Breaking Down All the V/H/S Movies

I will admit right up front that I’m usually not the world’s biggest fan of found footage movies. There have, of course, been several exceptions to that general opinion—Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project, Creep and Creep 2, [REC], The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Troll Hunter, As Above So Below, One Cut of the Dead—but honestly, if I’m going to really love a found footage movie, it’s tends to be one that’s presented in more of a mockumentary style, such as Lake Mungo, The Taking of Deborah Logan, The Bay, or Noroi: The Curse.

That said, though, I’m a sucker for a good horror anthology, and the concept behind the V/H/S series of movies intrigued me from the outset. Having spent my formative years during the era of VHS tapes, I was drawn in by the retro aesthetic, and the idea that the stories would be presented as true found footage; in other words, as a series of found video tapes containing horrific shit that somone had recorded for some reason.

The first V/H/S film arrived on the scene in 2012, and it had quite an alluring pedigree behind it: it was created by Brad Miska of the formidable horror website/production company Bloody Disgusting, and featured segments directed by Adam Wingard (who had already done the excellent You’re Next in 2011); David Bruckner (who would go on to helm The Ritual, The Night House, and the new Hellraiser); Ti West (who was already a hot commodity in horror in 2012, having already directed The House of the Devil in 2009 and The Innkeepers in 2011); Glenn McQuaid (of I Sell the Dead fame); mumblecore auteur Joe Swanberg; and the three-person filmmaking collective known as Radio Silence (who would go on to direct 2019’s fantastic Ready or Not and 2022’s Scream sequel).

V/H/S 2012 apparently began as a very organic project, or “a living film,” as Brad Miska would term it. Essentially, filmmakers who had a relationship with Bloody Disgusting and liked the concept of the film could participate, and were apparently left to their own devices, provided they stayed within the general theme of a “found” VHS tape.

The finished movie—while uneven as most anthologies are, and suffering from that shaky, chaotic camera movement that often makes it difficult to tell what’s going on—is actually pretty effective, and I have to say I really admired its commitment to its theming, which remains pretty consistent throughout, so much so that I could almost believe the entire thing was made by a single filmmaker.

The wraparound story, “Tape 56” by Adam Wingard, is the weakest of the tales story-wise, but is an efficient and immersive framework in which to serve up the other stories. Basically, it concerns a group of hateable twenty-something shitheels who make money recording themselves destroying things and sexually assaulting women, and who get a lucrative assignment from a mysterious benefactor to go to a particular house and locate a specific videotape containing some unknown content. Once in the house, they discover an older, apparently deceased man sitting in an armchair in front of a bunch of TVs, and the rest of the stories are unspooled as the chodes go through and watch some of the tapes as they’re looking for the right one to bring back and get paid. As I said, this frame story isn’t all that compelling, as the characters are interchangeable dicks who you hope get killed, but it’s a great, believable enough setup to get you into the meat of the movie.

The first proper segment, David Bruckner’s “Amateur Night,” isn’t bad at all, though it concerns yet ANOTHER gaggle of unlikeable broheims who are staying in a hotel somewhere and are GONNA GO GET LAID BRAH WOOOOO, and hopefully film some porn on the QT, facilitated by the one kinda nerdy and not entirely douchey bro wearing a pair of glasses with a hidden camera embedded in them. While at a bar, they’re able to persuade one hot drunk girl and one really weird and awkward but also kind of hot girl to come back to their hotel room with them. The hot, non-weird girl passes out, and shockingly, the bros don’t have sex with her anyway, but they do decide to focus their attentions onto the weird girl, who, it turns out, is FAR weirder than anyone imagined. Gore, broken wrists, torn-off genitalia, and bat wings ensue.

