scream in abject terror during the film itself (full disclosure: we screamed in abject terror during just one segment in V/H/S/2, and it’s absolutely the one that will make you scream in terror, too, at least if you’re afraid of homicidal cults, as any normal human being should be).
Written and directed by Simon Barrett
Just like 2012’s V/H/S, the latest entry into the ostensible new franchise includes a wraparound storyline that connects the rest of the horror shorts within the production. Barrett’s Tape 49 will probably feel familiar to fans of the series, and that’s because he wrote both segments – short films that center on groups of people who find themselves in creepy houses that are filled with all sorts of deeply disturbing VHS tape containing the other shorts in the film – but Tape 49 differs from V/H/S’s Tape 56, because instead of just serving to move along the storyline with some added scares for fun, some entirely unique creepy stuff also goes down in it, it’s own little horror mystery story.
Tape 49 is also Barrett’s directorial debut when it comes to this type of stuff (though he has three smaller projects under his directorial belt, two of them are documentaries), as he often works with director Adam Wingard on horror projects. Wingard sound familiar, too? He should, and we’ll get to him soon enough. Barrett also co-wrote the V/H/S segment “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger,” a personal favorite entry in that film and scripted another short in V/H/S/2 with Wingard, “Phase I Clinical Trials.” Next up for Barrett? The long-gestating release of his and Wingard’s You’re Next, a favorite of the Fantastic Fest crowd that is finally getting released later this month after sitting on a shelf at Lionsgate for nearly two years. Rest assured, when it comes to this one, shelf-sitting has nothing to do with quality, and Barrett and Wingard have really outdone themselves.
Phase I Clinical Trials
Directed by Adam Wingard, written by Simon Barrett
Modern horror’s dynamic duo returns to the V/H/S fold with the Wingard-starring “Phase I Clinical Trials.” This time around, Wingard and Barrett get to lead off the film’s non-wraparound shorts with a gory, goofy short so icky and visceral that I briefly considered leaving the screening room for a minute so as to not pee my pants. (Then, of course, I remembered that I was a professional and kept my ass in my seat.) Wingard leads the cast as a guy trying to adjust to life with a brand-new bionic eye, one that has a bad habit of seeing stuff he just doesn’t want to see (like dead people).
Wingard and Barrett have been crafting indie horror films for awhile now, including feature productions like A Horrible Way to Die and What Fun We’re Having and even their own very funny short in that other big recent horror anthology, The ABCs of Death, but they’re poised to break out with You’re Next, hitting theaters on August 23rd. After that? The pair are working on a new thriller called The Guest, which only promises us a story about what happens when “a family befriends a man who is not who claims to be.”
A Ride in the Park
Directed by Gregg Hale and Eduardo Sanchez, written by Jamie Nash and Sanchez
Best known for his work as a producer on horror films like The Blair Witch Project and Lovely Molly, Hale makes the jump to director with his V/H/S/2 debut. He’s directed before (an alien comedy from 2004, a TV series, a short way back in 1994) and he even wrote his own television series (FreakyLinks, billed as a “take-off” of Blair Witch), but Hale is in familiar company here. Co-directed and co-written by horror’s comeback kid, Sanchez, A Ride in the Park is still bent on using handheld cameras to capture action (like Sanchez’s most famous work, yup, The Blair Witch Project, and his most recent one, Lovely Molly), though the attachment of the camera to a biker’s helmet adds some stability and a new perspective.
Sanchez and Nash are working on their own Wingard/Barrett-esque partnership, having made films like Altered, Seventh Moon, and Lovely Molly together, with Sanchez taking on directorial duties and Nash scripting. Next up? Another horror outing, called Exists, that focuses on a group of friends on a camping trip who discover, wait for it, nope, not a psycho killer or home invaders or more zombies, but Bigfoot himself. Yes!
Directed and written by Gareth Huw Evans and Timo Tjahanto
First of all, oh my God, just oh my God. If you’ve read enough reviews for V/H/S/2 or heard enough chatter about it, you’re probably already well aware that just about everyone who has seen the film has the same favorite segment, and it comes to us from Evans and Tjahanto. If there’s any short in V/H/S/2 that all but demands a feature-length version, it’s “Safe Haven,” which somehow manages to pack an ungodly amount of horror film tropes (a creepy cult, a documentary film crew, dramatic interpersonal relationships, so much blood, a filthy operating room, an evil leader, and a goddamn monster) into just one short without feeling top-heavy or overstuffed in the slightest.
Evans is best known for 2011’s The Raid: Redemption, one of the most jaw-dropping action films in recent memory, and he’s currently hard at work on the film’s sequel. But action interests aside, Evans’ first film is closer to “Safe Haven” than you might expect – Footsteps was another brutal, bloody, and strangely intimate outing. Sure, Evans knows how to put fight scenes on film (which is putting it mildly), but he also knows how to make a blood-soaked thriller both shocking and insanely entertaining.
What Evans might lack in horror chops, Tjahanto more than makes up for with his scary movie-drenched resume. While still relatively new on the scene, Tjahanto and his “Mo Brother” Kimo Stamboel have churned out stuff like the creepy short Dara, the buzzy Macabre, and they’ve just wrapped their Killers. Next up for Tjahanto? He’s going the Evans way, and making an action film entitled The Night Comes For Us.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction
Directed by Jason Eisener, written by Eisener and John Davies
These guys made Hobo With a Shotgun. We can’t imagine you need to know much more than that.
V/H/S/2 is in theaters and on VOD now.