The V/H/S saga returns, gory and bleak as ever, but hits outnumber misses

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | October 7, 2021

now streaming on shudder
3 out of 5

The V/H/S franchise has always been a notch darker and edgier than your standard horror anthology series. It’s not just the gore (which is plentiful), and the low res “found footage”. A sense of hopelessness pervades each episode. You know things will go south. The only question is, how horribly.

 This fourth entry is the strongest since the saga’s inception in 2012. The production values are slightly higher, and the hit-to-miss ratio is better than the other sequels. Here’s the details.

“Holy Hell”: The framing device has always been the weakest aspect of these movies, and V/H/S/94 is no exception. A SWAT team raids the compound of a sinister cult, where they find a bunch of TVs playing snuff tapes. The notion of the forbidden movie capable of altering your psyche remains a cool idea. But its potential goes unrealized here.

“Storm Drain”: The first tape follows a news crew that ventures into the city sewers in pursuit of a mythical creature known as Rat Man. A solid mix of comedy, suspense and social commentary makes “Storm Drain” the strongest episode of the bunch.

“The Empty Wake”: This letdown from Simon Barrett (You’re Next) is as basic as it comes. A funeral attendant suspects the body in the coffin is not quite dead. The scares are perfunctory, and the “practical” effects straight out of the ’80s.

“The Subject”: Indonesian filmmaker Timo Tjahjanto is responsible for the goriest and most visually arresting short: a mad scientist obsessed with merging flesh and machine parts is taken down by police. Unfortunately, his creations are alive, angry and armed. Cool visuals fail to make up for a barely-there plot and minimal character development.

“Terror”: This short has the opposite problem: a promising plot that fails to deliver. A right wing militia gets their hands on a supernatural weapon that they plan to use in a terrorist attack. Being idiots, they mismanage the asset to somewhat hilarious effect. The threat is underused and the comeuppance feels muddled, but there’s something there. Properly developed, could be a feature.