1994: A police S.W.A.T. team swoops in on a cult that trades in illegal VHS tapes that lull viewers into drug-like trances or death. As they make their way through their compound, the tapes begin to roll and show the full range of insanity that they trade in.
The fourth film in the V/H/S/ series is here — and the first I’ve seen — with each short film converging for the first time into a unified narrative. While David Bruckner wrote much of this, he couldn’t direct — he’s working on the new Hellraiser — and Radio Silence had limited involvement as they’re working on the Scream reimagining/reboot/sequel.
Made with older video equipment, physical tape transfers and digital effects so that each segment looks like 90s video, this film has a look much like our beloved Shot On Video 80s films like Boardinghouse, yet infused with the look of found footage. There’s also plenty of first-person shooter feel to a lot of the stories, which should be disorienting yet totally works.
How can this get even better? Tons of gore — seriously, it’s out of control in the best of ways — and a soundtrack by Greg Anderson — performing as The Lord — who is one of the hooded people behind SUNN O))).
“Holy Hell,” written and directed by Jennifer Reeder (Signature Move, Knives and Skin) is the connecting story that tells the tale of the cops finding all of the static, noise and eyeless bodies.
The first tape that they watch, written and directed by Chloe Okuno, is “Storm Drain,” which has a debt of gratitude to the WNUF Halloween Special. That said, it has its own energy and I love the reveal of the creatures, including the demonic rat god that lives in the sewer and the human rats that feel a lot like Giuliano Carnimeo’s Ratman.
Simon Barrett’s (who wrote The Guest and You’re Next) “The Empty Wake” has a mortician’s assistant alone — on a night with a tornado warning no less — with a dead body that may not stay dead. This reminded me of Silent Hill — the video game — in all the right ways.
Timo Tjahjanto (The Night Comes for Us) has the most technically advanced portion of the film, “The Subject,” in which a mad scientist has turned numerous human beings into mechanized killing machines. This sequence makes an inspired leap from video diary medical gore freakout to SWAT video game attack to realizing that S.A. is the victim and then it becomes her tale as she battles her way to freedom.
Ryan Prows (Lowlife) wrote and directed the last segment, “Terror,” which has a religious militia keeping a supernatural weapon guarded day and night, ready to unleash it to cleanse the world of sinners. This segment boasts an incredible idea and close, but may take a bit too long to get there.
There’s also a commercial for a Veggie Masher that looks about as real as a TV commercial as I’ve seen. It’s directed by Steven Kostanski, who made two of my favorite movies in recent years, Psycho Goreman and The Void.
The streaming world is filled with way too many horror anthologies. So many of them don’t understand the need to have a framing story and a unifying theme. That’s because so many are just shorts all jammed together to try and take your money. V/H/S/94 has the one thing those movies are missing — well, besides actual talent and artistry — and that’s fun. Everyone looks like they had an incredible time making these, filling the screen with big ideas and plenty of guts and fluids.
You can watch this on Shudder.