“V/H/S/94” comes at just the right time in just the right climate. Right now the found footage sub-genre is experiencing a small resurgence, while Analog Horror/ARG’s is all the rage on Youtube right now (e.g. “Local 58”). Horror fans love being immersed in to alternate realities and “V/H/S/94” offers up a bevy of original, creepy, bizarre, and damn scary tales that re-introduces us to a horrifying world where the darkest demons can only be found on VHS. It keeps true to its roots though, bringing back Simon Barrett and Timo Tjahjanto for another great go around.
Set in the year 1994, authorities are clued in on a mysterious VHS tape that prompts a heavily equipped SWAT team unit to raid a supposed drug lab. There they only find a sinister cult compound whose collection of pre-recorded material uncovers a nightmarish conspiracy involving its followers. “V/H/S/94” introduces us to four really good horror stories, all of which present their own takes on folklore and horror, and almost never eases up on the tension.
Chloe Okuno’s “Storm Drain” finds an investigative reporter and her cameraman investigating a local cryptid known as “The Rat Man.” Simon Barrett’s “The Empty Wake” centers on a young funeral home hire that is tasked with overseeing a funeral all alone. Stuck in the middle of a horrible thunderstorm and an empty church, she begins to realize something in the coffin might be trying to get out. Timo Tjahjanto brings us “The Subject,” a science fiction tinged tale involving a genius doctor who is attempting experiments involving human subjects. Chaos reaches fever pitch when his lab is invaded by mercenaries.
Finally, there’s Ryan Prows’ darkly comic “Terror” centering on a white nationalist militia preparing to raid a local government office. Along with fire arms, they’re also preparing a mysterious weapon that they’re keeping prisoner. “V/H/S/94” is the reboot/sequel that the series needed; it injects a fresh dose of gore soaked terror, skillfully reworking the format for fans and newcomers alike. There isn’t a single weak link in the chain of talent on display here as Bruckner is able to perfectly balance the foursome of horror shorts and their varying degrees of tension, tone, and themes. “V/H/S/94” has every chance to dig itself in to a rut and feel like a repeat of the previous three films, but thankfully it takes the series in a new direction without departing from its initial voyeuristic appeal.
I love how Bruckner and co. inject something of a scary mythic quality to the VHS format, while also compiling great new methods for retaining the found footage format through and through. “V/H/S/94” ranks up there with “V/H/S/ 2” and is easily one of my favorite horror films of the year. It’s a pitch perfect re-launch of a movie series that still has potential to go in many dark, horrifying places.
Premiering exclusively on Shudder, on October 6th, and is set to screen at Beyond Fest on October 4.