One of the more unlikely franchises of a resilient nature, V/H/S/, a retro-appearing horror anthology effort that often compiles a series of genre directors flexing their creative muscle through short horror narratives, is now in its fifth iteration in the form of V/H/S/99.
The horror tales that often are confined within the V/H/S/ films are always a hit-and-miss affair, but, sadly, for 99 the latter outweighs the former, in spite of the clearly inventive temperaments of the filmmakers involved.
The first vignette has a grand premise – and some glorious gore that the audience in attendance were giddy at the sight of – but it ultimately feels like it can’t capitalise on its own imagination as it follows a series of punk rockers who perform in the underground club that’s become notorious as the death site for a femme band who were trampled to death when a club fire broke out. Their spirits – or, more correctly, their zombified bodies – haven’t moved on, so we’re unsurprised that this brazen band will fall victim, but it feels all style over substance when it culminates in an anti-climactic performance that probably felt atmospheric on paper.
A take on the classic Medusa tale, a bizarre underworld story incorporating the end-of-world hype of Y2K, and a truly bonkers set piece about a kids television program host being held for torture following his negligence on his own show that resulted in the brutal disfigurement of one of his young contestants keep the film moving on a literal level but don’t always make for entirely captivating viewing. What does save 99 from being a completely underwhelming experience is the segment “Suicide Bid” courtesy of director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, The Strangers: Prey at Night), a darkly humorous, mean-spirited telling of a group of sorority girls playing a hazing prank that, wouldn’t you know it, goes horribly wrong. Roberts manages to infuse a standard buried-alive trope with an elevation that makes you wish this story was given the extended treatment as a solo tale over its minimal inclusion in a largely underwhelming scarer.
A collection that more than often than not wears out its welcome with bold ideas but shaky execution, V/H/S/99 earns commendation for at least continuing its trajectory in celebrating and showcasing genre directors, but sadly not a recommendation as an entirety. Despite such short features, 99 largely overstays its welcome with a promise of what could have been forming a reality of “that’s it?”
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
V/H/S/99 screened as part of this year’s Toronto Film Festival, which ran physically between September 8th and 18th, 2022, and digitally (select titles) from September 13th. It is scheduled for a release on Shudder from October 20th, 2022.