Written by: Hannah Tran | October 20th, 2022
V/H/S/99 (Maggie Levin/Flying Lotus/ Tyler MacIntyre/Johannes Roberts/Joseph Winter/Vanessa Winter, 2022) 2½ out of 4 stars.
Since 2012, the V/H/S found-footage horror anthology series has given upcoming filmmakers a space to produce their goriest ideas with loose parameters set by the format and the time period. The fifth and latest in the series finds itself in the year 1999, which serves as the trendy backdrop for the filmmakers to truly exercise their creativity. Using outlandish game shows, MTV-esque demo reels, and primitive spyware as nostalgic catalysts for chaos, V/H/S/99 capitalizes on its era-specific setting and cultivates a fully believable atmosphere. While it is far from the strongest entry in the genre, it offers enough fresh ideas to be worth a watch for any horror fan.
V/H/S/99, like its predecessors, mixes a few better-known talents, such as Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) and rapper-director Flying Lotus (Kuso), with exciting new voices. Their shorts, “Suicide Bid” and “Ozzy’s Dungeon,” are two of the most effective segments. The former, made by Roberts, follows a sorority hazing incident gone wrong. It’s a simple and somewhat stale idea that’s elevated by constant tension, solid performances, and steady direction. The latter, by Flying Lotus, is the most bizarre and disgusting of the bunch, as it follows the aftermath of an over-the-top game-show incident. While far from enjoyable, the strange absurdity on display is comedically effective enough for it to be a standout.
Although each short has its own intrigue, there is a more pronounced difference in quality from short to short than in other installments. All expectedly feel low-budget, but a few are overly ambitious and amateur in terms of storytelling. The last of them, “To Hell and Back,” which sees a videographer duo be accidentally sent to Hell by a cult of witches, is probably the grandest in scope, but it fully meets its own expectations with impressive sets and genuinely frightening effects. This stands in contrast to the fourth short, “The Gawkers,” which follows a group of boys who spy on their pretty new neighbor only to find out she is hiding a horrific secret. But while it contains some of the more original ideas of the anthology, the production value and effects don’t quite measure up to most of the others.
Nevertheless, none are complete failures. The first of the shorts, “Shredding,” which follows an immature punk band that tries to make a music video in a venue with a dark past, is actually one of the most effective in terms of genre and setting, yet it suffers from an issue that plagues most of the shorts in that it is unable to deliver on suspense with a fully satisfying conclusion. Many of these shorts feel half-baked by the end, and they seem to wrap up too quickly or are too dragged out to make up for it. Although V/H/S/99 is a mixed bag, it’s one that is definitely worth sifting through. And even if it might not be the scariest entry of the series, its abundance of creative ideas and imagery makes up for many of the narrative shortcomings.