V/H/S/94 (FANTASTIC) Brings Found Footage Frights Back to the 2020s
First Non-Festival Release: October 6, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Simon Barrett, Chloe Okuno, Ryan Prows, Jennifer Reeder, Timo Tjahjanto
Writer: Simon Barrett, David Brcukner, Chloe Okuno, Ryan Prows, Jennifer Reeder, Timo Tjahjanto
Runtime: 100 Minutes
Starring: Anna Hopkins,
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here (TBD)
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival 2021.
A SWAT team is conducting a drug raid on a large compound when they discover mass casualties and mysterious video tapes depicting unspeakable terrors. “Storm Drain” follows a news reporter and her camera man investigating an urban legend in their city’s sewer system. A young funeral home worker discovers the dead are never truly dead in “The Empty Wake.” A mad scientist experiments on “The Subject” before he is surprised by the authorities. And lastly, a plot to blow up a federal building with a monster they’ve been holding captive in “Terror" goes awry.
V/H/S/94 is a return to form for the franchise with pulse pounding terror spread out over five segments.
Classic found footage gets an upgrade by downgrading to 90s nostalgia in this latest anthology franchise. Eschewing the slick veneer that many found footage films choose to utilize these days, V/H/S/94 gets down and dirty by setting all of its segments in a time period where personal camera use was exclusive to very specific stories. These constraints allow for the creators to be more innovative with their storytelling. Each segment utilizes a little something different for their rationale to keep filming. We have a news crew, body cam footage, experiment recordings, and cameras installed directly into a person’s view in addition to more traditional filming.
It commits to its concept in all manners. The video glitches are used just enough to give the impression that videos are cutting out for real without overdoing it. It’s a nice touch that makes these segments feel like relics to the 90s beyond their setting. Gnarly sound design is utilized throughout to elevate the terror of little noises in the dark. Each time it lulls you into false security before ripping it out from underneath you. Convincing acting all around from the cast grounds the feature and helps capture the fear of each concept without overdoing. Some of these tapes look like they could legitimately be found footage, which is the ultimate compliment you can give a film like V/H/S/94.
Each short goes out of its ways to push the boundaries of what can be done on found footage. The use of effects, particularly, in every single segment is nothing short of fantastic. “Storm Drain” has some a wickedly cool creature design that is completely fresh and frightening. The gore in “The Empty Wake” will have you cringing hard despite its restrained use. Both previous entries are great, but “The Subject” is where the film stands out in all its action sci-fi horror glory as it kicks up the action to deliver a badass sequence of nonstop horror carnage.
Above all, V/H/S/94 is simply a well-made horror anthology. “The Subject” is by far my favorite but “Storm Drain” and “The Empty Wake” are not far behind. “Terror” didn’t hit quite as hard as the other for me, but it was a nice deviation from the escalating dread to something a bit more fun and lighthearted, comparatively speaking. Even the wraparound segment is on point, delivering one of the creepier framing devices the franchise has seen. Perfectly paced and excessively bleak, V/H/S/94 is the perfect film to put on if you are looking to get scared.
The first franchise entry of the 2020s, V/H/S/94 delivers on its promise of making unsettling found footage films that shock, paralyze, and terrify. It’s incredible to see these films resurrected from the missteps made by the third and showcase quality short horror prowess. I’m very comfortable sharing that not only did this film scare me, but that I was waiting with bated breath at what horror would unleash onscreen for what felt like the entirety of V/H/S/94’s runtime. While each story is great in its own right, Tjahjanto’s “The Subject” is a clear stand out for me due to its batshit premise, balls-to-the-wall violence, and mind-boggling effects work. V/H/S/94 may be a throwback to 90s nostalgia, but it’s also the dose of dark adrenaline we needed in today’s releases.
Overall Score? 8/10