The V/H/S franchise has swung back and forth in terms of quality over the years. Initially, it was a solid if never spectacular anthology series, one that seemed to have its time come and go. Then, V/H/S/94 gave the property new life two years ago. Last year, V/H/S/99 moved forward in time, if somewhat of a step back in quality. Here, however, we have something new in V/H/S/85, which is in the upper tier, overall, but is the first to have no bad segments. Go figure.
V/H/S/85 is interesting in that it doesn’t have necessarily a standout segment, but none of them drag the film down, either. So, the movie is easily the most consistent installment to date. Will the lack of an ebb and flow strike viewers as novel or strange? I couldn’t say, but I did appreciate that this was how it was, this time around.
Things kick off here with an interesting change from the series, as No Wake from Mike P. Nelson is actually a two-parter. In the first part, which starts the film, a group of friends are partying on a lake, at least until a sniper takes them out. That’s only the beginning for them, oddly, and the sniper is identified in their own section of the story, depicted towards the end. Next up after No Wake is Gigi Saul Guerrero‘s God of Death, which starts as a natural disaster in Mexico, until a news crew that survives an earthquake encounters some ominous Aztec symbols underground. Carnage ensues. TKNOGD from Natasha Kermani has a performance artist donning VR goggles and coming across something monstrous in the virtual space. The other segment is Dreamkill from Scott Derrickson, which does some different things as well. That one is worth discovering on your own, but it begins as the videotapes of a serial killer, before evolving greatly.
The other thing different here is that the framing device, entitled Total Copy, from David Bruckner, is closer to its own story. This focuses on a group of researchers studying a strange alien figure. They try to communicate with it through old videotapes. It doesn’t go well, though it’s a nice way to tinker with the framing device for the franchise.
The filmmakers are the focus way more than the cast here, as has been the case in the later installments. Freddy Rodríguez and James Ransone are notable names in the cast, but it’s the helmers taking the glory. Scott Derrickson has the most impressive work, from a filmmaking point of view, while Mike P. Nelson is the other standout, due to the creativity that he displays in his two-part segment. In addition to those directors listed above, the writers here include C. Robert Cargill, Zoe Cooper, and Evan Dickson.
V/H/S/85 didn’t blow me away, but I enjoyed it throughout. If this is how the franchise is going to go forward, count me in. The movie tries some new things, keeps the quality consistent, and has some gnarly gore. What more can you ask for from this series?