Directors: Simon Barrett, Steven Kostanski, Chloe Okuno, Ryan Prows, Jennifer Reeder, Timo Tjahjanto
Stars: Anna Hopkins, Christian Potenza, Brian Paul
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
The V/H/S/ films are a series of found-footage anthologies that started in 2012 and ran to 2014 for a total of three movies. The first one was a mixed bag; the second was very good; the third was pretty bad, and it’s no wonder it killed the franchise…until now. Then, out of the blue, this new addition to the series came out seven years after the last one. Did this video-focused collection of spooky shorts rise back up to the heights of the second movie, or did it fall into the pit of despair like V/H/S/ Viral, the third movie? Well, grab a drink, adjust the tracking, and let’s find out.
The wraparound story is pretty basic, but also pretty well done. Here a police SWAT team is raiding a cult compound, and finds the spooky tapes that hold the stories we will watch in this anthology. The first short film is “Storm Drain,” where a TV reporter and her cameraman explore the unearthed truth behind an urban legend. In “Empty Wake,” a young woman is left alone in a funeral home with a dead body for an all-night wake. What could go wrong with that? In “The Subject,” writer/director Timo Tjahjanto, who did the best part from the best V/H/S/ movie (“Safe Haven” from V/H/S/2) returns to knock another one out of the park with his POV tale of a mad scientist combining flesh with machines on unwilling subjects. And in “Holly Hell,” some anti-government militia types get hold of an unusual weapon and want to use it for terrorism, only to open themselves up to the terror.
All the shorts in this movie range from good to great, without a single stinker in the bunch. Subjects range from unknown gods to restless corpses; from science gone far too wrong, to one of horror’s oldest movie monsters getting a bit of a new twist. The acting is good, the direction is fine to incredible, and there’s plenty of bloody bits for the gorehounds. This is a fun and worthy return to form for the V/H/S/ series, and if they make more movies, then I hope they are more like this one than not.
Now, let’s get to the extras on this new Blu-ray from RLJE Films and the excellent horror streaming service, Shudder. Once again, I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Shudder for releasing their movies to disc so collectors of physical media can get them. But also it must be said that RLJE Films and Shudder both know how to do physical releases right, as there are a lot of special goodies on this disc, and in the day of so many bare-bones releases, that makes my heart happy. There is an audio commentary track with the producers and filmmakers, and since there are so many directors, writers, etc. in this, that’s where I’ll leave it, with the addition that I really liked the commentary from all involved. There is a commentary about the “Empty Wake” segment with its director, Simon Barrett. I don’t know why he got the special stand-alone treatment, but whatever, I liked it. There is a panel with the filmmakers at the San Diego Comic-Con, and a behind-the-scenes segment on the movie as a whole. There is a collection of deleted and extended scenes, a featurette on the special FX with Patrick Magee, another one on the visual effects from “Empty Wake,” and then the full-length “Veggie Masher” commercial from the film. Lastly, there is a collection of behind-the-scenes still images, which brings this nice collection of extras to an end.
Once again Shudder and RLJE Films deliver another hit for the Blu-ray mavens out there. As for the movie, it returns some glory to the V/H/S/ series, and I want to see what, if anything, they do next. ’94 is a very good horror anthology with some good gore bits, laughs, and even some shocks. Consider this one very well recommended.