Next up, “Second Honeymoon,” directed by Ti West, is also quite good, with a great buildup, though I feel like the ending strained credulity a bit, as it seemed like it came out of left field somewhat. Anyway, Sam and Stephanie are filming themselves doing a road trip through Arizona, so at the beginning, we get the usual things that a couple on vacation would record. One night while they’re in their hotel room, however, someone knocks at the door, and though we don’t see this, Sam answers it and says it was a creepy young woman asking for a ride somewhere. Incidentally, I really liked that this exchange wasn’t shown, as it made the scenario more believable to me; you wouldn’t have necessarily filmed someone going to the door and talking to someone in real life, so it came across as more realistic, and I also found it eerier that the incident was only described second-hand. So the mysterious woman goes away, but then later that night, we see that she has presumably gotten into the room somehow and is recording herself holding a switchblade to Stephanie’s thigh, stealing money out of Sam’s wallet, and dunking his toothbrush in the toilet. This part was very unsettling, as it really played on a common fear of being watched while you’re asleep and oblivious. The next day, Sam notices his money is missing and blames Stephanie, though she insists she didn’t take it; Sam clearly doesn’t really believe her, and makes a sort of cryptic offhand comment about how it “wouldn’t be the first time.” When night comes around, it appears that the same woman has broken into the room again, but this time the outcome is much more severe. In true Ti West fashion, the bulk of the story is subtle buildup and character development, and then at one point he just pulls the rug out from underneath the viewer with a sudden, shocking event. That happens here, but as I mentioned, I’m not sure the “twist” was really foreshadowed quite enough, though I did like this story overall.

The next story, Glenn McQuaid’s “Tuesday the 17th,” was my least favorite of all the segments, as it was a pretty simple slasher narrative, albeit with a somewhat original concept for the killer. A girl named Wendy invites three friends to a lake she always goes to, and they proceed to do typical slasher-movie-fodder things, like skinny dip and smoke weed. We know something terrible is afoot because we keep seeing distorted images of what appear to be murdered bodies periodically popping up on the tape, and Wendy makes allusions to some deaths that happened up on this lake previously, though she sometimes pretends that she’s joking. But, in an unsurprising revelation, she’s absolutely not joking, and the friends begin to be quickly picked off by a killer named in the credits as The Glitch, which is apparently some kind of supernatural being that can’t be filmed properly. I liked this idea, though I wish the mythology of this killer would have been fleshed out a tad. Other than that, I found this segment just kind of meh; the acting wasn’t great, and the justification for Wendy taking all these people up there as “bait” didn’t really make a lot of sense. But it was okay for what it was.

Joe Swanberg’s “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” was my favorite of the stories; even though it didn’t strictly adhere to the VHS format, being presented as a series of video chats, it had a great, spooky buildup and a completely batshit twist that I’m not sure worked entirely, but was so unexpected that I let it slide. The story focuses on Emily, a young woman living alone in her apartment who has frequent discussions with her boyfriend James, who is in medical school in another state. Emily has had some problems in the past, such as an undisclosed “accident” which she never really elaborates upon, and she keeps complaining of a weird lump under the skin of her arm, which James tells her to stop messing with, as he’ll check it out for her when he comes to visit in a week. Worse yet, Emily is convinced that her apartment is haunted, and there are many great, tense sequences where she’s attempting to prove this to James by walking around her place while on a video chat with him, and what looks like a ghost child keeps flitting through the background. As I said, the outcome of this is pretty out there, but I didn’t really mind that, as this was at least the most original of all the stories, and had the creepiest vibe to it, in my opinion.

I also really like the final segment, Radio Silence’s “10/31/98,” which had a gang of considerably less obnoxious bros on their way to a Halloween party who apparently go to the wrong house. At first they play along, even though there’s clearly no one home, because some minor paranormal activity causes them to think that this is merely an elaborate haunted house attraction. But then they’re drawn upstairs by the sound of voices and occasional screaming, and although the ending of this is fairly predictable, I enjoyed the ride quite a bit, as the idea of walking through a brightly-lit empty house and seeing some subtle ghostly shit—a moved chair here, what appears to be an arm reaching out of a wall there—is wonderfully spooky, and was well done with a minimal budget.

All in all, a solid found footage film with some great moments, a coherent feel throughout, and an admirable commitment to its aesthetic motif.

Because the first film was successful, a follow-up was inevitable, and V/H/S/2 was released only a year later, in 2013. A half-hour shorter than the original and featuring one fewer story, the second installment nonetheless also had some great moments, though in my opinion it was both more (in terms of balls-to-the-wall mayhem and gore) and less (in terms of creepy atmosphere and originality) than the first one.

