The V/H/S franchise has had its ups and downs. As I wrote here in my V/H/S/94 review last year: “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.” Luckily, V/H/S/94 was a return to form, lending hope to this new flick. Well, V/H/S/99 is closer in quality to the first two efforts, which were solid, but perhaps lacking in the burst of insanity that made the last one so memorable.
V/H/S/99 is a step back from the prior installment, but there’s a low-key cleverness that keeps you watching. Whereas V/H/S Viral was a total misfire, every other one has been solid or better. While the last one is only truly above and beyond one, there’s still more than enough here to warrant a light recommendation for horror buffs.
As always, this is an anthology tale, though one that thankfully has basically ditched its framing device. First up is Shredding, where skater kids in a punk band look to do a show where a band died during a performance years to go. Things, as you might imagine, don’t go well, especially when they don’t heed the warnings of Ankur (Keanush Tafresi), their band member weary of disturbing the dead. Next up is Suicide Bid, where college freshman Lily (Ally Ioannides) is pledging a sorority with an incredibly intense initiation ritual. There’s some decent emotion here, sandwiched in between some decent phobia horror. Things escalate from there.
The third segment is Ozzy’s Dungeon, an homage to Nickelodeon shows like Legends of the Hidden Temple. Here, when the host (Steven Ogg) shows indifference to an injury sustained during taping by Donna (Amelia Ann), her mother (Sonya Eddy) sets up a far more sinister obstacle course for him to complete. Then, we have The Gawkers, where some horny teens spy on a new neighbor (Emily Sweet). No points for guessing if it goes well for them or not. Finally, there’s To Hell and Back, where videographers Nate (Archelaus Crisanto) and Troy (Joseph Winter) are taping an occult ritual in the moments before Y2K when, don’t you know it…they accidentally get literally transported to Hell. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
As usual, the acting leaves something to be desired here, but that’s never been a focus of the franchise. The aforementioned players are fine, servicing the material. If there’s a standout in V/H/S/99, it’s Ally Ioannides from Suicide Bid, just due to the nature of her confined performance. Aside from that, it’s a filmmaker’s medium, especially with this genre material.
The directors here do a decent, if unspectacular job. Maggie Levin does Shredding, Johannes Roberts does Suicide Bid (also penned by Zoe Cooper), Flying Lotus contributes Ozzy’s Dungeon, Tyler MacIntyre handles The Gawkers (co-writing with Chris Lee Hill), while Joseph and Vanessa Winter are the helm of To Hell And Back. They all do a solid job of embracing, largely, the 1999 aesthetic. No one really stands out, but there aren’t any weak links, either.
V/H/S/99 isn’t as good as its predecessor, but it’s still a worthwhile effort in the series. The lo-fi aspects and practical effects have a charm to them, helping to give this one a distinctive look. Hopefully, the franchise isn’t running out of steam, especially since V/H/S/94 was such a solid installment. Time will tell, but for those of you looking for some new anthology horror to take in, this certainly does the trick.