Fantastic Fest 2021: V/H/S/94 — Movie Review

V/H/S/94 is screening as part of the 2021 Fantastic Fest.
 
V/H/S/94, the fourth installment in the cult horror anthology film series, follows the franchise’s weakest entry, V/H/S: Viral, a forgettable and occasionally downright lazy film. 94 marks the return of Simon Barrett and Timo Tjahjanto, the former of which had a hand in both V/H/S and V/H/S/2 and the latter of which directed a segment in the second film. It seems evident that this film is meant to be a course correction of sorts.

 

These films garner mixed reception overall, but I’ve had fun watching the first two films with friends. They aren’t perfect by any stretch, but their ability for variety within the found footage format does the trick in the right group setting.

I didn’t watch V/H/S/94 in a group, and that is my own failing, not the film’s. All the same, I got the sense of which moments would or would not work well in a crowd.

To start, the frame story is, as per usual in this series, superfluous and a poor excuse at stringing these shorts together. In this film, it is also lamely written and stiffly acted. The trajectory of its narrative was telegraphed, and its final reveal was less-than-stellar. Coming from Jennifer Reeder—whom I was excited to see attached to this project given her ambitious Knives and Skin—I was strongly disappointed in this aspect of the film.

As for the shorts themselves, there is clearly one winner among the bunch. There are some low-key frights in Barrett’s “Empty Wake” which are fun, and the fleshy, Xenomorph-inspired creature of Chloe Okuno’s “Storm Drain” is certainly a sight. Ryan Prows’ “Terror,” meanwhile, is a strange, knotty beast which I could at least appreciate for being genuinely shot on video.

But the real winner of this film (and, frankly, this franchise as a whole) is Tjanjanto’s “The Subject.” It is immediately striking and a novel use of the format—one could call it a found footage Tetsuo. It is the best film on a technical level, with extremely skilled staging and camerawork that comes to a bloody, exhilarating head at the climax. The pacing is tight. The effects are a visceral, gory, superb delight. And the genre play is just that: playful and fun yet not without its provocation.

“The Subject” may be the single best piece of filmmaking this franchise has produced. What gives it a run for its money is Tjanjanto’s previous contribution to the franchise in V/H/S/2. Otherwise, most shorts in the series can’t hold a candle to it. If anything in this film is going to get a crowd going, it’s Tjanjanto’s work. It is a cyberpunk body horror masterclass.

V/H/S/94: B-


As always, thanks for reading!

—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)

Leave a Reply. We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.