V/H/S/99 | ©2022 Shudder

V/H/S/99 | ©2022 Shudder

Rating: Not rated
Stars: Jesse Latourette, Keanush Tafreshi, Dashiel Derrickson, Jackson Kelly, Tybee Diskin, Verona Blue, Aminah Nieves, Kelly Missal, Ally Ioannides, Breana Raquel, Isabelle Hahn, Caitlin Serros, Brittany Gandy, Logan Riley, Steven Ogg, Jerry Boyd, Sonya Eddy, Amelia Ann, Charles Lott Jr., Emily Sweet, Luke Mullen, Ethan Pogue, Cree Kawa, Tyler Lofton, Duncan Anderson, Archelaus Crisanto, Joseph Winter, Melanie Stone
Writers: Maggie Levin, Johannes Roberts, Zoe Cooper, Flying Lotus, Chris Lee Hill, Tyler MacIntyre, Vanessa Winter, Joseph Winter
Directors: Maggie Levin, Johannes Roberts, Flying Lotus, Tyler MacIntyre, Vanessa Winter, Joseph Winter
Distributor: Shudder (streaming)
Release Date: October 20, 2022

V/H/S debuted in 2012 and has subsequently become a popular and prolific horror anthology franchise. Its conceit is that what we’re watching is found footage shot on VHS tape (even when it actually isn’t).

The latest installment, V/H/S/99, is the clearest with playing with the overarching concept that this specific tape has been recorded over and over, with bits of old footage peeking through between segments.

We get some completely non-horror bits – kids skateboarding, etc. – along with a running thread of playful, primitive stop motion with plastic toy soldiers and sock puppet monsters, made (within the film) by one of the characters.

V/H/S/99 offers five primary entries. In “Shredding,” written and directed by Maggie Levin, we meet Rack, a quartet of young punk rockers. The Rack band are breaking into the (in ’99) brand-new world of online video. Their latest plan is to visit the Colony Underground, the literally underground club where the members of another punk band, Bitch Cat, where killed when a devastating fire broke out.

Levin gets a brash punk feel from Bitch Cat; we come to like them in the short time we have to know them. With one significant exception, the members of Rack are so scornful of the dead that we’re pretty much onboard with the consequences they court.

“Suicide Bid,” written and directed by Johannes Roberts (of 47 METERS DOWN fame), tells of a sorority hazing that goes very wrong. Ally Ioannides is persuasive as the desperate pledge, and Roberts’s experience with shooting underwater comes in handy.

“Ozzy’s Dungeon,” directed by Flying Lotus, written by Zoe Cooper & Flying Lotus, starts out with a sadistic, gross children’s TV competition show. It has the distinction of being one of the few horror entries, short or long, to cause this reviewer to feel actual nausea. It has a few solid twists. Once we understand where it’s heading, we can anticipate the payoff, but that is well-staged. Steven Ogg is suitably slimy as the host, and Amelia Ann shines as a resilient young contestant.

“The Gawkers,” directed by Tyler MacIntyre and written by Chris Lee Hill & MacIntyre, is the most conventional of the bunch. This takes a tried-and-true staple of ‘90s (and ‘80s, and ‘70s) teen comedy, with a bunch of adolescent boys spying on a pretty new neighbor, and turns it into horror fare. Bonus points for the unexpected type of monster in the resolution.

The final installment is “To Hell and Back,” written and directed by Vanessa Winters & Joseph Winters. This is an entertaining mix of gore, humor and mythology that follows two luckless videographers who take on the wrong freelance assignment. Joseph Winters appears as Troy, and his DEADSTREAM costar Melanie Stone hits all the right notes as a friendly, growling demon.

Although all of the entries are clearly done on tight budgets, splatter and creature fans will find moments to enjoy. The pieces are all punchy and well-paced, and different enough from one another to bring out the charm of the anthology format.

V/H/S/99 demonstrates anew that neither big names nor big dollars are necessary for worthwhile anthology horror – the right ideas and the right attitude will win out every time.

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