V/H/S/94 Rewinds the Franchise and Finds New Scares

Nearly a decade has passed since horror anthology V/H/S saw a limited theatrical release. Both its unique wraparound story and roster of up-and-coming directors set the anthology movie apart. In spite of tepid reviews, V/H/S generated enough box office receipts and audience buzz to warrant two sequels and a spin-off. That first sequel, V/H/S 2, is the rare example of a follow-up improving on its predecessor. But V/H/S Viral underwhelmed and the found-footage format fell out of favour among horror fans. Now Bloody Disgusting, Raven Banner, and Shudder have teamed up for the belated sequel, V/H/S/94. And guess what, critics are loving this gory throwback sequel.

Synopsis

In the midst of a drug raid on a large warehouse, a SWAT team finds something horrifying and unexpected. From one darkly lit room to the next, the team members find the bodies of what appears to be a bizarre cult carrying out a strange ritual. Rows of televisions emanating static populate the building with stacks of V/H/S cassettes waiting to be watched.

V/H/S/94 Overcomes …

Is it a prequel? A sequel? Does it matter. The short answer is – no. Here, V/H/S/94’s weaving of VCR’s and cassettes into its anthology format makes more sense than in prior series entries. Somewhere in its wraparound story, Holy Hell, is the same conceit of people attempted to create some kind of twisted viral phenomenon. Yet in contrast to the previous movies, the wraparound segment feels inconsequential. Less binds the individual segments together in this sequel. Instead, V/H/S/94 lives and dies on its wickedly dark humor and boundary-pushing violent imagery. It’s pure spectacle over substance.

Less binds the individual segments together in this sequel.

Five directors teamed up for V/H/S/94 including returning series favorites Simon Barrett (Seance) and Timo Tjahjanto (May The Devil Take You). If the Holy Hell wrapround story feels convoluted, director Jennifer Reeder ensures that it feels claustrophobic and dangerous. Most of the first segment, Storm Drain, works due to its pitch black humor and director Chloe Okuno’s complete commitment to the 90’s aesthetics. From Storm Drain’s gross-out humor to Empty Wake’s genuine bumps in the night, Barrett re-discovers his ability to generate suspense. In the sequel’s tightest segment, Barrett delivers the scariest 20 minutes or so you’ll spend in a funeral home. Both segments also boast innovative mixes of practical and CIG effects to create haunting images.

V/H/S/94 Lives and Dies on Timo Tjahjanto’s The Subject

By the time you’re done watching V/H/S/94, Timo Tjahjanto’s The Subject will be the segment that stands out. Not surprisingly, Tjahjanto’s Safe Haven was also the best story in V/H/S 2. At nearly 30 minutes in length, The Subject arguably runs a little too long. From a narrative perspective, The Subject’s story of a mad doctor fusing together ‘man and machine’ and an overzealous SWAT team is also pretty lean on story. Nevertheless, Tjahjanto’s wildly over-the-top approach to the material doesn’t require much in the way of story. From start to finish, you’ll have a hard time looking away from the screen.

…Tjahjanto’s wildly over-the-top approach to the material doesn’t require much in the way of story.

There’s a visual anarchy to the story’s ‘man and machine’ creations that horror fans haven’t seen since Frankenstein’s Army. And Tjahjanto takes full advantage of his gonzo creations to indulge in some wild bloodletting. When the story feels like it’s about to drag, Tjahjanto switches up perspectives from his ‘mad scientist’ to one of his sad creations. It’s a creative slight of hand that adds another layer to the segment. Somewhere in The Subject there may have been some interesting ideas behind the biomechanical menaces but V/H/S/94 is more interested in carnage. Instead, the sequel saves any biting social commentary for it’s final story, The Terror, which finds a white supremacist militia plotting to use vampire blood for a terror attack.

V/H/S/94 Continues the Series’ Tradition of Shocking Horror

Though its wraparound narrative doesn’t make much sense and, as a result, the segments feel like there’s less holding them together, V/H/S/94 marks a return to form for the series. Dark humor and wickedly transgressive imagery propel the sequel past lesser entries. And yes, V/H/S/94 boasts some gruesome scenes that diehard horror fans will love while likely limiting its broader appeal. Similar to V/H/S 2, there’s more consistency in quality across the story segments. But it’s Tjahjanto’s insane The Subject that pushes the limits and, ultimately, stands head and shoulders above everything else in the sequel.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B+

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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