Once upon a time, the V/H/S franchise offered something new for horror fans. Not only did it bring back the anthology film, but utilizing the found footage concept, it stood out. The first movie, V/H/S, as well as the next installment S/V/H/S (or V/H/S/2) are solid fright flicks. Then came V/H/S Viral, which was a cratering of the series. Now, we have V/H/S/94, which no longer arrives as something to anticipated for lovers of scary movies. That’s a shame, too, as this film gets things going back in the right direction. A strong sequel that stands alongside the first efforts, it’s deserving of your time, provided you like blood and guts. Hitting Shudder this weekend, it’s sure to delight those who revel in gore.
V/H/S/94 is a return to form for the anthology franchise, albeit with a slight twist or two. Here, it’s a period piece, with the visual palate going all-in on that. Furthermore, there’s not only an interesting and meta twist ending, there’s also a tie-in narratively between the segments and the wraparound story. That’s something we’ve never really seen from this series before.
This time around, the setting (as well as the look of things) is 1994. A SWAT Team raiding a drug den finds something far worse. Of course, there are numerous televisions in the building, each playing something unsettling. As the cops move about the enormous structure, the TV sets begin playing the anthology installments we’ve all come to expect. The wraparound segment is called Holy Hell, and aptly so.
As for the segments themselves, we start with Storm Drain, where reporter Holly (Anna Hopkins) and her cameraman Jeff (Christian Potenza) head into the sewers to investigate reports of a Rat Man. What they find is, eventually…well, not what they or we could possibly expect. Then, it’s on to The Empty Wake, where newly minted mortician Hayley (Kyal Legend) is tasked with hanging around an all-night wake during a tornado. It’s just her and a casket, until it starts making noises. Things only get creepier for her from there. Next up is The Creator, where a mad scientist (Budi Ross) is performing some truly unholy experiments. When the police attempt to shut him down, some of them are let loose, with carnage ensuing. Terror brings us home with a hybrid between Neo-Nazi militia groups and a vampire tale. As a paramilitary cult prepares to bomb a Federal building, their plans to utilize a creature go very much awry. Interestingly, that segment ties in to the end of Holy Hell, with one of the characters (Dru Viergever) showing up twice.
As you might expect, the acting here is, well…not great. At the same time, however, they’re doing what’s asked of them by the directors. Anna Hopkins fares the best, with Kyal Legend not far behind. The rest are thoroughly mediocre, but again, V/H/S/94 is mostly designed to off a ton of folks. The actors and actresses here more than oblige, in that regard.
The filmmakers here are uniformly strong. All are both writing and directing their segments with fiendish delight. Holding it all together are writers David Bruckner (a franchise veteran who was initially set to direct this sequel) and Brad Miska. The way things tie in by the end are surely a credit to them. Jennifer Reeder does the closest thing to generic work with Holy Hell, but it has a hell of an ending. Chloe Okuno crafts my favorite segment in The Storm Drain, which mixes some gnarly practical effects with genuine tension. Truly, it’s one of the best in the entire series. Another franchise stalwart in Simon Barrett helms The Empty Wake and that’s all dread, building to a surprisingly unique reveal. Timo Tjahjanto makes The Subject about as insane as anything you’ve seen this year, but it does go on a bit long. Then, there’s Ryan Prows and Terror. Elements of this are phenomenal, but it’s the one bit that feels like it was harmed by the short length. Without a bit of extra information (spoiler-free), things feel incomplete. It’s fun, but should have been even better. Shoutout as well to Steven Kostanski, who helms an amusing fake commercial during the first segment.
V/H/S/94 isn’t going to convert those who hate horror, but gorehounds are in for a bloody treat. You already know if you’re going to like this or not, in all probability, but still, I think it’s worth taking a look at. If you’ve previously thought V/H/S was done as a brand, well…it suddenly has some exciting new life to it. If another installment is coming, count me in.