The V/H/S series is back with its fifth installment, bringing the horror, the crazy and the fun, all in one nice, neat little package. I love anthology horror, so I am always going to be down for a new group of filmmakers telling new stories. V/H/S/99 brings 5 new tales to the series, ranging from scary to gross to freaking insane.
Shredding: Written and directed by Maggie Levin, this piece focuses on a 20-somethings punk band. There is a local legend about a literal underground club where a ton of prominent acts used to play. One night, there was a fire and a stampede to get out, and the band onstage was killed in the rush for the door. Our intrepid group wants to sneak in and make a video of themselves playing on that storied stage. Which honestly, would be a pretty badass idea, if not for all of the death that they would literally be playing on top of. Anyway, they sneak in, hijinks ensue, and eventually, they get their gear set up and ready to start. But as it turns out, they’re not as alone as they think they are.
This one is a lot of fun. It really captures the destructive, yet carefree, fuck it all attitude of the punk scene. And when things start going down, Levin manages to keep it intense while also keeping that vibe constant throughout.
Suicide Bid: Johannes Roberts is not here to mess around. Suicide Bid is creepy and a ton of fun. A girl makes a desperate bid for a high powered sorority and becomes part of a terrifying hazing ritual. The campus has an urban legend about a girl who died when her sorority buried her in a coffin and left her there for a week. This sorority bases their ritual on the story (though only keeping the girl in the box overnight - aren’t they sweet?). But as we all know, nothing bad ever happens when you bury live people in boxes meant for the dead.
This one starts out as legit creepy and then transitions to batshit insanity. Roberts makes great use of the claustrophobic atmosphere. He builds up some great tension before eventually crossing over into something much more bombastic. It’s a lot of fun and has some cool makeup effects.
Ozzy’s Dungeon: Directed by Flying Lotus (who co-wrote, along with Zoe Cooper), this segment is a fun (and completely gross) throwback to the physical challenge game shows of olde. Double Dare, Funhouse - you know the ones. They play nice for the first 6 minutes or so and then have the young contestants run through an obstacle course of slime, jello, and god only knows what else.
In this case, a girl is horrifically injured in the obstacle course and the show is canceled. A couple of years later, the girl’s family kidnaps the host of the show and forces him to go through a vicious recreation of the course in their basement. As stomach-churning as this reenactment is, the most disturbing part of the story was thinking about just how disgusting those shows were to begin with. What were those kids even crawling through???
This one is definitely going to appeal to people who have that 90s Nickelodeon nostalgia. A little long, but Flying Lotus brings the energy and balances the revenge with the crazy.
The Gawkers: This one is fun. Rather than use a wrap-around segment, the stories are separated by footage that a kid would have shot of their toys. Army men stomping through cardboard scenery, getting ripped apart, etc. It’s cute and a light transition piece between the individual chapters. It comes into play in The Gawkers, where we see the footage get interrupted when the kid’s older brother takes the camera away and starts using it to spy on the woman who lives next door.
This segment comes from Tyler MacIntyre, who heaps on humor and horror in equal measure. The teenage voyeurs find creative ways to watch, including planting an exciting new device called a webcam in her house. As fun as it is to hang around with these teenage idiots, it’s even more fun to see just what happens when they learn peeping in windows kind of pisses women off.
To Hell and Back: The final segment comes from Vanessa and Joseph Winter. To Hell and Back takes us on a horrifying journey into parts unknown on New Year’s Eve, 1999. As the new millennium dawns, a pair of documentarians get way more than they bargained for when they agree to record a religious cult performing a ritual to bring their god into our reality. Things go a little wonky when our filmmakers are sent to the other side instead, and find themselves in a vast hellscape full of fire, rocks and demons.
It plays like a crazy 80s low budget epic; something that was shot on video and traded by only the nerdiest of the sci-fi nerds. It’s a ton of fun and really has me excited to check out their new feature Deadstream.
Like any anthology, V/H/S/99 has its ups and downs, but all in all, it’s a fun ride, especially with it being released just in time for Halloween. It might not be quite as strong as some of the earlier entries in the series, but it’s still very worth a watch. It’s a lot of fun in that it marks a specific period in history and in pop culture. To Hell and Back is rooted in paranoia surrounding the new millennium, and a couple of the segments directly tie to pop culture moments from the late 90s and early 2000s, like Jackass and American Pie. It’s an interesting theme that ties all of the segments together - this specific moment in time. It’s something a little different for the series as a whole, and like any anthology, there’s enough here to appeal to a variety of tastes and everyone should be able to find their favorite.
Film Score: 3.5/5