As Halloween season is upon us and horror fans everywhere are already in the full swing of celebrations, V/H/S/99 has made its way into the world. Taking place alongside the then-rapidly approaching new millennium, this fifth entry in the V/H/S franchise is all about horror, reverential love for the late-90’s, and having a ton of fun along the way. Made up of five wholly original segments, the talent brought forth in this film sends a clear, direct message to horror fans everywhere: tune into whatever their next genre work is. Taking place across a single tape that appears to have been recorded over ad infinitum, V/H/S/99 is a lovely instance of an anthology film where each segment tops the previous one. As the film dives deeper into the heyday of late-1999 and the impending doom of Y2K fever, the nostalgic elements are doubled down on. It’s refreshing in a film like this, where each reference brings out less of an eye-roll and more of a clear yearning for what has been long lost. Luckily, V/H/S/99 is just what is needed to not only rediscover that pure fun of 1999, but to rejuvenate it.
Spaced apart via stop-motion interstitials that are reminiscent of Robot Chicken, the segments present have a bit of something for everyone. From the most twisted reimagining of Legends of the Hidden Temple directed by Flying Lotus to a deeply inventive New Year’s Eve trip by Vanessa & Joseph Winter, V/H/S/99 is a treat for genre fans everywhere looking for pure scares. Take, for example, the “Suicide Bid” segment of the film, directed by Johannes Roberts. Sticking to his tried and true style of placing characters in seemingly inescapable positions, Roberts strikes visceral fear into the audience. How? By effectively utilizing real world fear in the most plain way possible: he shows us the last situation anybody would ever want to find themselves in. Tack on some supernatural scares, and the recipe is perfect. This fear is doubled down upon in “Shredding”, the segment written and directed by Maggie Levin. Pulling direct inspiration from the anti-establishment pop-punk crowd of the late 90’s, “Shredding” follows R.A.C.K., a friend group that also happens to be part of a band. And we can’t forget about their sizzle reel of all the Jackass-inspired stunts they love to pull off together. There are plenty of scares in here too, but more than anything, it’s the perfect introduction to this film and the sort of nostalgia it aims to capture. It wears its 90’s inspirations on its sleeve, and the talent at the helm of this entire film clearly want to help it live on in some fashion. Levin does so by including a demo reel straight off MTV for a fictional band that absolutely rips, and will surely have fans clamoring for a full release of the song.
Still, even with all this love being tossed at 1999, there is a very clear notion that the filmmakers are also fully aware of how ridiculous the year was. V/H/S/99 is certainly not afraid to get silly in the name of showing its audience a great time. So by the time the final three segments roll around, it’s easy to dive all-in to just how zany these ideas become, starting with Flying Lotus’ “Ozzy’s Dungeon. The set-up is simple: what if a game show for children had little regard for health and safety, while also being run by a host clearly under the influence of several substances? This segment focuses on anger and just how far it can take a person in life, and it leads to some genuinely insane places. “The Gawkers”, directed by Tyler MacIntyre, on the other hand, instead focuses strictly on some children growing up in a time when the Internet was making its way into homes on a more frequent basis. MacIntyre takes the girl-next-door story that the late 90’s and early aughts rehashed time and time again, and flips it into a morality story that will have the audience pivot from laughter to screams. Lastly, there is “To Hell and Back”, directed by the Winters duo. Yes, the title is self-explanatory, and it’s the perfect note to end V/H/S/99 on. The practical effects here absolutely rule, the balance of comedy in perhaps the scariest place imaginable works, and it’s all tightly wrapped up in a bow rather quickly and efficiently. It’s an excellent summation of what makes a film like this so fun and ripe for exploration, as well as being a phenomenal way to expose horror fans everywhere to a litany of talent within genre filmmaking.
V/H/S/99 will be available on Shudder on October 20, 2022.