Review by Sean Boelman
The V/H/S franchise is one of the biggest franchises among the cult audience that loves anthology horror, and the newest entry, V/H/S/94, has just what it will take to revitalize the series after a seven-year hiatus. Lots of fun and surprisingly consistent between its segments, this is a good start to Shudder’s October content.
Like the rest of the franchise, the film is presented as a series of found footage VHS tapes connected by a framing narrative. In this case, it’s a police raid investigating a cult documenting their horrific exploits on these tapes. Though the fragmented and rushed nature of this story keeps it from making much sense, the high-intensity direction from Jennifer Reeder heightens the viewer’s anxiety quite well.
The first segment, Chloe Okuno’s “Storm Drain”, sets the tone of what we are about to see. It’s an absurd, frequently scary, and occasionally funny monster movie, and it’s probably the most fun of the bunch. Out of the four main shorts, this one seems to take itself the least seriously, and as a result, falsely earns the viewer’s trust before scaring the hell out of them in the last few minutes.
Simon Barrett’s contribution, “The Empty Wake”, is arguably the most traditionally good segment. It is the only one that would likely work well on its own, as it is a simple yet well-executed chiller. That being said, it is also the least dynamic of the bunch, and it is obvious where it is heading from the start.
The only foreign language entry in the group, Timo Tjahjanto’s “The Subject”, seems to be the one that will get the most fans. Absolutely blood-soaked from the moment it starts, this is the type of wild horror filmmaking that a lot of people have come to associate with the anthology medium.
“Terror”, directed by Ryan Prows, wouldn’t have been a bad entry had it come in the middle of the movie, but as the finale, it’s a tad underwhelming. A satirical horror-comedy, it definitely has its merits, yet both within the segment and as a conclusion to the anthology, it is rather anticlimactic. It would have been much more opportune for “The Subject” to get this prime spot.
As a whole, the ‘90s aesthetic of the film works pretty well. It’s always clear that these are retro movies made to feel like they were made nearly two decades ago — none of the filmmakers do a great enough job to make their work feel actually ripped out of the ‘90s — but given the popularity of retro horror, it’s fun for what it is.
V/H/S/94 is one of the better anthology movies to come out recently thanks to some strong directors making some legitimately enjoyable segments. Although one bit is slightly weaker than the others, it’s a good time all-around for horror fans.
V/H/S/94 streams on Shudder beginning October 6.