This time out, the frame story, “Tape 49,” is directed by frequent Adam Wingard collaborator Simon Barrett, and at least features two more likeable characters than the ones from the original’s wraparound. Larry and Ayesha are private investigators who open the movie surreptitiously filming a guy at a motel cheating on his wife. After they get the evidence they need, they go on to their next assignment: apparently a woman has hired them to look into the possible disappearance of her college-age son Kyle, who she hasn’t been able to get hold of for a while. The pair go to the kid’s house, which appears unoccupied, and find the requisite video tapes, which they proceed to watch in the hopes of finding out where the missing dude went. As this wraparound story progresses, the vanished dude factors into the story, along with a possibly paranormal slant having to do with the particular order the videos are watched in.

Adam Wingard’s “Phase I Clinical Trials,” the first segment, somewhat cleverly gets around the frequent found footage bugaboo of “why would anyone be filming that” by making the protagonist, Herman, on the receiving end of an experimental ocular implant that replaces an eye that it’s implied he lost in a car accident. Because the implant is still in the beta-testing phase, the doctor explains that the eye will record constantly for a temporary period of time, so that the corporation can monitor the thing for bugs. And by the way, the doctor says, the implant may also cause some “glitches” that should sort themselves out once the implant has properly synced up with Herman’s cerebral cortex. On his way out of the clinic, Herman sees a girl staring hard at him, though he isn’t sure why. Back at his house, Herman starts seeing some glitches, all right, including his video game controller being moved and what looks like the shape of a person under the covers of his bed, but then things escalate quickly, and he essentially starts seeing ghosts around every corner. The girl from the clinic shows up and tells him that she was born deaf and got an experimental cochlear implant from the same corporation, which allowed her to hear the ghosts. From there, things go about as you’d expect, and it’s insinuated that the two ghosts Herman sees are maybe people that he killed in the car crash in which he lost his eye. This segment was actually quite decent overall, even though it wasn’t all that imaginative, and probably relied too heavily on jump scares, though if I had to rank it, I think it would be my second favorite out of the four.

“A Ride in the Park,” directed by Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale of The Blair Witch Project fame, was actually my least favorite, as it was too straightforward for my liking and concerned zombies, which I’m really sick of. All that happens is that a guy named Mike is out on a bike ride wearing a GoPro style camera, and eventually gets attacked by zombies in a state park. I did like the fairly original angle of the story unfolding from the zombie’s POV, and the revelation that some of your humanity is retained after zombification, but other than that, this one was just middle-of-the-road.

The third tale, “Safe Haven,” was clearly the best one, and the most over-the-top insane. Directed by Timo Tjahjanto (an Indonesian filmmaker known for Headshot and May the Devil Take You) and Gareth Evans (the Welsh filmmaker responsible for 2011’s The Raid and its 2014 sequel), the story follows a group of documentarians who are making a film about a secretive cult called Paradise Gates. The leader, referred to only as Father, is initially reluctant to let “non-believers” into the sect’s sanctuary, but after they tell him that their film will be unbiased, he finally agrees. Once the crew arrive, though, things go south VERY quickly, as there’s a decidedly Jim Jones feel to the whole situation, and the female producer, Lena, gets pressed into service for some unholy reproductive duties. This installment was an absolute bloodbath, awash in organs, close-up head wounds, and exploding people, and also had something of a zombie vibe, though it was much scarier than the previous segment. Frightening, fun, and fucked up.

The final story, boasting the very on-the-nose title of “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” comes to us from Jason Eisener, the man who unleashed Hobo with a Shotgun onto the world in 2011. The segment, coming off as a sort of raunchy-teen-comedy-meets-scary-Steven-Spielberg mashup, follows a set of three siblings and their attendant friends, who are partying hard after their parents leave them alone in the house for the weekend. The younger brothers tape their sister having sex with her boyfriend; said sister and boyfriend retaliate by recording the younger brother masturbating, that kind of thing. Through it all, their adorable and long-suffering little dog Tank is sometimes shanghaied into the tomfoolery, having a camera strapped onto his head (and spoiler alert, the dog doesn’t make it in the end, which really bummed me out). Anyway, as the title suggests, at some point the kids are set upon by a group of classic, grey-style aliens, and a terrifying chase ensues. This one was pretty good too; it had some good camera work and some very natural acting by its young cast, but I’m subtracting points for the fucked-up shit that the poor puppy had to go through and for the fact that I don’t usually find aliens all that scary in horror movies (with a handful of exceptions, of course).

