Insert V/H/S/99 (FANTASTIC) For Another Five Macabre Tales of Found Footage Terror
First Non-Festival Release: October 20, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Flying Lotus, Maggie Levin, Tyler MacIntyre, Johannes Roberts, Joseph Winter, Vanessa Winter
Writer: Zoe Cooper, Flying Lotus, Maggie Levin, Tyler MacIntyre, Johannes Roberts, Joseph Winter, Vanessa Winter
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Starring: Melanie Stone, Brittany Gandy, Joseph Winter
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival in 2022.
Five more entries in the V/H/S series are pulled from the archives of 1999. Four teens sneak into an abandoned concert venue where a stampede of music lovers stampeded an all girl punk band to escape from a fire. Cruel sorority sisters force a prospective new member to partake in a terrifying hazing experience. The vindictive family of a former reality tv show contestant take their pain out on the host. Teenage boys get more than they bargained for when the woman they are peeping on catches them in the act. Two documentarians tasked with recording a Y2K sacrifice on New Year’s Eve are put through hell.
Another solid installment of the beloved series, V/H/S/99 creates more 90s terror to unnerve audiences.
It’s always incredible to watch found footage filmmakers create something spectacular while playing with the illusion of what is real and what is not. The effects in this year’s entry in the series are phenomenal. It’s clear that each team put in so much effort to make their specific flavor of terror pop on screen. Unfortunately, the lack of a cohesive wraparound segment does sully the mood and make V/H/S/99 seem less thoughtful than it is made to be.
Starting with its weakest segment, “Shredding” is truly incomprehensible at times. It captures plenty of nostalgia but thanks to insufferable characters and confusing editing, it is difficult to get on board with this short. The premise itself is fun and the special effects team does a great job with the zombie ghosts. Unfortunately, the sloppy writing and odd structure kills any momentum that is built here.
The most traditional short in the collection, “Suicide Bid” is overall a solid entry. Fraternity and sorority hazing is always a fun way to introduce fun and unique horror scenarios. The legend of a former new member is spooky and inviting for this franchise. It doesn’t stick the landing, but the meat of the segment does heavy leg work to put the audience on a claustrophobic and emotional journey.
Easily the scariest of the five segments, “Ozzy’s Dungeon” works because of its commitment to its zany premise. Impossible to predict, it manages to balance nostalgia with something truly original. It does lean heavy into some stereotypes but for the most part it looks like everyone is having a great time recreating a kid’s game show from the 90s. While its second act is unexpectedly shocking, the batshit ending is the icing on the cake.
Another truly unique entry into the franchise, “The Gawkers” puts a new spin on the “evil hot mysterious woman” trope that is so present in horror. Once the reveal happens, the film takes an instant turn that escalates into pure horror territory. The less that is said, the better, as this one revels in its reveal.
The last segment, “To Hell and Back” is easily the most ambitious, literally creating a found footage hell that looks fully realized and terrifying. Cobbling together the best of cult, cave, slasher, and supernatural horror, this short throws everything at the wall and it sticks. It also features the most iconic character of 2022’s V/H/S installment: Mabel. Played by Melanie Stone in a manner that can only be described as gleefully sinister, Mabel makes her mark with the limited screentime she is given. In fact, she deserves a V/H/S origin story, if possible, thank you!
Aside from the disorganized, chaotic feel of the first short, every segment is perfectly paced and bleeds into the next one with ease. It’s a scary and entertaining film that will have at least one or two segments that will supply what a viewer is seeking out from it.
Anthologies are tricky to pull off well but V/H/S/99 proves that solid conceptual yet fun filmmaking and attracting top tier talent is the key to success. It doesn’t subvert the expectation of the lacking short, but the remaining tales in this film more than make up for it in the end. “Ozzy’s Dungeon” and “To Hell and Back” are easily the top picks out of this bunch. Both daring and scary as hell, they cement this film as another great entry in the long running series. VHS tapes might not be thriving in today’s retail environment, but V/H/S/99 shows that they’ll forever be excellent fodder for found footage thrills.