The problem with horror anthologies is there’s always one story that is the best and one that is the worst. There’s also one story that’s very innovative and one that seems like filler. And that’s the best way to sum up V/H/S ’94 the fourth installment in the franchise and what I’m told is an improvement over the previous V/H/S Viral, which I haven’t seen.
I have seen the first two movies and while the first one seemed long and tedious at times, the second one seemed to try and one-up every story from the first one. Both are worth watching for one time only, yet I couldn’t fathom a reason to watch them again. And that’s what you can say about this.
Rewinding back to 1994 where all events are set, the movie has similar problems like the previous two, the frame narrative “Holy Hell” about a SWAT team infiltrating a cult isn’t as thrilling as it should be and just sets up each installment. But there’s a twist at the end that I won’t even mainly because I didn’t really catch it until it was mentioned in the movie.
The first segment we see is “Storm Drain” involving a news reporter, Holly Marciano (Anna Hopkins) and her cameraman, Jeff (Christian Potenza) entering a storm drain to do a story on reports of a “Rat Man” that people claim to have seen. Chloe Okuno, who wrote and directed this segment, manages to build on the claustrophobia of the scenery to provide some good jump scares and tension. But I don’t have to be the one to tell you that if there is a horror segment about a Rat Man creature, that you will eventually see said creature. There is a mixture of dark comedy and terror here.
The second segment is “The Empty Wake” written and directed by Simon Barrett and completely worth skipping considering it doesn’t build off the previous segment. It involves a funeral home employee, Hayley (Kyal Legend) who thinks she hears noises from a casket during a wake where no one shows up as a bad thunderstorm rages outside. There are many video cameras set up around the chapel area. This one doesn’t really work and seems like it was added to push the movie past the 90 minute mark. This movie is actually 100 minutes with credits.
The third segment, “The Subject” is written and directed by Timo Tjahjanto about a mad Indonesian doctor James Suhendra (Budi Ross) who has been kidnapping people around Jakarta and performing experiments turning them into part machine/part human hybrids. Everything goes crazy when a SWAT teams shows up. Tjahjanto directed the “Safe Haven” segment of the second V/H/S movie and he delivers the same wild and crazy story as two of his “experiements” go on the war path.
The fourth segment “Terror” is probably the best in my opinion, mainly for its subtle political satire tone. Written and directed by Ryan Prows, it’s about a Michigan militia extremist group who live in a secluded snow-covered area. As Christrian and right-wing extremists, who cuss like sailors, they are planning an attack on a federal building in Detroit. Since this is set in 1994, you can hear echos of the Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995. But how they intend to execute this attack is very strange and actually so crazy you have to laugh at how Prows foolishly makes the extremists out to be.
But the worst part is realizing that 28 years later, we’re still having to deal with these people. There’s a connection to the “Holy Hell” frame narrative that I won’t say. But after the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection attempt, you have to wonder if Prows was inspired before or after to write this segment. This movie was released less than nine months after Jan. 6, so it’s like it was filmed during the winter of 2021. Some people might this segment too political, but horror is always about different themes and metaphors.
For what it’s worth, the found footage format has worn out its welcome and I don’t know if V/H/S has much of a future especially how more and more people are living in a world where they’ve never used a VCR. Josh Goldbloom, who produced this movie, said there is an idea for a fifth installment.
One thing I will give the franchise credit for is showcasing the work of aspiring female filmmakers in horror. Horror doesn’t have to be a boys club and many female filmmakers, such as Mary Lambert and Mary Harron among others, have done great work in the genre. The last thing we need is yet another Little Women adaptation, unless it has a horror twist to it. Maybe that should be used if there is a fifth installment.
What do you think? Please comment.