It's a rare sequel that surpasses the original. The original V/H/S was a mostly solid horror anthology film that suffered mostly from have 1 too many segments (I personally would have cut Tuesday the 17th), a weak wrap-around, and not enough explanations of what and why the hell certain events were taking place. Its strengths were greater than its weaknesses though, and I eagerly awaited the announced sequel (originally titled S-VHS, which I wish they had kept).
As often the case with anthology films, some were better than others, but by reducing it to four segments and the wraparound (down from 5 in the original), we got more story to the segments, and a bit more time to 'world build' before shit hit the fan.
The wraparound segment (titled Tape 49) is probably the weakest of all of the tales, but it hints at a greater mythology for the series - hinting that the tapes themselves are somewhat supernatural in origin (thus explaining how so many modern-day recordings made it onto tapes). It gets the job done, but I wish it hadn't required the characters to be straight-up stupid - they are private investigators hired to find a missing college student, yet once they get into his place they don't watch the final video he recorded on his computer. Otherwise, I like it for the mythology building and the somewhat creepy ending.
The first segment is called Phase 1 Clinical Trials. The setup is that a man has a new eye implanted after an auto accident. The eye has a camera in it so that the doctors/developers of the technology can see how it works. The rub is that the man very quickly starts seeing not-so-friendly ghosts in his apartment. A formerly deaf woman who can now hear thanks to the same company can now hear the ghosts and tries to help him. I won't reveal more except to say that this segment suffered from a problem the majority of the segments in the first film suffered from: not enough understanding of why this is happening. It's slightly more tolerable in this film (this is the only segment that has that problem), but the not-deaf girl never explains why the ghosts are there besides a vague question ('Have you ever done anything bad?"). I don't need every last detail, but the ghosts seem to have a specific bone to pick with the guy, and we never learn why.
The second segment (A Ride in the Park) has probably the single greatest 'Why are we recording this?' concept: A guy is recording himself while riding his bike on a trail, then gets bitten by and turns into a zombie. So we basically get a zombie movie recorded from the perspective of the zombie. It's a novel take on the genre, and the segment goes just long enough to satisfy. We don't know why there are zombies, but we don't need to know as it is ancillary to the main story (unlike the previous segment, where the ghosts' motivations are kind of a big deal), so the zombie's journey is the focus. This segment also has the only moment of pure humor in the entire film, and I won't spoil it except to say that it involved a married couple.
The third segment (Safe Haven) is by far the best of the bunch, and I wish they had ended with it so that the final segment didn't suffer so much by comparison. It involved a documentary crew going to visit a cult's headquarters on what turns out to be a very important day. They wear hidden cameras on their persons, plus it cuts between the cult's security cameras and the actual camera used by the documentary team. They throw so many things at this segment, and it all works and builds beautifully. In the trailer, a section of it is shown where a room full of men all shoot themselves simultaneously while saying 'amen' and it is probably near the bottom of the list of creepy/fucked up things that happen during this part. The only minor quibble is that some of the cuts between the hidden cameras of the documentary crew confuse you as to who we are with, but otherwise this segment kicks monstrous ass, with the best ending out of this and the original film.
The final segment (Slumber Party Alien Abduction) suffers so much from merely following Safe Haven. It really should have been after A Ride in the Park to keep with the ever-building creepiness of the segments, but it still works well for what it is. The title really explains the entirety of the segment, and it is recorded by a camera attached to the family dog while the slumber-partiers prank each other. The aliens are uninspired, but the pitched panic of the teens works well (how well would you keep your head if aliens started attacking you?). This segment will probably be called the weakest mostly because of what it follows, but I'd rate it above Phase 1 Clinical Trials.
All in all, a solid sequel that improves in almost every way over the original (although I do hope they get a female director for the third one). Fans of horror could do worse.
My rating: 7.5 out of 10