V/H/S/99 Review: One Of The Least Interesting Entries In This Wobbly Franchise [TIFF]

I love horror anthology movies ... at least in theory. I really love the idea of an anthology — a series of short films tied together in one neat package. But the truth is, there are more bad horror anthologies than good. Even the best of the best almost always have at least one segment worth skipping. The "V/H/S" franchise might be the worst offender — there are five films in the series so far, and I can count the number of good segments on one hand. The best of the best is, without question, Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans' "Safe Haven" from "V/H/S/2," a brilliantly-conceived and genuinely scary story about a death cult. But nothing else in the series has ever come close to that tale. 

In fact, I've found the series so miss-heavy that I kind of gave up on it. And then came "V/H/S/94," which ended up being my favorite in the entire franchise. While not every story clicked, the good outweighed the bad, which had me excited to see what would come next. Sadly, what came next is "V/H/S/99," which might just be the direst addition to the series yet. Full of loud, shrieking, hateful characters and shaky camera work designed to hide anything interesting, only extremely hardcore fans of the series should apply for "V/H/S/99." I couldn't even find one story to grasp onto here, and that's a problem.  

Not a single memorable story

"V/H/S/99" abandons a wraparound story concept — sort of — and I have no complaints there! Wraparounds can be superfluous. But here we get a series of stop-motion short films involving quippy army men, and kicking off your horror anthology film with such a set-up probably isn't the best idea. From there, "V/H/S/99" launches into a series of EC-comics-style tales of the supernatural reaching out for revenge. 

A group of punk rockers attempt to play a show at an underground show where a band was once trampled to death; a hazing ritual involving cruel sorority sisters involves a new pledge being buried alive; a "Double-Dare"-like kids gameshow morphs into a gross-out nightmare; a mythical figure turns out to be very real; and a New Year's Eve ritual goes straight to hell. Helmed by a team that includes Maggie Levin, Johannes Roberts, Tyler MacIntyre, Flying Lotus, Joseph Winter, and Vanessa Winter, none of the ideas in "V/H/S/99" are bad, per se. But they're all executed rather shoddily. 

I know unstable camerawork comes with the territory here, but the footage in all the segments is so laughably unfocused that they might as well have not shot it at all. Worse, practically none of the segments are particularly interesting, or scary. The "Double-Dare"-inspired entry is the worst of the bunch; a foul piece of junk that aims to do nothing more than gross you out. The sorority sister story is arguably the best, as it feels the most classic, as if it were ported over from the pages of "Tales From the Crypt." But even this story falters from a weak ending. Still, I particularly liked the overall commitment to making the footage here look appropriately video-y, as opposed to other entries in the series, which all look like they were shot digitally despite the VHS branding.

But the biggest offense all these stories commit is that they fail to give us a single likable character. Unlikable characters in a movie are fine, but if you're giving us wall-to-wall a**holes, it grows tiresome pretty quickly. Not to mention that it makes it impossible for us to feel any sense of fear, because why should we be afraid for characters we can't wait to see bite the dust? Even classic slashers give us at least one likable lead to root for as we cheer the demise of those around them. 

As a horror junkie, I will absolutely continue to watch the "V/H/S" series as long as they keep making it. But for the love of Raatma, can we please get some better entries going forward?

/Film Rating: 4 out of 10