In 2014, the third installment of the franchise arrived in limited release and on VOD, but I have to say I found this one a significant drop in quality from the first two films. While I’m not averse to the idea of changing things up some, V/H/S: Viral seems to have largely abandoned the found VHS tape conceit of the previous two movies, and honestly seems as though it was sort of thrown together with little thought (or money) behind it; several of the segments are barely found footage, and break the established rules of the prior films by featuring edits between numerous cameras, and even bits of something that seems to be slickly produced documentary.

The frame story here, which I didn’t even realize was the frame story while I was watching it, is called “Vicious Circles,” and was directed by Marcel Sarmiento, perhaps best known for helming 2008’s Deadgirl. It has to do with couple named Kevin and Iris; Kevin films his girlfriend and himself just doing normal shit to begin with, but he seems obsessed with the idea of capturing a viral video that will essentially make him “part of something bigger.” One evening, he evidently gets his wish when an epic police chase occurs right outside his home, but he isn’t fast enough to capture it, and shortly thereafter, Iris wanders out of the house and mysteriously disappears. Kevin then gets on a bike and takes off in pursuit after receiving a bizarre video call from Iris in which she implies that she’s been taken by someone or something. Over the course of the movie, we chronicle Kevin’s search for Iris between the other segments, and it’s hinted that some larger force or power (which was teased in the second movie’s wraparound) is using all these viral videos we’re seeing as a method of mind control, or of driving everyone insane.

Anyway, the first proper segment, probably the best one though not really found footage, is directed by Gregg Bishop (known for The Other Side and Dance of the Dead; he also made a 2016 film called Siren that was actually a spinoff of the “Amateur Night” segment from the first V/H/S film) and is titled “Dante the Great.” Ostensibly presented as a documentary about the titular character, the short nonetheless features a mostly regular movie-style narrative that no one in-universe would have been filming. It’s basically about a guy named John, who lives in a trailer park and wants to be a magician but isn’t very good at it. He somehow comes across a cloak that once belonged to Harry Houdini, though, which can do literal magic, including making people disappear and teleporting objects. The magician obviously uses the cloak to become massively famous, but his friend and assistant Scarlett gets wise to a bunch of murders he committed with the help of the cloak, and decides to turn him in to police. This story does have the police finding a secret stash of video tapes that Dante made of his killings, but this event doesn’t really factor into the plot at all and is never brought up again. It just seems like it was wedged in there to sort of tie this movie in with the previous ones. This was actually a decent short, but I think it would have played better as a segment in a different anthology film, as it doesn’t exactly fit in with the VHS theme.

Nacho Vigalondo, the guy responsible for the fun kaiju black comedy Colossal, directed the next short film, “Parallel Monsters,” which again was decent, but was barely what I would consider found footage. The tale follows a guy named Alfonso, who has invented a portal in his workshop that opens onto a parallel dimension that’s just like this one, but with some not-so-subtle differences. Overjoyed, he switches places for fifteen minutes with the other Alfonso so they can each explore the other’s dimension, but while at first the mirror universe seems similar enough to the one he’s used to, eventually he realizes that the humans on the other side of the dimensional portal have some pretty monstrous sexual attributes. This one was entertaining and creative, but again, didn’t really strike me as fitting in with the theme that the first two movies established.

The next segment, “Bonestorm,” was directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead, who been involved with several damn good horror films, including Spring, The Endless, After Midnight, and She Dies Tomorrow. Unfortunately, “Bonestorm” was a chore to sit through, as it followed two annoying teenage skateboarders who hire a camera guy off Craigslist to film them doing their lame stunts. Somehow, they all end up in Tijuana and fall afoul of some type of occult ritual, which leads to a seemingly interminable sequence of them shooting and cutting the limbs and heads off of attacking cultists and reanimated skeletons. It’s pretty tedious, and a lot like watching a really boring video game, although a demon creature eats the camera guy at the end, so you get to briefly see the footage as the camera travels down the demon’s gullet, if you’re into that kinda thing.

