Review by Cole Groth
V/H/S/99 might be the worst film of the year. If it’s not the worst, it’s certainly the most bothersome experience to date. It’s disgusting, annoying, ugly, and totally nonsensical. Instead of feeling like a mediocre batch of boring short films like the original V/H/S, every segment in this entry takes lazy writing and combines it with an aggressively mean premise to make an unbearable watch. Throw in a dash of nostalgia, enough shaky cam to make you nauseous, and the laziest writing of the year, and you've got yourself a recipe for the grossest, most utterly reprehensible entry into this mediocre film franchise. Any person who respects themselves should stay far away from this health hazard of a horror film.
Unlike the previous entries, none of the segments have a link to each other. Instead, whenever one painful ends, the next one is bridged with an interlude of some toy soldiers running around. It’s supposed to be a funny palette cleanser, but each segment feels so rotten that it’s hard to clear the foul taste from the mouth of the viewer without turning off the film entirely. Since there’s no overarching narrative, it makes more sense to review each segment.
V/H/S/99 opens up with “Shredding,” the least interesting, and least offensive short of the bunch. Written and directed by Maggie Levin, this short follows a punk rock group and its annoying members. The members continually harass the only normal person in their group, which appears to be a reoccurring theme throughout the other shorts. There’s not much to say about this one. The grunge aesthetic that Levin’s script leans into is fairly entertaining but is too clichéd to be anything new. It’s just loud and rather annoying.
The second segment, “Suicide Bid,” is the most frustrating watch of the film. Written and directed by Johannes Roberts, who consistently creates the worst horror films, this one presents us with a group of horrible sorority girls who bury a desperate freshman alive. With clunky dialogue and lazy acting, this one is inane. We’re forced to watch a girl struggle to her death for 20 minutes, which made me wonder, who likes this stuff? It’s entertainment for people who enjoy watching snuff films. It’s not interesting from any plot perspective, and the only entertainment you could get out of this is from the moderately interesting twist at the end.
“Ozzy’s Dungeon” is the most conceptually interesting short to be found, but overall the most unbearable of the group. Flying Lotus’s direction starts as a rather interesting parody of a Nickelodeon-like show, with a well-replicated obnoxious host and some casual racism. After an assuredly disgusting beginning, this one devolves quickly into mind-numbing torture scenes. This is the most disturbing out of the whole film, and not for good measure. It initially seems like it could be fun and campy, but it gets so needlessly gross by the second act, and it’s not even well done. No spoilers here, but the ending to this segment is the most bizarre.
“The Gawkers” has the weakest writing of the year. Chris Lee Hill and Tyler MacIntyre’s script is straight garbage, and while the other segments feature a bearable amount of '90s references, this one is pretty much a group of douchey teenagers vomiting out phrases from the late '90s. There’s hardly a second that goes by without one of the annoying boys insulting somebody or saying some sort of cliché. It’s endlessly annoying to listen to and feels like it goes on for ages. This segment is 90% filler with 10% excitement at the end. It’s far too similar to one of the segments in the first film and I’m not sure how this one was even made.
Finally, “To Hell And Back” amps up the campiness to 11 to middling results. Vanessa & Joseph Winter’s story follows two videographers who are hired to film a ritual on the eve of Y2K. After getting sent to Hell, they whine back and forth to each other while they try to get back to Earth. This one is way too goofy to be like the other segments. It’s a bit of fun, but it all adds up to no substance. The acting is especially weak, the pacing is confusing, but at least it’s not offensive (until the ending), like the other segments are. This one just sucks.
Even though the V/H/S franchise is full of mediocre entries, this one feels especially barren. There’s no clever framing narrative to bind everything together, which makes the inclusion of each segment seem less interesting than they could’ve been. If everything had been about Y2K and the insane events that could’ve happened around then, this would’ve had a head start. At best, it’s incredibly annoying, but at worst, this is the film equivalent to nails scraping on a chalk board. It’s offensive, disgusting, and utterly pointless.
Every director who contributed a film to V/H/S/99 should be embarrassed. It’s a montage of horrible segments back to back, and not one of them can stand out in the end. My biggest gripe with the found footage genre as a whole is that it gives filmmakers an excuse to make an ugly, poorly shot, horribly written film and market it as some elevated horror. There isn’t even a single shot in any segment that looked good. It’s baffling how every single director seemed to forget to include a real point in any of their projects, but maybe that’s why they are all put together for this colossal misfire of a horror film. It’s a flaming pile of trash that stinks until the very end. It’s never scary, it’s never fun. Save yourself from the Hell that is V/H/S/99.
V/H/S/99 premieres on Shudder on October 20th.