Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
Did you grow up watching VHS tapes? Are you still watching VHS tapes and lugging around an unwieldy collection every time you move to a new place because you have a real attachment to physical media? Are you, too, excited by the terrifying sense of nostalgia that the first trailer for V/H/S/94 gave you? Well let me tell you, V/H/S/94 is here to live up to your wildest schlocky horror dreams and your video nasty nightmares. Not since Creepshow 2 has a horror anthology this fun hit the screen.
V/H/S/94 is a found-footage anthology, and each of the short films are tied together by the story of a SWAT team who find a number of terrifying tapes during what should be a normal drug raid. Like the other V/H/S franchise volumes, there are different directors for the short films, with directors Simon Barrett and Timo Tjahjanto returning to the franchise. While the films don’t necessarily visually or thematically correlate, they all have a good bit of gore and fun to them.
A reporter in Ohio investigates the urban legend of “The Rat-Man” in the anthology’s first video, ‘Storm Drain’. If you grew up watching local access news, you’ll appreciate how absolutely perfect Anna Hopkins is as reporter Holly Marciano as she and her cameraman go further than they should into a sewer tunnel, looking for the rat-man.
This first tape found in V/H/S/94 is great. It’s weird, it’s dark and gross, and it’s really funny. It’s surprising, too, and it ends on a truly hilarious and gory note. Starting out this strong, V/H/S/94 sets a high bar.
The second short film, ‘The Empty Wake’, takes place at a funeral home; a young woman is charged with filming an overnight wake. This one really feels like a home video. As thunder and lightning crashes outside the funeral home, you just know some creepy s--t is about to go down. It’s a familiar, urban-legend sort of tale, and it’s really fun to see it brought to life. The VHS found footage format works particularly well with the gore and effects in this segment.
The third short film, ‘The Subject’, comes from Indonesian director Timo Tjahjanto, and it’s an impressive piece of directorial work. The view revolves from a camera set up by a mad scientist, to the first-person view of his victims (who are also recording). This film absolutely goes for it. This video looks the least like it actually came from 1994, and while it turns out that there’s a good reason for this, it doesn’t really matter. ‘The Subject’ is absolutely bonkers; tech-based body horror like nothing you’ve ever seen.
The fourth and final film within V/H/S/94, ‘Terror’, has a home-video feel to it much like ‘The Empty Wake’. It follows a group of white supremacists in Michigan as they “test the ultimate weapon” and work towards their goal of the downfall of the “unholy American Empire”. It’s goofy, but it’s also a bit tiresome; rooted in our American reality, it’s just a bit much. Overall, this segment is fun to watch, as you’ll actually be rooting against the “protagonists” here.
While each of the short films within V/H/S/94 have a lot of humor to them, the film connecting them all , ‘Holy Hell’, at times feels like it’s taking itself a bit too seriously and the performances are stiff. It ends up working out in the very end, but in between some of the short films, some viewers may find themselves losing interest.
There’s an element of self-aware absurdity that has been missing from many horror/thriller films of the past decade, and I, personally, am thrilled to see it brought back with recent releases like Malignant, The Voyeurs, and now, V/H/S/94. The future of genre cinema is a looking a little bit nostalgic and a little bit unhinged.
There’s a fine line between campy and bad, and each horror fan has their own ideas of where exactly that line is, if they even enjoy campy horror at all. V/H/S/94 is exactly what this horror fan thinks anthology horror should be. Each segment brings something different to the table, and it’s fun to watch from start to finish.
V/H/S/94 comes to Shudder October 6
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