After that, we return at last to the wraparound and its baffling conclusion, as Kevin hits a janky looking “upload” button in the ice cream van that the cops were chasing earlier, and this somehow causes explosions and general chaos around LA, as all the “viral” videos take effect. Or something.

By the way, there are also a couple of seemingly pointless vignettes sprinkled throughout, that I suppose were meant to illustrate how the viral videos were affecting other people around LA who weren’t involved in the main stories. There was one with a very stereotypical gathering of Hispanic gangbangers which turned homicidal after someone stuck a grilling fork through the leader’s dog’s head (LEAVE THE DOGS ALONE, GODDAMMIT), and one where the tables get turned on a sleazy, “girls gone wild” type porn producer when a woman he wronged threatens to shoot his dick off. Unfortunately we don’t get to see this, though, because the cab they’re riding in gets hit by a truck. So.

Evidently, there was another segment filmed for this called “Gorgeous Vortex,” directed by Todd Lincoln, but it was cut out because it was determined not to fit in with the theme of the other stories. It’s available to watch on the DVD and Blu-ray, but I didn’t see it, and really none of these stories really seemed to fit in with the whole VHS theme anyway, so I’m not sure how much the excised segment could have differed. In case you couldn’t tell, I really didn’t care for this movie much at all; it had a few bright spots, but mostly I found it to be cheap-looking and sloppily put together, with sub-par acting, an irritating, edgelord sort of vibe (particularly in the “Bonestorm” segment) and an over-reliance on CGI blood. I wouldn’t have even minded that the stories weren’t exactly found footage if the movie had been any good, but it just wasn’t. Ironically, though, it was the only one of the five movies in the franchise that I had to pay to rent, since the first two were streaming free with ads on Plex, and the last two were on Shudder, which I’ve long had a subscription to. So there’s that.

Thankfully, 2021 brought a return to the format which made the first two movies worth watching. V/H/S/94 made the wise decision to go back in time to retain the old-school feel that made the franchise’s concept initially stand out from other found footage films, and it also struck a good balance between fast-paced, outrageous gore and lower-key suspense. In fact, every one of the main segments here is good, although as usual, the wraparound is just serviceable and not that interesting, with a sort of dumb ending.

Said frame story is called “Holy Hell, ” and it was directed by artist, filmmaker, and screenwriter Jennifer Reeder (Knives and Skin). In it, a SWAT team are carrying out a raid at an old warehouse that most of them apparently believe is a drug distribution hub. Instead, they discover room upon room of dead people with their eyes gouged out, and slowly come to realize that the warehouse is the site of a mass cult suicide having to do with the brain-melting effects of watching the fucked-up videotapes that fill the place. This story has some eerie imagery as the SWAT team progresses through the building, but it’s otherwise just a means to get to the actual segments, and the “twist” ending is sort of lame and on the nose.

The first short, “Storm Drain,” was directed by Chloe Okuno (who would go on to direct the creepy Hitchcockian thriller Watcher in 2022) and follows an ambitious newscaster named Holly and her cameraman Jeff. They’re sent on assignment to the titular drain to investigate a local urban legend known as Rat Man, but at first, all they find is a seemingly homeless guy living in the drains. Holly, gunning for a Pulitzer, decides to do a story on the homeless encampments they subsequently find in the drains instead of the silly Rat Man thing, but it turns out that there is a basis for the urban legend after all. This segment was very entertaining and had a bizarre resolution that I really dug. The creature also looks great. Adding to the fun is the fake infomercial for the Veggie Masher (directed by Steve Kostanski) that plays during Holly’s newscast; it really gives an air of surreal realism to the proceedings, if that makes sense.

Next up was my favorite of the bunch, Simon Barrett’s “The Empty Wake.” Hailey is a relatively new employee at a funeral home, and she’s been tasked with staying there overnight to host a wake for the dear departed, a man named Andrew Edwards. The family requested that the service be recorded, hence the videotape, but for a long time, no one at all shows up, which makes Hailey really uneasy. Also unsettling is the fact that Hailey is sure she heard noises coming from inside the coffin, and notes that the coffin itself appears to be crooked on its base, even though the manager specifically straightened it earlier. She calls her employers, but they assure her that there’s no way that Andrew could still be alive in there, because he swan-dived off a building and his head is nothing but a ball of mush. Finally, much to Hailey’s relief, one seemingly normal guy does attend the wake, staying only for a few minutes and praying in some foreign language. After the guy leaves, though, it becomes clear that old Andrew might not be as dead as everyone assumed. The suspense in this one was outstanding, and the first part of it played like a really creepy episode of The Twilight Zone. But then it goes for the gore toward the end, with some awesome, gross effects of the dead guy’s fucked-up head. Good stuff.

