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The V/H/S horror series has seen its share of ups and downs but such is the way of the anthology film, that’s what makes this franchise interesting and sometimes frustrating. An anthology is always a trick or treat of moviemaking but in the case of this series, you can times that by eleven!
After the original V/H/S in 20212 started strong, the 2013 sequel was more wonky but with an all timer of a segment in Gareth Evans’ Safe Haven, while 2014’s VHS: Viral marked an unfortunate nadir for the franchise. However, last year the series moved to horror streamer Shudder, with its fourth instalment V/H/S/94, which not only marked a comeback but stood as the best V/H/S yet! So, sticking with Shudder, can the-cusp-of-the-millennium-set V/H/S/99 keep the momentum going?
Well, V/H/S/99 is an undeniable step down from its previous franchise-best but is still an engaging and entertainingly gruesome found footage horror anthology watch overall. The lack of a firm wraparound story this time around is wise (considering the weaker wraparound in last year’s V/H/S/94 was all that held it back from masterpiece status) but the segments themselves are varying in quality.
Starting off with Maggie Levin’s grungy tale Shredding, where a group of young MTV-esque web show pranksters break in to a venue where a punk band died in an electrical fire and are said to haunt the venue. This has promise but is slight and has a sometimes frustratingly loose grasp on its concept.
Following that is V/H/S/99’s best segment by far in Johannes Roberts’ Suicide Bid, in which a young lady college freshman is initiated into a campus sisterhood by doing a buried alive challenge, rumoured to have resulted in the mysterious disappearance of a girl 20 years earlier. It is a superbly effective and palm sweating urban legend horror tale, that evokes Drag Me To Hell at times, alongside – naturally – Buried. Excellent.
Flying Lotus’ unshockingly weird but good Ozzy’s Dungeon follows, as a somewhat dangerous gameshow for kids results in life-changing tragedy, and a vengeful mother seeks to give the show’s uncaring host a taste of what the show did to her daughter. It’s neatly delivered and ickily gnarly but the annoyingly abrupt end lets it down a lot.
Tyler MacIntyre’s The Gawkers meanwhile goes back to cautionary horror, as it combines computer age webcam voyeurism with a twisted girl next door story and an ancient figure of evil, in a briefer but effective story. As a group of lads attempt to catch a peak at their attractive female neighbour. Gives a whole new meaning to “you’ll go blind”.
The collection concludes with New Year’s Eve millennium horror story, as a witches coven recruit two videographer best mates to document their ritual, resulting in an otherworldly descent into a hellscape. Without doubt the most nuts segment of the lot, Vanessa & Joseph Winter’s To Hell and Back brings things to a good finish and is a lot of bonkers fun, with a well-rendered depiction of hell and its demented inhabitants, and an all in standout character and performance from Melanie Stone as hell guide Mabel.
Overall. Shudder’s V/H/S/99 may be up and down but there is much to like in this instalment. Which is an era-capturing, manic, anthology offering, with plenty of gore, plenty of “you’ve been warned” horror storytelling and, of course, plenty of mayhem. Shudder has really embraced this series and another V/H/S is already on the way and I’ll be right there to check it out once again come next year!