It’s starting to grow a little stale now, the V/H/S franchise. I can see why Shudder wants to keep it alive, of course—a horror anthology based around VHS tapes has a good Creepshow vibe to it. Yet, each entry—this is number eight, counting spinoffs—tends to comprise short films of varying quality. V/H/S/85 is no different, though still a step up from last year’s V/H/S/99.
The framing story is the most interesting part of the package. Here, we follow a group of scientists trying to teach a shapeshifting alien human culture through television programming—how very eighties.
It should surprise no one that the creature very much has its own motives. Who studies who gets turned upside down faster than the scientists realize. It’s a good, creepy B-movie directed by David Bruckner. (One of the guys behind Southbound, which ranks one of my all-time favorite horror anthologies.)
The two-parter “No Wake” and “Ambrosia” serve as the highlight of the shorts. A group of friends in a van at a remote lake (equipped with a prerequisite “No Swimming” sign) has vibes of Creepshow 2’s “The Raft.” The kids might be taken down one by one by some unseen assailant, but somehow, they don’t stay down for long. And so they want revenge.
It’s the type of straightforward story I’m a sucker for.
The home invasion thriller, “Dreamkill,” which is seen through dreams from the killer’s perspective, has its moments. The added mystery of how the cops keep getting videos of the murders before they have happened adds a suitable pinch of supernatural to the recipe, too.
And that’s about it. It’s not that the two other entries are downright bad; it’s more that they just feel like tired filler that really doesn’t gel with the mid-eighties theme. We could only hope VR looked as good today as it does in “TKNOGD.” And as the framing story is short, both it and “God of Death” take up a lot of airtime.
So, I don’t know. Do we need another V/H/S entry? Shudder seems to think so, and next Halloween will give us number nine. My hope is that it will follow Southbound’s lead and focus more on stylish, dreary creepiness.
For now, the B-movie-forward V/H/S/85 has its place, as long as you don’t expect to be continuously dazzled.
Letterboxd summary: Unveiled through a made-for-TV documentary, five chilling tales of found footage horror emerge to take viewers on a gore-filled journey through the grim underbelly of the forgotten 1980s.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||3/6|