The third segment, “The Subject,” was directed by Timo Tjahjanto (who co-directed the goriest segment in V/H/S/2, “Safe Haven”), and it goes big, bloody, and batshit, just like the director’s previous short for the series. The story follows a mad scientist guy named Dr. James Suhendra, who abducts people in order to experiment upon them. Most of said experiments involve things like fusing a man’s head onto a set of mechanical spider legs, and just generally trying to create a perfect hybrid between human and machine. The main “experiment” we see the action from is a woman only known as S.A., who was kidnapped some time before and has had her head replaced with a camera. Not long into the story, the authorities storm the mad doctor’s lab, and yet another bloodbath ensues, as the police are disgusted by the “experiments,” not considering them human anymore. Many of the experiments get loose and battle the cops, though, and complete and utter pandemonium ensues, with limbs flying, brains pulled out of heads, and lots of other blood-soaked hijinks. Another really fun, crazy outing from Timo Tjahjanto.

The final short, simply titled “Terror,” was directed by Ryan Prows and is also an entertaining, bloody ride, centered around a group of dumpy militia types at an isolated compound somewhere in snow-choked Michigan. They’re planning to blow up a federal building, Timothy McVeigh style, but they have something of a secret weapon in the form of a man they’re keeping captive in a shack that’s festooned with wooden crosses. For reasons which don’t become clear until later on, the sovereign citizens shoot this same man in the head every single day, only to have him seemingly return to life on the next. Again, this was a fun story, with a nice undercurrent of black humor and some decent gore and creature effects. Yet another winner.

I have to say that V/H/S/94, while maybe not quite as good as the original V/H/S, is the most consistently enjoyable out of all the ones I’ve watched so far. True, the frame story isn’t all that compelling, but that’s just par for the course at this point, so I’m not going to ding it too much for that, as the other four segments (plus the fake commercial) were pretty rad. I’ll note as well that keeping all the segments focused around 1994 gave the movie a much more unified feel, as there weren’t a bunch of different video styles and formats like there had been in Viral.

Last up (for now) is V/H/S/99, which just premiered in September of 2022 at the Toronto International Film Festival and subsequently arrived on Shudder a little over a month later, breaking the record for most views ever on the streaming platform (exceeding the numbers of the previous record holder, V/H/S/94). This installment sticks with the 90s VCR aesthetic throughout all the segments, but unlike prior entries into the franchise, doesn’t technically have a frame story that ties all the other segments together (no big loss, really), and leans more heavily into being funny, gross, and mean-spirited than scary. It’s not bad—I think it’s better than Viral, and had some amusing bits—but it’s something of a comedown from 94, in my opinion. None of the directors from any of the previous installments reappear here.

In lieu of a wraparound, we have brief clips from a cute stop-motion film featuring toy soldiers, framed as a movie made by a teenage kid named Brady, who eventually appears in the fourth segment. These interstitials, while not horror-related at all, are still pretty amusing, and reminded me of the kind of thing you used to see on MTV’s Liquid Television back in the day (I can’t be the only one who remembers “Winter Steele,” right?).

We then jump into the first short, “Shredding,” directed by Maggie Levin. In this one, a group of intolerable teenagers (so, like…teenagers) have a terrible pop punk band called R.A.C.K. (an acronym of all their names) and are documenting themselves screaming about how crazy they are, making horned hand gestures, sticking their tongues out, and generally being as EXTREEEEEEME and tryhard as all get-out. Have I mentioned how much I hated the 90s? Anyway. So for their next “sick” video, they’ve decided to break into a music venue called the Colony Underground, which was closed three years ago after a fire broke out and the band that was performing—an all-female “punk” band called Bitch Cat—were trampled to death as their fans raced for the exits. The members of R.A.C.K. are trying to be edgy by being as disrespectful toward the dead women as possible, but one of the kids, Ankur, is Hindu, and actually believes in bhuts, or ghosts. The other kids rag him mercilessly until he tries to leave in disgust, but of course the zombified members of Bitch Cat return to take a grisly revenge on the insolent little shits who broke into the place. This segment was a little bit of a slog, as the kids were really tiresome, and it took way too long for them to get pulled apart like a fresh loaf of sourdough. Okay, but predictable and a bit cringe.

