Let’s check in with the V/H/S series.

After the uninspired Viral I was a bit surprised to see a fourth entry in this found-footage anthology, but here we are. What shall we say about this one?

V/H/S is back!

The absurdity and grindhouse inspired madness has returned to the series. This time around, we follow a SWAT team as they raid a massive complex thinking they will find drugs. Instead, they find a cult hideout, complete with mass suicides and other creepy stuff.

The meta story in the series has always been a bit of a weak point for me. I think this is one thing Viral tried to correct with building in more stakes, but it didn’t quite work there. Here, it is more akin to the first film where we have a group trying to figure out what is happening while the tapes play in between set moments. I don’t think the meta story here is worse than any of the others, but I still see it as the weak link.

Our stories range from classic creep, dread, body horror, and an honestly terrifying look into a terrorist militia group that has an unusual new weapon. I’m not sure which one I liked the best. The first two solidify the film as a solid slab of horror. Then, our third focuses on some excellent cyberpunk infused body horror, which was refreshing to see. The fourth though might be my favorite. Despite the supernatural element it all felt real, perhaps too real (particularly giving this being set in 1994, a year before the Oklahoma City Bombing).

This series is found footage done right. We don’t get long stretches of crap where we’re trying to fill out running time. Nope, here we get compact stories where every moment matters. Small scenes are used to build tension and propel the major story forward. I love horror shorts because so much of the useless narrative bloat simply can’t exist.

The quality of each “tape” will vary for viewers. Oddly, I seem to be in the minority with preferring the final one (looking at a whole one discussion board allows me to make this broad statement). Anthology films always run the risk of being judged by their worst by the viewer, even though what is best and worst is subjective. I think that this is a disservice to the type of film, though I do understand the inclination to remember parts you don’t like.

If one thing doesn’t work as well here it is the time setting. Aside from the last one there is no narrative point to anything being in 1994. We also have higher definition cameras and newer aspect ratios that betray this setting immediately. It doesn’t ruin the film, but it did make me wonder what the inclination for making this the “first” entry hoped to accomplish. We even have technology present in the film that seems too far out for today, let alone more than 25 years ago.

These films are ridiculous and fun. I wonder how much the directors speak with each other during creation. Tonally, each entry is completely different. However, they all feed into a similar theme in some way (this one seems to be the monstrous). I would love to see how planning and preparing these shakes out.

94 is solid, insane, and completely over the top in all the right ways. For fans of this sort of horror there is a lot to love here. Excellent effects and some twisted short tales make for a great time. Easily one of the better extreme horror films to come out this year.

Worth a watch.

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