This film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival
“V/H/S/99” continues the popular found footage film series with a group of shorts that take place as the new millennium is about to begin. The year is 1999, and the kids are restless and angsty. This feeling and mood carries through to each segment, with most featuring female-centered stories and all of them having a plot where the ones who have wronged others all get their “what-fors.” This provides for a very satisfying experience as a viewer, even if most of the stories (even the standouts) are forgettable.
As with most anthology films, some of the stories prove to be more successful. Featuring work from directors Maggie Levin, Johannes Roberts, Joseph Winter, Vanessa Winter, Flying Lotus, and Tyler MacIntyre, the film enables a diverse group of storytellers to showcase their original voices. There are five short films present here, none of which are unbearable to watch, but a couple are much stronger than the others. A few don’t follow through to a rewarding conclusion but as a whole, the segments work together and create an entertaining, sometimes scary, often bloody movie anthology.
The stories are varied in style and tone, yet all are connected by a violent or twisted theme. The segments include a nightmarish (and gory) trip to hell, a mean girl sorority hazing prank gone wrong, the curse of a zombie riot grrrl band, a group of horny boys who spy on the hot mom next door, a family that seeks revenge when one of their own is injured on the set of a children’s game show. There’s a good mix of humor, horror, sci-fi, the occult, and the supernatural, and each director captures the retro feel of the time period and setting. The visuals can be frustrating at times, with an overuse of shaky cam and very dark lighting that makes it difficult to see (both old tricks to hide a low budget), but the gore effects are surprisingly good (and gross).
For genre fans, “V/H/S/99” is more than just a watchable way to pass some time. It’s a fun drive-in type of Halloween movie that reminds me of something I would watch at a slumber party when I was a preteen as my friends and I would get scared out of our minds. The movie plays like a series of short horror stories that you’d tell around a campfire, and it’s a solid gimmick that’s well done. If the studio continues hiring interesting directors and keeps putting together fun films like this, the franchise will remain far from being past its prime.
By: Louisa Moore