V/H/S 94: Better Than You Expect
Dir. Simon Barrett, Steven Kostanski, Chloe Okuno, Ryan Prows, Jennifer Reeder, & Timo Tjahjanto (2021)
An unasked for yet worthwhile addition to the V/H/S pantheon of movies, this one rehashes the police raid and brings us elder gods, militia groups, and human experiments, oh my!
I am fully ready to admit that my experience with this movie might be tinged a little with the way in which it was viewed: late in the night, alone with no noise but those coming from my headphones. It helped to enhance the isolation that was to be felt from several of the shorts in this film. That being said...
I fucking love the V/H/S movies. Yeah, some of them are cheesy, and some of the shorts are just plain not good (looking at you, V/H/S Viral). However, some of the films in these anthologies are excellent, with good pacing, great visuals, and some decent acting, and I'm a huge sucker for good found footage movies. Hell, I'm a sucker for bad found footage movies, to be quite honest. That chick from the first short in the first movie, the succubus? She's a badass and was absolutely terrifying. The series itself is known for being the showcase of some great up-and-coming young directors, and I honestly believe that, in a few years' time, this one will be no different. I'll break down the shorts from the movie here, with a little bit of commentary on how I see the directors at the helm in the future.
The overarching short was, naturally, the weakest of the bunch. Holy Hell is a story about a cult devoted to terrifying videos, some of the snuff variety, and the SWAT team called in to bring them down. I try my best not to do spoilers about the movies that I review, and I will hold firm to that here. What I will spoil is that this wasn't a great short, and the acting was piss-poor terrible. It was decently scary with some pretty good visuals, though, so it's not a bad addition. Let's move on to some of the better stuff, though.
Chloe Okuno's Storm Drain, the first real short in the movie, was absolutely fantastic. It wasn't super scary, but the... let's call it "creature design" was excellent. Essentially a short about a newscaster shooting on location of her city's mysterious "Rat Man," this one kinda blew me away with an ending that is absolutely not what I expected after the first five minutes. I would watch an entire movie with the premise of this short, and I hope that they can use Rat Man somewhere else. Okuno paced this incredibly well, and the sneak shots of the creature were perfect to give you just enough to be chilling without revealing everything. Okuno's next film, Rodney & Sheryl, is about Rodney Alcala, the serial killer who went on The Dating Game. She's clearly got a penchant for being behind the camera, and I can't wait to see what else she does.
The Veggie Masher, a super-short used as a commercial breaking up the action of Storm Drain, is interesting and reminiscent of the Cooking With Bill shorts on Youtube from Oats Studios, which are fantastic and should be checked out immediately if you haven't seen them. Nothing much more to write here, just kinda a weird addition to the middle of an otherwise excellent short.
Next up was The Empty Wake, which is... exactly what it sounds like. Young woman is tasked with running a wake after closing when the funeral home directors have gone home for the night. She is alone for most of the night, it's dark and stormy, and... things go a little haywire. I enjoyed this one for its inventiveness, though it's maybe a little longer than it should've been. The visuals are great, the twist is creative, and it's a great largely-stationary camera found footage short. Simon Barrett, the director, is mostly known for his writing, namely You're Next and his previous contributions to the V/H/S series. He's going to have some great things coming up soon, too.
The Subject was next on the list, and while it was probably my least favorite of the shorts, it had some great visual gore that was sincerely top-notch, next-level shit. Timo Tjahjanto is an excellent Indonesian director who has been coming out with more action-oriented films, and you can see those influences throughout The Subject. The story is about a doctor who has been kidnapping people in order to combine their bodies with robots, and the results are more Terminator than Wall-E. Really unique take on first-person ultra-gore, definitely worth a watch.
I am straight up having a good time, bro.
Finally, Terror is the last short in the film. It's about a group of inept homegrown terrorists who have an explosive super-weapon that they are planning to use to destroy the United States, Timothy McVeigh-style. A perfect tongue-in-cheek portrayal of alt-right militia groups, things don't go as planned when their superweapon... escapes. Production-wise, this was the worst of the bunch, but it was just so interesting. I could legitimately see this one as being real (outside of the obvious), and you really get the feel of the Clinton-era hatred coming from the people who were on the opposite side. The payoff is not great at the very end, but up until then... it's funny, irreverent, and entertaining. What more do you want from a short film?
Bottom line: V/H/S 94 is better than I expected, better than you have probably heard, and 100% worth a watch. No sequel will ever replace the reverence people have for the original, but let's be honest: V/H/S was never a classic. It's a fun waste of time, and the ideas are creative enough to hold your interest. You can pause and pick it up later due to the anthological nature of the series... give it a watch on Shudder.