When the first V/H/S film initially released in 2012, its impact on the horror community was immediately felt, creating shocking scenarios presented in intimate detail through the found footage format. This led to two follow up films, both varied in success, that further consolidated the prowess. After a short break after the ill received V/H/S Viral, the series is back with a vengeance, this time placing it in the nostalgia soaked era of the 90’s. So, how does V/H/S/94 stack up compared to the predecessors? Well, the result is a bit varied, yet still befitting of the beloved franchise.
Opening on a strong note, newcomer Chloe Okuna comes out the clear winner for best segment with her nostalgia soaked, darkly comedic entry ‘Storm Drain’. Capturing the 90’s news era with interviews of delinquent teens, and this new phenomenon called ‘internet’, the story begins to hint at horror with an investigative report about the local urban legend of ‘The Ratman’. An abomination lurking in the sewers rumored to be abducting the locals. So what is a reporter to do but enter deep in the sewers for a scoop on the homeless.
Chloe Okuna is a relatively new name in horror cinema, but a name that is worth following going forward as she masterfully nailed the found footage vibe with an outlandish and wonderfully morbid story. The creature design is nightmarish, the comedic timing impeccable, the jump scares startling and the conclusion… Well, you need to see it but it is one of the best endings in all of the V/H/S series.
Sadly, the series does begin to lose some steam in the follow up, with fan favorite Simon Barret’s entry ‘The Empty Wake’, effective but lacking bite or nostalgic appeal. Narrative wise, the story of a young woman sent to oversee a wake with no one showing and a possible body still kicking is an unsettling premise. The reveal is a nightmarish vision of being haunted by a mangled being, hunting by sound and dropping bits of rotten gore with every violent dash. A truly frightful image, but one that is not particularly unique compared to the other entries. Regardless, the segment is extremely effective exercise in terror despite the simple set-up.
On the other end of the spectrum is Timo Tjahjanto’s contribution ‘The Subject’, that brings an odd sci-fi/action tale reminiscent of Frankenstein’s Army in premise (mad scientist making weird killing machines) with the up-close (slightly cartoonish) gore of the Hotel Inferno Series. Undeniably, the amount of blood and bits flying at the screen is a gorehound’s delight, but it really takes the nostalgia out of the 90’s format as there is nothing distinguishable of the era other than the timestamp. Furthermore, the segment is a slight disappointment comparing to the director’s previous work on the series – ‘Safe Haven’ in V/H/S 2 arguably the best short to ever come out of the franchise. Overall, the effects and pay-off are rewarding and the amount of visual chaos is commendable, yet it really struggles to resonate with how out of place it feels.
This leads to the final entry on the list with Ryan Prow’s ‘Terror’, bound to be the most divisive of the batch. Capturing survivalist paranoia of the 90’s that lead to a cell of radicalistic communities, the segment really captures the gun-totting conspiracy theory angle well – a snide remark of calling the Waco people underprepared amateurs gives an idea of the general attitude explored here. However, the horror in the segment feels rather muted in comparison, lacking the gore of the previous entries and a questionable creature design – it is a peculiar re-imaging of vampires that not everyone will enjoy. Regardless, it is hard to debate the segment is the perfect final entry in how it wraps together the 90’s theme – it may just not be the fan favorite of the bunch.
The wrap around story deserves mention, especially after the substandard approach in V/H/S Viral. Essentially, in which a team is sent in to investigate a drug smuggler, but stumble on a cult dedicated to celluloid atrocities – in a not so subtle wink at the audience. There is not a deep narrative here, but is a complementary way to weave the stories together, ends with a nice twist, and even teases that the series may live on – more V/H/S, please!
So, how does V/H/S compare to the other entries in the series? The only certainty is that audience reactions will vary; however, on a personal note, I can say it is my second favorite in the series (I am not telling you my first). The only aspect that really suffers is cohesion in bringing the concept of retro to life, that makes a great short like ‘The Subject’ more of an unwanted break in the flow. Regardless, fans of the franchise are in for a treat, and can celebrate the return of one of the most shocking film franchises ever crafted.. Thankfully, Shudder will be bringing this one to their platform early October, making it a must watch in the spooky season rotation.
We Watched V/H/S/94 as part of Fantastic Fest 2021
Greetings, My name is Adam and I am from Canada.
My love for all things bizarre came at a young age, as boredom in a small town lead me down a rabbit hole of obscure film, music, tv and literature. I have carried these fascinations with and turned it into a passion for writing, sharing and discussing the various arts.
My area of expertise, if there was one, would be geared towards Asian horror with a particular interest in film and manga. However, if it is odd, disturbing or trashy I probably heard of it or can at least pretend I have in conversation.
Thank you for taking the time to read my work, I always look to grow both as a writer and fan. I truly appreciate anyone willing to come along for the journey and share their passions in turn.