To begin with the conclusion: I will concede that V/H/S/94 is the best entry in the V/H/S anthology series. It’s less juvenile than its predecessors and has better production values. Overall, though, it is nowhere as compelling as something like Southbound. What does it all come down to? First and foremost, the binding story.
V/H/S/94’s segments are loosely tied together by a greater plot but still feel overly disconnected. It’s hard to get too emotionally invested in the movie, be it the pieces or the summation thereof. To me, the most successful anthology movies are tightly coupled episodes—and yes, Southbound is an excellent example of just that.
Too, the segments are of varying levels of quality. After an eh opening narrative, the first episode,
Storm Drain, is luckily a haunting watch, easily the best of the bunch. Here we follow a local news team searching for an elusive
Rat Man who lives in the storm drains. Needless to say, the urban legend has more to it than idle chatter—
Raatma has already entered the public consciousness of horror fans everywhere. It’s a visually striking segment and, sadly, utterly unrelated to the overall plot.
The Empty Wake follows, a fairly OK facsimile of a Twilight Zone episode. Set in a locked-down funeral home, an employee is stuck with a casket containing a body that may or may not be alive.
The Subject is a predictable body-horror story—though refreshingly in a foreign language, Japanese.
Terror, a no-frills tale of a far-right extremist group, closes down the party.
All of this is tied together by the uber-story,
Holy Hell, which borders on the offensive. Not because it’s particularly shocking, but rather due to its bland predictability. The ending is unlikely to stick with anyone.
This all sounds negative, I know, but while V/H/S/94 isn’t a great anthology, it is a good
comfort watch. It doesn’t require much attention, and if you feel like turning your brain off for a hundred minutes, it’s not a bad choice.
David Bruckner—who was behind both the best parts of V/H/S and Southbound—had to drop out from directing the larger story due to filming the Hellraiser reboot. He might have added a much-needed oomph to V/H/S/94, one which could have elevated the package to something more than just mindless entertainment. Southbound definitely had its twists and turns, sometimes literal ones.
Shudder just announced that V/H/S/94 was their most-watched movie of 2021, so I expect to see more entries in the franchise. That is potentially a good thing, if they invest more time into an integrated story next time around.
Letterboxd summary: A mysterious VHS tape leads a police S.W.A.T. team to the discovery of a sinister cult whose collection of pre-recorded material reveals a nightmarish conspiracy.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||3/6|