Probably the best out of the five, the next segment was called “Suicide Bid,” and was directed by Johannes Roberts. The story revolves around a young woman named Lily, who’s so desperate to get into the Beta Sigma Eta sorority that she only applies to join that one, a move known as a “suicide bid.” The BSE girls are, of course, horrid twats all, finding Lily’s desperation pathetic, and they engineer a particularly nightmarish hazing for her, burying her in a coffin overnight after telling her a story about a previous pledge who disappeared doing just that. They get Lily nice and liquored up and throw her into the box, tossing a bunch of earth on top of it for good measure, but of course, things take a terrifying turn. This story was pretty good; it was straightforward and had a sort of urban legend vibe to it, without relying too much on CGI gore or jump scares. It wasn’t anything all that original, but it took a classic type of story and just executed it well.

The third short, “Ozzy’s Dungeon,” started out fun, but went on way too long and just got too far out there toward the end. Directed by record producer Flying Lotus, this one posits a Double Dare-style kid’s show where the contestants have to go through a disgusting obstacle course for a chance to have their greatest wish granted. One girl, Donna from Detroit, is determined to win the game—even though no kids have ever made it all the way to the end—but she gets horribly injured in a way that seems like sabotage, and afterwards, her righteously pissed off mom kidnaps the game show host (Steven Ogg in a standout performance as a sleazy cheesedick) and puts him through a similar ordeal in a mock-up of the show’s set the family built in their basement. This one gets weird, almost Lovecraftian, toward the end, and I’m not sure it worked, but at least it was unexpected. This one also wasn’t scary at all, mostly just going for dark humor and the gross-out factor, with graphically snapped bones, lots of vomit, and a revolting crawl through shit. Blech.

The next one. “The Gawkers,” features yet another cohort of irritating teenage boys who of course use their video camera for upskirt shenanigans and so forth. One of the boys and his dorky younger brother live across the street from a hot blonde named Sandra, who they often spy on as she’s outside washing her car or dancing around in her room. The dorky younger brother gets invited over to Sandra’s to help her set up her new webcam, and of course the older boys tell him he can be cool and hang with them if he installs some spyware in there so they can watch her on their own computer at their leisure, but obviously, they see some crazy shit they wish they hadn’t. Sandra, it turns out, isn’t quite human, and doesn’t take kindly to being watched. This one was okay, but the CGI monster effects looked pretty cheap, and the kids, again, were tedious to watch.

The final segment, “To Hell and Back,” directed by Vanessa & Joseph Winter, at least gets points for being somewhat creative, but I didn’t really love the concept, which might have worked out better with a bigger budget than this clearly had. Nate and Troy are two videographers who have been invited to a house on New Year’s Eve of 1999 in order to document a coven of suburban witches as they summon a demon named Ukabon into the body of one of their members. Accidentally, though, another troublesome demon named Ferkus shows up, and when the witches dispel him back to Hell, he happens to have hold of both Nate and Troy, who are consequently sucked back to Hell right along with him. The two clueless schlubs then have to rely upon the help of a demon they meet—Mabel the Skull Biter—to get to Ukabon and get hold of him before the coven summons him back to the earthly plane so that they can go along for the ride. Again, this one was all right, but it was a little bizarre and suffered from cheap-looking effects. It wasn’t scary, just like most of the rest of these, though it did get a couple chuckles out of me as Nate and Troy bickered about the best way to get out of their situation. Not great, but again, just sort of middling.

Well, I’ve finally done it; I’ve talked about all five V/H/S movies, and if I had to rank these movies in order of preference, I would probably say the first one was my favorite, followed by 94, 2, 99, and Viral. Honestly, I think I might lay off the found footage movies for a while, because this was a lot to sit through in a short period of time, though I had fun overall.

Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends.

One thought on “Breaking Down All the V/H/S Movies

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