Stream it or skip it?
The popularity of V/H/S/94The 2021 release as a Shudder exclusive has kept the streamer rolling – thus, the latest entry in the horror anthology franchise, V/H/S/99. As the title suggests, the film’s five bizarre and/or funny shorts are all set around the turn of the millennium or around the turn of the millennium, so beware of oversized pants, TV/VHS combo units, references Limp Bizkit (but no needle drops – that expensive!) and terrifying depictions of, GASP, the early days of the internet. Notable directors this time around are Johannes Roberts – from 47 meters below and Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City fame – and DJ, music producer and rapper Flying Lotus, making his film debut. Any anthology of shorts is inevitably a random attempt, but will this one be more successful than not?
V/H/S/99: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The essential: For the first time, the V/H/S The series ditched its clunky wraparound narrative — and replaced it with fun, pointless clips of stop-motion animated toy army men. Not scary! But rather funny? First short film: Maggie Levin Shreddingin which the four members of the pop-punk group RACK put aside the camcorder to do skateboard tricks and Donkeystyle pranks to pay homage to Bitch Cat, the alt-pop girl group that was all that and a bag of chips – all that and a bag of chips until they DIE via TRAMPLING after where they were playing CAUGHT FIRE. The RACKers decide to film themselves performing on that same burnt stage, but do you know what’s going on? They get more than they bargained for is what.
Next is Roberts Suicide offer, about a desperate freshman who pledges to a fraternity that scrambles her pledges by burying them in a coffin at night with a small box that the pledge is asked to open when she’s most scared . Of course, the box is full of spiders. This isn’t a spoiler, because there’s so much more to this short, which might imply that these ditch sorority rhymes are getting more than they bargained for.
Short film n° 3: Flying Lotus’ Ozzy’s Dungeon, a parody of old, botched Nickelodeon children’s game shows. This demeaning, crass show is brought to life by a greasy sleazo played by Steven Ogg, who’s the only actor in this anthology you might recognize from other roles, in this case, like Simon on The Walking Dead. After a girl is horribly hurt on the show and treated like crap by the host, his family kidnaps the guy and gives him, yes, more than he bargained for.
Now the fourth: The Gawkers, by Tyler MacIntyre. Our protags here, one of whom goes by the nickname Boner, are three horny, horny teens who like to spy on their nubile neighbor as she sunbathes and washes her convertible Mustang. They think it’s weird that she has weird statues in her backyard, but you don’t think too much about it when your hormones are raging like a boar on steroids. They can’t believe their luck when one of their dopey younger brothers gets the chance to install a webcam in his house and they ask him to load some spyware so they can hopefully watch her undress, but guess what happens? They get more than they bargained for, of course!
Finally, Vanessa and Joseph Winter To hell and back, in which two videographers are hired to film an occult ritual summoning, and get – what exactly do they get? That’s right: more than expected, baby. The spell zaps them down to Hell, where they befriend a Gollumy girl nicknamed Mabel the Skullbiter to hopefully help them find a way out. Don’t you hate it when that happens? It’s so inconvenient, and cell service in hell sucks.
What movies will this remind you of? : I got a whiff of some vibes from Return of the Living Deadand of all the scenes buried alive in Buried, Kill Bill, and that an episode of Alfred Hitchcock presents.
Performance to watch: Sonya Eddy book inspires big laughs with some heartbreaking one-liners in Ozzy’s Dungeon.
Memorable dialogue: Eddy: “Well, that’s definitely not a bean dip!”
Sex and skin: Brief female bare breasts, otherwise, TBSTY2KBTF: too busy stocking the Y2K bunker for F—.
Our opinion : Let’s break it down V/H/S/99which is much more funny than scary:
- Shredding: Comedic send-off of late 90s music trends. Three quarters of RACK (dumb band name, acronym for band members’ initials) are j-holes having fun with their stuck-up drummer who don’t know the border between being funny and disrespectful. Their desserts are on point and ironic, and the punchline works, even if it doesn’t make much sense. Rating: 7/10 LAUGHING SKULLS.
- Suicide offer: Plays effectively on phobias, in particular arachno- and claustro-. Serves more irony-infused desserts for j-holes. Unsurprisingly, features the best direction of the five, even though the guy directed the very junky Welcome to Raccoon City. Another absurd dramatic punchline, but again, fun nonetheless. Rating: 7/10 LAUGHING SKULLS.
- Ozzy’s Dungeon:So Rude: One of the game show’s obstacle courses is Ozzy’s Orifices, and it only gets grosser from there. Luckily, it offers some good, solid yucks, otherwise we might tune out. More j-holes, more just desserts, another funny random ass ending in left field, all the recurring themes of this V/H/S exit. Rating: 6/10 LAUGHING SKULLS.
- The Gawkers: Absolutely perfect depiction of bored and permanently excited suburban teenagers, especially the one with sunglasses on his head with spiky hair listing his favorite bands, Limp Bizkit, Creed, Hole and Korn. Projects the punchline a bit, but it’s still a good one. Nerdy CG effects, not as fun as the practical ooey-goo of other shorts. Good riff on feminist revenge history. J-holes! Only the desserts! Rating: 8/10 LAUGHING SKULLS.
- To hell and back: Where the hell did they shoot that? The Badlands? A cave system? Hell is a clever setting here. Mabel the Skullbiter is quite the scene stealer. I like it. Maybe I’ll start following her on Instagram. Tremendous piece in which the cinematographer crawls through a cobwebbed mucus maggot tunnel. The worst ending of the bunch, though. Rating: 7/10 LAUGHING SKULLS.
SUMMARY: A strong and quite coherent antho. No home runs, but no misses either. Heaps of retro fun. Found footage horror is back and amazingly watchable! Next year: break out your white Reeboks for V/H/S/85with heavyweights Scott Derrickson and David Bruckner leading the way.
Our call: SPREAD IT. At the risk of sounding like a Shudder accomplice, the streamer is the perfect home for V/H/S/99 and its sister films. This makes random outings like this less of an investment of time and effort.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Learn more about his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.