V/H/S/1994 movie poster

V/H/S/1994

In theaters October 6, 2021

102 minutes

Directed by: , , , ,

You can get excited for V/H/S/94 (2021) but it’s not really worth it.

2012’s V/H/S anthology horror movie wasn’t a groundbreaker, but it did fun exciting things with “found footage”, weaving them through a wrap-around story that tied them all together in bloody and gory ways. V/H/S/2 followed in 2013 with V/H/S: Viral,  both with fun and explicit shorts with zero connection other than they were “found footage” tapes.

Now comes V/H/S/94, continuing with the theme of found videotapes playing on various screens throughout an abandoned industrial yard where drugs (meth, probably) are being made. “Holy Hell” (directed by Jennifer Reeder) is our wrap-around narrative piece that keeps these tales in the same orbit. SWAT have descended upon a superlab, documenting their raid via videotape, of course. These are the hard-core take no prisoners style of bad cop that hasn’t been popular in several years, but whatever. The team makes its way from room to room, and various videos play, and as we return to the SWAT, they drop from radio chatter. It’s a continuation of the previous VHS movies, so there’s a “plot”, sort of, but you already know it won’t end well for any of them. There are bodies with missing eyes and lots of blood, lots of blood, and of course TVs where there shouldn’t be TVs.

“Storm Drain” (directed by Chloe Okuno)  follows an intrepid reporter and her cameraman into a storm drain where residents have reported seeing a giant creature, maybe a rat. When they discover there’s more to the myth it may be too late. This one had a fantastic creature and kudos for getting everyone in and out of the story quickly, if not wholly intact.

“Empty Wake” (directed by Simon Barrett) takes place inside of a funeral home where the funeral director’s assistant has been tasked with holding an overnight wake for a body that doesn’t seem content remains still in its casket. This was for me was the creepiest, because of the unknown element in the casket. It hints at strange religions and fanatics, and while not complete in its narrative, I still rank it at the top.  I have an affinity for funeral homes, so there may be an inherent bias.

“The Subject” (directed by Timo Tjahjanto) is about a prosthetic pioneer who takes his brilliant work entirely too far. This is Indonesia and they are reveling in the attention as an untapped market of creative talent and stark visuals This one went a little long for me and a lot over the top, but the effects were pretty amazing and deeply unsettling.

“Terror” (directed by Ryan Prows) takes place during winter in Michigan as a militia group attempts to bring down the Federal building in Detroit (sure). Their plans, in addition to a lot of guns given to them by a sympathetic policeman (insert huge eye-roll at this already overused trope), also include an incendiary by-product of what looks like a normal guy they’re holding hostage. There are lots of scenes of of anti-government lunatics with over-reaching ideas of their patriotism. After the usual night of over-indulgence, we can safely cheer when all hell breaks loose. The terror here is the militia, by the way, not the creature they have imprisoned, but I don’t entirely know if that’s what the director had in mind. There’s a lot of earnest-if-dumb-guy antics but you won’t shed too many tears. Also, For you animal lovers, there’s an unnecessary bunny death, and I really wish filmmakers would stop using animals to plumb the depths of their characters’ immoral actions. Do better.

This is not a great entry into the V/H/S franchise, and I say that with as much caution as I can since each one had really fun visuals punctuated by head-scratching or completely absent story points. I love short films and the greats (missing Drew Daywalt like whoa) who could tell a complete story in two minutes without skimping on the scares. Each of these stories had problems from pacing to explanation which sucks the joy out of anthology films. If I had to rank a favorite, the order would be “Empty Wake” followed by “Storm Drain”, “Terror”, “The Subject” and lastly, “Holy Hell”, which aside from being overly grainy with far too many “authentic” videotape defects, felt too on the nose with over-reaching brutality and not nearly enough of the unsettling visuals of the first two installments of V/H/S. It didn’t make a lot of sense beyond as a harbinger of the Internet and what can assume would be unleashed with “Tape 56”.

This is not the franchise’s best work. We have seen better anthologies from filmmakers with lower budgets, like A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio (2019). It proves time and time again that horror as a film genre is hard, and the shorts are even hard.  If we’re going to keep doing this, let’s source better. The good ones are out there.

V/H/S/94 (2021) is unrated, but this is not for kids so let them watch literally anything else. It’s a Hard R forever for swears, police brutality, eye trauma, vomit, head trauma, extreme and fatal body modification, people getting shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, bit, dismembered, set on fire, and so on. I’ll mention again the bunny death in “Terror” because like the bad cop trope, killing animals in the name of character development is overused and tiresome.

V/H/S/94 (2021) is streaming exclusively on Shudder.

 

Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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