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Film Review

V/H/S/94 (2021) Review

Matt reviews Shudder’s V/H/S/94 calling it “a return to form” for the franchise. The latest entry streams from Wednesday, October 6.

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V/H/S/94 (Shudder)

V/H/S/94 streams exclusively on Shudder from October 6, 2021.

Synopsis

A Shudder Original Film, V/H/S/94 is the fourth installment in the hit horror anthology franchise and marks the return of the infamous found footage anthology with segments from franchise alumni Simon Barrett (Séance) and Timo Tjahjanto (May the Devil Take You Too) in addition to acclaimed directors Jennifer Reeder (Knives & Skin), Ryan Prows (Lowlife) and Chloe Okuno (Slut). In V/H/S/94, after the discovery of a mysterious VHS tape, a brutish police swat team launch a high intensity raid on a remote warehouse, only to discover a sinister cult compound whose collection of pre-recorded material uncovers a nightmarish conspiracy.

Review

The V/H/S franchise has been left in limbo since 2014 with V/H/S Virual.  It was not that great of a film and the weakest of the original 3.  Shudder has now brought it back with V/H/S/94. But how does it hold up compared to its predecessors? Well straight off the bat V/H/S/94 is back on top form. But surprisingly, it also some echoes the failures of Viral.

Unlike the previous entries, 94 has all of its videos as set within a specific time frame. In this case that setting is 1994. It has one overarching storyline of a swat team breaking into what appears to be a videotape horror cult.  Within this story though is 5 short horror stories. These range from sci-fi horror, to static cameras in a room capturing the horror from different angles.  While I won’t go into detail about all the plot lines of these short stories, I would say they are somewhat diverse in their content.  My personal favourite was a sci-fi themed horror fest involving a mad scientist and his endeavour to make cyborgs, it makes exceptional use of the found footage formula and actually gave me vibes of the final level of Resident Evil VIII. 

My personal lowest though involving what I think were a white nationalist group preparing for a supernatural terrorist attack, it just did not stick the landing for me and ends abruptly. 

The visual effects are hit-and-miss. Although the ’94 video quality helps disguise some of the more choppy effects, even the 90’s filter couldn’t, at times, hide some off-kilter blood splatter.  V/H/S/94 also makes the odd choice to use a 16:9 aspect ratio rather than stick with a more 90’s feeling 4:3 format. I feel sticking with the 4:9 ratio might have helped maintain the archival nature of the found footage .

Also I feel more time could have been spent in the main story arc to truly understand what was going on. I found myself somewhat confused as to why they were there, what they were looking for and what they were uncovering as we got slithers of information between the various short stories.  

Since the first V/H/S film I have made it a habit of looking up short horror films (usually by university students or visual effects artists around the world) and compiling them for Halloween each year.  There is something incredibly creative and compelling to see how these creators fit a terrifying horror film in such a short amount of time and that’s why I have loved the V/H/S franchise.  They are almost like the modern version of campfire horror stories we used to tell.

Verdict

V/H/S/94 is a return to form for the franchise and I hope to see what else Shudder will do with it going forward, I just hope they put the money into it to allow the creators the freedom to see their visions come to life.


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