Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans

VHS 99 ***


 Directed by Johannes Roberts, Flying Lotus, Tyler Macintyre, Maggie Levin, Vanessa Winter and Joseph Winter.


Streaming on Shudder from 21st October


The V/H/S anthology franchise continues on, creeping up to the end of the twentieth century now, a time when the internet started creeping into our homes and it seemed that the only things to fear were the threat of Y2K, the macarena and if The Blair Witch Project was actually real. Those halcyon days are revisited once again after last year’s 1994 set entry with these five new stories trading in all manner of supernatural shenanigans. As ever the results are a bit of a mixed bag but this particular franchise still manages to veer to a high level of quality, sometimes using the found footage format in inventive and surprising ways.


The directors and writers stepping up to the plate this time around are a mixture of familiar and maybe not so familiar names. 47 METERS DOWN director Johannes Roberts may be the most mainstream name on display here joined by Flying Lotus, Maggie Levin, Tyler Macintyre and most exciting for anyone who has seen the recent DEADSTREAM, Vanessa and Joseph Winters. It is a canny move on the producers part to mix things up like this, ensuring up and coming directors get to make an impression while reeling in an audience eager to check out the latest work from those they are more familiar with. Such a creative decision however will usually yield mixed results and V/H/S 99 is no exception, showing that some directors are more suited than others and arrive more prepared to wrestle with the limits that come with the found footage format to produce something memorable and/or interesting in the process.


The wraparound footage that binds everything together is of a more light hearted tone than before. Previous entries have usually relied upon a character coming across video tapes in a sinister situation. This time around we are treated to a breezy and goofy stop motion adventure involving plastic toy soldiers before we launch into the separate stories. Once there however we are off to a rather uninspiring start with Maggie Levin’s entry THE SHREDDERS, which details a grunge bands hunt for a missing girl band in an abandoned location. All of the characters annoy and the predictable premise offers no scares or thrills but it at least manages to skewer the commercialised faux grunge movement that was so prevalent in that decade.


Thankfully things improve from here on out. SUICIDE BID, written and directed by Johannes Roberts is an EC Comics style entry detailing a student’s sorority pledge going wrong in an increasingly nasty number of ways. Roberts manages once more to make the most out of a limited location which plays on two particular phobias to great and nasty effect, no doubt raising the heckles of those who are susceptible to them.


OZZY’S DUNGEON, directed by Flying Lotus seems to break completely from the format altogether with a spoof of Nickelodeon style game shows where kids viciously battle each other in an unrestrained tournament to complete an obstacle course for an unspecified prize before turning into something else entirely. Anyone who saw Flying Lotus’ previous film KUSO will be unsurprised to see him indulging in his now trademark style of grimy photography as all sorts of bodily fluids are strewn across the screen.


Tyler Macintyre’s THE GAWKERS is an overlong tale of horny teenagers spying on a woman through the internet. It takes an age to get to its predictable point with an unconvincing reveal. It is too reminiscent of the first film’s AMATEUR NIGHT sequence but too far lesser effect. Beautiful women are never to be trusted in the V/H/S universe it seems.


Thankfully things get back on track with TO HELL AND BACK, the most successful and accomplished story here. Vanessa & Joseph Winters prove that DEADSTREAM was no fluke with an inventive and funny entry detailing a magical ritual taking place at the end of the century. Executing their skills with a couple of great jump scares, combined with some great metal album art imagery, it shows just how much they are in command of the format with how skilfully they use it. Even if it does raise the eternal question of why someone would keep filming after suffering bloody, trauma inducing injury. When the results are this fun though it seems cheeky to complain.


A worthwhile watch as ever it may not match the strength of V/H/S 94 but is worth checking out for its three high points. It may not have a lot to say about the actual 1990’s themselves, apart from the questionable fashionable choices and difference in broadband speeds, but with the already announced V/H/S 85 on the way it looks like this could be a welcome addition to Halloween viewing schedules for the next few years to come.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans