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V/H/S/94 review: A violently silly and fun return to the anthology franchise [Fantastic Fest 2021]

Still image from sequence The Subject in V/H/S/94
Still image from sequence The Subject in V/H/S/94. Pic credit: Shudder

The anthology franchise V/H/S/94 is back with a brand new bag of tricks and scares. This time with some familiar faces back in the director’s chair for various segments.

Simon Barret has previously written other segments as well as directed Tape 49 in V/H/S/ 2. Then there is Timo Tjahjanto (The Night Comes for Us) who assisted with the V/H/S/2 masterpiece Safe Haven with Gareth Evans. Plus some new faces including directors Jennifer Reeder, Ryan Prows, and Chloe Okuno.

Is V/H/S/ 94 a return to form? Here is our full review of the horror anthology out of Fantastic Fest 2021.

V/H/S/94 review

The new sequel has five different stories — Holy Hell, Storm Drain, The Empty Wake, The Subject, and Terror. Not to mention a non-sequitur infomercial called The Veggie Masher.

It’s been a while since watching the first film but V/H/S/94 definitely follows a similar structure to the first film, where one main story is happening in the midst of all the other horror segments.

That segment titled Holy Hell involves a SWAT raid in what seems to be a cult where they discover members are deceased with their eyeballs taken out. It’s inferred that it’s caused by something they watched. And as they make their way through the horrifying building of deceased eyeless bodies, we hear a weird message being spoken through the intercom by a mysterious woman.

The whole thing has a video game feel, which is not the only segment that has this visual aesthetic.

Once we are introduced to this story, we are thrown into one of the televisions playing a broadcast called Storm Drain. And in that segment, a reporter is investigating a mysterious creature seen around the city called Ratman.

Image from V/H/S/94 segment The Empty Wake.
Image from V/H/S/94 segment The Empty Wake. Pic credit: Shudder.

While this is not the best of V/H/S 94, it is one of the only ones — besides The Empty Wake — that has the sense that the director understood the assignment. Aesthetically, Storm Drain has the appearance of something low quality recorded in 1994.

Same with The Empty Wake, which is the greatest part of the entire film. The segment is beautifully simple. A new employee to a funeral home has to stay alone at a wake that has zero attendees. And the longer we watch her stay, the coffin present starts doing unexpected things. The final moments of this segment are rather hilarious but the first two-thirds are masterfully done. On top of this, the cameras at the wake are of the time, and so is the visual photography.

After The Empty Wake ends on a horrifically bonkers note, the rest of the film follows suit starting with The Subject. This horror short directed by Timo Tjahjanto just throws the time period of the 90s idea and blows it up with a grenade.

That said, Timo Tjahjanto made the most entertaining segment of them all. The story is about a mad scientist kidnapping victims and fusing their bodies with the tech of the time. The scene starts out as a body horror film then goes full video game first-person shooter. The sequence is silly, over-the-top, and absurd without remorse. Due to this, it will undoubtedly be fun regardless of the video game looking CGI and HD camerawork.

Still image from V/H/S/94 segment Terror.
Still image from V/H/S/94 segment Terror. Pic credit: Shudder.

The final segment Terror is by far the weakest. This short takes aim at some politics as a group of white supremacist Clinton haters plan to use a supernatural being to take down a political figure. And well, these early bird alt-right extremists have it backfire.

Director Ryan Prows was clearly just having fun killing off MAGA characters (before MAGA existed) but that is all the segment amounts to in terms of quality. For a political portion of the audience, that will be more than enough.

The film as a whole is greater than the sum of its individual shorts. Of all the V/H/S films, this one is by far the silliest and most fun in tone. It is very much in line with other horror outings like Freddy Krueger and Chucky, where the third and fourth movies just aimed for humorous horror entertainment while achieving thrills.

V/H/S/94 does not take itself too seriously and as long as viewers are prepared for this, it will satisfy expectations.

V/H/S/94 at Fantastic Fest: Should you watch?

V/H/S/94 is an over-the-top sequel that shows very little remorse for just having a good time. Not everything works but the film is largely elevated by two segments – The Empty Wake and The Subject.

Overall, this is a sequel that’s intentionally unserious and aims to make an entertainingly bonkers horror experience. It’s not as scary as the first two films but it is exactly what fans will crave.

For more film festival reviews, readers might want to check out The Execution (Fantastic Fest) and Broadcast Signal Intrusion (SXSW).

Stay tuned for more Fantastic Fest coverage at Monsters & Critics.

V/H/S/94 will stream on Shudder on October 6.

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