Continuing the found footage short features each directed by a different visionary, sewn together for the VHS movie franchise comes a further instalment entitled V/H/S/94. Much like its predecessors, the audience are presented with a collection of stories framed by an overarching narrative that takes us from one tale to the next.
Charged with encasing these stories is Jennifer Reader’s Holy Hell, a kind of purgatory set in a warehouse filled with various rooms containing television sets displaying static, and cultists who appear to have their eyes gouged out. It sets the tone of the film with a SWAT team going from room to room in search of answers to what took place in this world of anarchy.
From here we are taken to Storm Drain by Chloe Okuno, which follows news reporter Holly Marciano and her cameraman in pursuit of a story through the mysterious ‘ratman’ lurking in the sewers. Is he real or simply a fabricated story by the homeless community living in the depths of the tunnels. Already we start to see commonality with the prologue, with the pursuit of the unknown and the dangers that lurk within as the protagonists venture beyond their means. In this instance Holly stumbles into a story that will change her and perhaps the world forever.
The next story, The Empty Wake is potentially my favourite and with little wonder as it is helmed by Simon Barrett, who was involved in previous VHS instalments and some of the mumblegore feathers such as You’re Next and The Guest. It’s a simple but effective story with Halley assigned to oversee a wake at a funeral home, where the corpse may or may not actually be completely dead. To raise the tensions, a thunderstorm hits, plunging Hailey into darkness. Filled with humour and fear, a fine balancing act is played out effectively.
Another VHS contributor, Timo Tjahjanto delivers the next short feature with The Subject, which is also equally as efficacious. It’s a warped and twisted version of the Frankenstein-like subject of creating humanity but with the fusion of technology. This is thrust front and centre as we bear witness to a disembodied human head attached with robotic spider legs. The creator of this abomination is Dr James Suhendra, hellbent on carrying through his vision. When at first it appears he is successful with Subject 99, the gods have other plans, and humans are in turn subjected to their own destruction.
The last short, Terror directed by Ryan Prows is one that follows a militia, who are invested in ridding America of evil. Their extremist views them to enact torture on a man whose blood holds some curious symptoms where it can explode in sunlight. They begin to run tests, but fuelled by booze and absent-mindedness, the group bite off more than they can chew, and must then fend themselves against an evil they may not be able to contain.
The final scenes bring us back to the epilogue with Holy Hell, where the true masterminds behind the collection of macabre videotapes is revealed.
Each story that is presented is weighted in individualistic style, connected by a common theme. Some are admittedly delivered more effectively than others, but each are united with enough substance to ensnare the audience and to show humanity at its darkest hour.
- Saul Muerte
V/H/S/94 is currently streaming on Shudder