V/H/S/99, the latest in the V/H/S anthology movie series, playing at Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, brings us back to the decade when VHS tapes were a household staple. This new collection of horror segments delivers some frightening moments. The creepy quality for most feels less like found footage and more like home movies from people you know. V/H/S/99 is fun, gruesome entertainment in time for the best season of the year.
When Disrespect Gives Massive Repercussions
The first story, “Shredding,” written and directed by Maggie Levin, is a cautionary f*ck around and find out that leaves you freaked out and relieved—because you know it is not you—by the end. A 4-member band, known as R.A.C.K; made up of white girl Rachel (Jesse LaTourette), Hindu boy Ankur (Keanush Tafreshi), and white boys Chris (Dashiell Derrickson) and Kaleb (Jackson Kelly), are Jackass meets music. They visit an abandoned building where another band, Bitch Cat, died three years ago. Bitch Cat’s fans trampled them to death to escape a fire.
Ankur is the only person nervous. The rest hurl insults at his fear, race, and culture, nicknaming him “spice boy.” This is not a band you cheer to survive. The practical effects look gross and, combined with old footage of Bitch Cat and their current appearance, present a memorable ride with blood and body parts flying. The disturbing ending crawls up your spine. V/H/S/99 starts strong with catchy music and gruesome violence. This story is my favorite and makes you want to attend a Bitch Cat performance, even an undead one.
V/H/S/99 Revisits The Phrase Dead Ringer
My second favorite, “Suicide Bid,” written and directed by Johannes Roberts, follows college girl Lily (Ally Ioannides). She makes a suicide bid to join one sorority, and the sorority members invite her to a cemetery at night, offering her the opportunity to join. The five girls warn her about a girl who tried to join their sorority 20 years ago, who sorority members buried alive and left for a week. When they dug up her body, she was gone.
So the girls tell Lily she has to lie in a coffin in the ground all night to be a member. They put a rope, attached to a bell, in the coffin so she can ring if she wants to leave, but then she will not be a sorority member. This story freezes the blood because actress Ally exudes that terror as she tries to remain calm, but the situation spirals, and fear sets in. Claustrophobic experiences are horrifying because we become feral in our desperation to survive.
They Should Never Do That On Television
Next, looking like a tame battle royale style, voyeuristic show meets You Can’t Do That On Television, and In Living Color, there is “Ozzy’s Dungeon.” Written by Flying Lotus and Zoe Cooper and directed by Flying Lotus, a young Black girl, Donna (Amelia Ann), goes on Ozzy’s Dungeon competition show hoping to win—no one has successfully won.
With a racist host, who hurls offensive insults disguised as jokes at her and her family, she tries to win but loses after breaking her leg. Later Donna’s family, led by her mom, played by Sonya Eddy, seek payback against the host. While not the best film, the morbid way the competition parallels real life draws you in. Odds pile against us, yet they expect us to perform until the end.
Do Not Make Eye Contact
“The Gawkers,” written by Chris Lee Hill and Tyler Macintyre and directed by Tyler Macintyre, takes a more traditional voyeur direction. A set of young men spy on their beautiful neighbor. Not content to spy from there, they convince their friend to install spyware on her computer so they can spy on her. The situation does not go as planned, and they learn a well-deserved lesson about the dangers of voyeurism. Though interesting, the previous segments stood out more. But the little clips between the segments with the G.I. Joe-style action figures are hilarious. Wonderful comedic timing.
Abandon All Hope…
The final story in V/H/S/99, “To Hell And Back,” is a literal surprise trip to the bowels of hell. Written and directed by Vanessa and Joseph Winter, the story is exciting and funny. Two guys, Troy (Joseph Winter) and Nate (Archelaus Crisanto), record a group of women performing a demon-summoning ritual.
A situation arises, and both wind up dropped into hell, and with the help of demonic resident Mabel (Melanie Stone), they rush to find a way to escape. It feels more like a found footage story compared with the others. The creatures in hell are imaginatively disgusting. It feels like the creator had fun letting their imagination loose. The monsters make you think of Carpenter’s The Thing with their grotesque appearances.
None of the stories in V/H/S/99 are boring, but some shine brighter than others in this hellfire landscape. V/H/S/99 is a delightful, otherworldly viewing experience for any horror genre fan. One thing is clear; the universe of VHS terror is still alive and in full effect.