The V/H/S franchise of found-footage anthology horror films has experienced quite an arduous journey. After the first two entries were generally beloved by the horror community, the third was seen as so bad that it killed the property for half a decade. However, horror streamer Shudder revived it last year with one of the service’s biggest hits yet in V/H/S/94. It was no surprise when it was announced that another film would be made, this time focusing on the year 1999.
One of the big differences between V/H/S/99 and the previous entries is that this one doesn’t have the narrative cohesion of someone discovering the lost tapes that “contain” the horror shorts. As a result, it no longer really justifies the found footage/home movies angle of things, and instead feels like a mishmash of semi-professional horror content — with a couple exceptions. The only connecting tissue here is a funny (but underdeveloped) piece involving toy soldiers.
The first segment of the film follows a teenage punk band as they go to the abandoned site of a music venue where a fire had occurred years before in which the audience all escaped but trampled the band in the process. Of course, things don’t go according to their plan. It’s an intriguing and fun concept but it’s building to a payoff that is sadly pretty underwhelming. The segment does give us a pretty catchy original song, though.
Then comes Johannes Roberts’s contribution to the anthology. The best known filmmaker of the bunch, known for directing 47 Meters Down and last year’s Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, his segment about a girl buried alive in a hazing prank gone wrong is the most straightforward of the bunch but also isn’t particularly interesting or thrilling.
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One of the more twisted shorts in the movie comes from musician-turned-filmmaker Flying Lotus, and it got the most laughs out of the Midnight Madness audience. A dark twist on the Legends of the Hidden Temple-style game show that will have any ‘90s or early 2000s kid reveling in the nostalgia, it’s a gnarly, satisfying piece of genre cinema.
Tragedy Girls‘s Tyler MacIntyre brings to the table a pretty entertaining short that presents a unique spin on the Peeping Tom trope, but this segment is representative of the issue that has plagued so many anthology movies: the premises are extraordinarily one-note, and once they wear off their welcome, they become annoying really quickly.
Whether intentional or not, the film did save the best for last with Vanessa and Joseph Winter’s contribution to the anthology. Given that Deadstream drops on Shudder a mere few weeks before V/H/S/99 will, audiences will certainly be clamoring for more content from the Winters, and this campy, Hell-set tale will satisfy their cravings.
Although V/H/S/99 is hardly as good as the last Shudder-produced entry in the franchise, it succeeds at being entertaining enough to be worth watching. Audiences who regularly turn out to anthology horror aren’t looking for much in their movies, and this definitely meets those low standards. 5/10.
V/H/S/99 screened at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, which runs September 8-18.