Damn do I love a good horror anthology flick and HOT DAMN do I love me some practical creature-feature effects! Having said that, I would boldly say that V/H/S/99, which is the newest edition of the juggernaut horror V/H/S anthology series, is the most charming THUS far. Let me explain; I’ll be the first to admit that this entry doesn’t seem to have the budget of past entries, nor are the stories any more or less riveting than what we have seen before in the series. However, the combination of fantastical practical effects and innovative storytelling makes the series so much more endearing than its predecessors. Like an underdog in sports or the geek that pines for the cute and quirky gal, it’s hard not to root for this movie because you can tell that it was done with so much love that the reaction from each suspenseful scare or grotesque creature was well earned.
I’ve gushed about the V/H/S series in the past due to its creative take on both horror anthologies and found footage horror flicks, but this series is exclusive to the SHUDDER streaming site (which is another thing I’ve proudly pimped in this Vault MANY times…at least give me a shirt or something LOL) and as such, it seems to have more of a renegade feel than the other flicks. The feel for the movie harkens back to a time where we were just starting to feel the potential of the internet/social media and the subsequent consequence of trying to capture the absurd for fame. There is definitely more of an emphasis in the design/makeup of the creatures and the practical effects to bring them to life. It seems this series had the least CGI involved and instead replaced with the practical effects of old where the people are reacting to something they can actually touch rather than a computer effect. Yes, CGI has the capability of doing amazing things for all kinds of movies but in the world of the macabre, it seems that the scene of terror is much better absorbed by the audience when the actors can feel the impact of the creature in real time as opposed to edits in post-production.
Yes, my name is the Feartastic Vault Keeper and I’m a horror practical effects snob. Now onto the stories!
Director(s): Maggie Levin
Writer(s): Maggie Levin
Starring: Keanush Tafreshi, Jesse LaTourette
What a great way to kick off the series! Off the bat, this entry has a visual/tone feel that’s a cross between The Real World and Jackass which is definitely time appropriate for this flick. The story follows a band that seeks fame through video blogs (remember those things?) and decides that a good way to garner some fans is to visit the site of an abandoned music venue where another promising band died years ago from a tragic fire/trampling. This has all the elements of your usual horror short including the one person who has a bad feeling about this (Star Wars style) and the rest of the brigade thinking he’s a weirdo. The payoff for all the buildup of the eventual reveal of the zombie/ghosts band members is pretty damn sweet since again, the emphasis on make up and practical effects make the last 5 minutes memorable. The last scene of what the creatures do the victims ended up being entertainingly disturbing so KUDOS!
Director(s): Johannes Roberts
Writer(s): Johannes Roberts
Starring: Ally Loannides, Caitlin Serros
Typical Mean Girl feel for this entry as a group of snobby sorority sisters pick on their newest pledge by daring her to spend the night in a coffin in a graveyard home to an urban legend of a deceased pledge who died under identical circumstances. Again, I don’t think I need to describe how this plays out or even how it ends but damn, the visuals for this entry were very enjoyable. The creature effect that plays out the last couple minutes of this short was worth the entire entry and the visual of having someone in a coffin while all this was going on makes you remember how powerful the found footage genre can be under the right circumstances.
Director(s): Flying Lotus
Writer(s): Zoe Cooper, Flying Lotus
Starring: Steven Ogg, Sonya Eddy
This was both nostalgic and funny as this entry is an obvious homage to the Nickelodeon game show, Legends of the Hidden Temple but with a terror-rific twist. This was a fun entry that shows what happens when a game show contestant takes a dark turn in trying to win a gameshow that was rigged by a shady host (Steven Ogg is despicably wonderful in this entry). Like the others in this movie, this entry has such cool visuals in toward the end of the flick but the buildup was quite hilarious since the side characters do a good job instilling suspense while making you grin/chuckle throughout the process.
Director(s): Tyler MacIntyre
Writer(s): Chris Lee Hill, Tyler MacIntyre
Starring: Ethan Pogue, Duncan Anderson, Emily Sweet
This was a great crossover between Jackass and American Pie where they answer the question; what happens to pervert teens who spy on the WRONG hot neighbor? The buildup to this answer is enjoyable throughout because they did a great job of establishing that these teens are idiots in both the nostalgic and irritating way to the point where you don’t really feel that bad about the terrorizing outcome. The actors did a great job playing up the perv factor because it seems there were 500+ flicks around that era that focused on dumb-asses trying to get laid and crossing every boundary to do so and this entry definitely gives that era of filmmaking a kick in the blue balls. It was great to see the story play out as typical as it can be for the era, only to have a fun/dark outcome that causes the audience to cheer…or at least I did while sitting on my couch…not being a perv.
To Hell and Back
Director(s): Vanessa and Joseph Winter
Writer(s): Vanessa and Joseph Winter
Starring: Archelaus Cristano, Joseph Winter, Melanie Stone
This was a great way to close out the flick because it felt like an amusement park horror maze come to life and I mean that in the most endearing way. The practical effects, makeup and visuals throughout this entry made me wish they would have made this story into a maze that one can enjoy during Halloween season. The story follows two friends as they are inadvertently zapped into a demon dimension and their journey to get back to Earth. I can actually see this being a full-length movie based on the witty banter from the friends and even some characters they meet along the way in the demon world were quite charming in that demon-y way I suppose. The ending itself was VERY satisfying and entertaining as you root for the buddies to get back to Earth since they have limited time, so in that sense, it felt almost like a video game as well. I completely get why this would be the last entry in the flick since it felt like the most chaotic of all the stories with the constant running and everything going wrong. From a practical effect standpoint, it had the most creature features which were visually AMAZING.
Overall, I would put V/H/S/99 as one of the strongest (if not THE strongest) flick in the series. HIGHLY recommend watching this in a group since it brings back the old feel of 80s horror anthologies where the practical effects were equal to the macabre stories themselves!
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.