The indomitable anthology sub-genre, which was once a framing device sporadically attempted in horror, is back in full swing, churning out a fair amount of successful outings that have brought back the nostalgia and makeshift modern features. Projects like Southbound (2015), Creepshow (2019), Tales of Halloween (2015), and Books of Blood (2020). Plus with Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (2022), it’s still going strong. The genre is often times critical proof as well, meaning if creators are able to build success in one or two of its segments per film, the entire concept can skate by as serviceable or even successful. Yet, if there’s an entire anthology film bringing out consistent scares, pulsating fear, and serviceability or exceptionality from each segment, then what you have is an undeniable gem.
On the other side of the spectrum, and something this schmoe has stated at nauseum, there’s just something about the sub-genre of “Found Footage” horror that rocks the core of your very soul. The in-your-face style brings the terror as close to a viewer as humanly possible. It’s tough to deny or argue its unmitigated power that, again, when done correctly, can create semi or complete masterworks that breathe right into your personal space. Best examples of these are REC (2007), Lake Mungo (2008), Cloverfield (2008), Afflicted (2013), or the latest in Rob Savage’s Host (2020) and Dashcam (2022).
When it comes to theses sub-genres, no series meshes both into a collective instrument of visceral, rampant horror better than the V/H/S series. Since the first film in 2012, it’s been the go-to franchise for mini-doses of horror that never slumps out on providing a variety of tales for fans and casuals to get a kick out of. Thanks in part to grabbing up multiple talented directors over the years to put their stories and spins on the formulas. And since it’s been literally a year since the franchise’s last entry, V/H/S ’94 (2021) was unleashed, now is as good a time as any for another. V/H/S/99 (2022) is cohesive journey into the realm of death, brutality, misfortune, 90s sensibilities, and magnetic tape. An insurmountably vile, twisted, sensational, collage and a downright fucked time.
So, let’s dive into the next couple of new chapters in the anthology. Oh and unlike previous V/H/S installments, this doesn’t have an overarching segment that acts as a narrative device to connect all the stories. Instead these tales are presented like a honest-to-goodness, bonafide mixtape, complete with grating, scratches, faded colors, processing, and a warped sound like the tape has been recorded on multiple times. Such an amazing age-appropriate touch along with everything else. Dug it. Anywho, let’s get into it.
First off, with “Shredding,” a group of obnoxious and disrespectful teenage rockers break into an abandoned concert venue where a tragic calamity took place, causing the deaths of a famous punk rock group who played there. Once the kids arrive, they continuously mock and desecrate the area…and pay for it. This segment was written and directed by Maggie Levin, and definitely sets the tone for the entire film awesomely. Equal parts graphic and incoherent, this acts as a grungy, punkish cautionary tale and a reminder that even in the 90s, sacred ground is sacred for a reason. A nifty little number and start to what comes next.
Speaking of which, next up in “Suicide Bid,” a desperate college freshmen applies to a prestigious sorority to gain friends and camaraderie. Unfortunately the sorority decides early on they don’t want the new recruit and instead play a heinous, practical joke that involves a coffin and an urban legend that isn’t so legend. Written and directed by Johannes Roberts, this segment took the ball from the last story and runs with it into the endzone. Creepy, claustrophobic, anxiety-inducing, shuttering, and definitely satisfying. Though trigger warning if you’re at all scared of tight spaces and creepy-crawlies as this will definitely freak you out. An affecting yarn that delivers the confining, tight scares.
On “Ozzy’s Dungeon,” written by Zoe Cooper, Flying Lotus and also directed by Lotus, an unsafe and ridiculous double dare-like game show with an uncaring host sees an enthusiastic young girl horribly injured during an obstacle course. The family of said girl decide to take revenge on the host for not stopping the show when she got hurt, resulting in further injuries. Needless to say, it gets more disgusting and sadistic from there. This segment definitely went all over the place emotionally and tonally. It was also one of the funniest and surprising tales that didn’t go where I thought it would. It’s also anchored by strong performances from Steven Ogg and Sonya Eddy. A significantly morphing tale that also delivered in a unique manner.
The penultimate segment, called “The Gawkers,” was written by Chris Lee Hill and Tyler MacIntyre as well as directed by MacIntyre. A couple of pervy, horny teenagers become fixated on their hot, anorexic neighbor, only to discover she isn’t what she seems after invading her privacy by installing spyware on her Macintosh computer. Out of all the segments, I dare say this one is the most 90s in terms of lingo and references to the decade. And while the story is the shortest and weakest in this feature, it did possess the most set and build up of all the segments so the pay off worked a bit better than it would’ve without it.
And finally there’s “To Hell and Back” written and directed by Vanessa & Joseph Winter. Two videographers are hired by a coven of witches record them as they summon a powerful demon on New Year’s Eve, since it’s believed the barrier between earth and hell is the flimsiest. Needless to say, the bickering, best friends are about to have a bad time when they’re literally transported to, you guessed it, hell. And man-oh-man this segment implicitly and irrevocably lives up to its title. By far one of the scariest, grotesque, and atmospheric stories in the entire franchise. It easily stands out as the strongest in this installment, and next to other segments in the franchise like “The Subject” and “Safe Haven“. A tale that grabs at you and holds on for dear life with its tension and imagery. A complete rollercoaster into the depths of hades itself.
And there you have it. Another winner in this franchise that just keeps offering decent, great, and spectacular stories from talented writers, directors, actors, and effects artists. This one in particular delivered consistently, its overall theme in all its glory, and acts as a kickass reminder why V/H/S as a series is one of the better anthology/found footage sagas out today. It’s a diamond in the rough of both sub-genres that will continue to shine bright in the blackness it permeates for itself. Whether it’s hit-or-miss or consistent, you can’t go wrong with this stint into handheld decimation and 90s grungyness. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to once again return some videotapes. And I will most certainly be kind and rewind.
Review written by Marcus Wilturner