V/H/S/99 is the latest in the prolific anthology franchise that began back in 2012. Over the past decade there have been five sequels, a couple of spin-offs and a TV show, with no sign of slowing down anytime soon (a seventh film is scheduled to be released later this year). One constant thread is their found footage style, each film made to look like the stories were shot on VHS years ago.
Admittedly, V/H/S/99 is the first in the series I’ve actually sat down to watch, but “format” notwithstanding, it's typical of most anthology films…some stories work better than others, which is exacerbated by having different directors (another hallmark of the franchise).
The first tale, “Shredding,” is easily the worst. It features four thoroughly obnoxious teenagers who have a band and host an internet TV show (were people doing these back in ‘99?). They decide to shoot their next episode in a condemned nightclub where another band died in a fire. Naturally, that band returns from the dead to wreak havoc. Though plenty gory, this segment is painfully predictable, with no likable characters to root for.
On the other hand, “Suicide Bid” is a great little slab of revenge-feuled horror, with a college freshman pledging to a popular (and bitchy) sorority. However, her hazing involves spending the night in a buried coffin at the same graveyard another girl died doing the same thing 20 years earlier. This one does a great job creating claustrophobia and exploiting the fear of being buried alive, then throws in some big-ass spiders for good measure…and all this before any angry corpses show up.
|One big spider.|
V/H/S/99’s amusing wrap-around story - a boy making a video with toy soldiers - cleverly finds its way into “The Gawkers,” which has the kid’s older brother snatching back his camera to spy on the girl who lives across the street. He and his friends eventually install spyware in her house, but discover a fatal secret she’s kept hidden. This episode suffers from too many meandering scenes of teenage boys imitating Jackass, but does come to a pretty cool conclusion.
The last story, “To Hell and Back,” is the best…and also the funniest. While videotaping a demon-conjuring ritual, two buddies are inadvertently transported to hell. Now they have mere minutes to locate the demon they were trying to summon and hitch a ride back to the real world. Alternately creepy and irreverent, its depiction of Hell is impressive (considering the budget) and the banter between these two goofballs is often hilarious.
Though inconsistent, V/H/S/99 hits more often than it misses. While it goes without saying that anyone who finds found footage to be an annoying gimmick should take a hard pass, fans of the franchise shouldn’t walk away disappointed. This Blu-ray SteelBook also comes with an eclectic batch of bonus features.
REEDPOP’S NEW YORK COMIC-CON PANEL - A Q&A session with some of the cast & crew.
“OZZY’S DUNGEON” - Deleted scenes.
“SHREDDING” - “Bitchcat” music video.
“THE GAWKERS” - Camera tests and “The Making of Medusa.”
“TO HELL AND BACK” - Storyboards, rehearsal footage & location footage.
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