90s horror kind of sucked, right? While born in the 80s, I grew up in the 90s and began to formulate my taste for horror when my dad would let me watch films like “The Lost Boys” or “The Thing,” or when my mom could care less that I watching the “X-Files.” Then Joe Bob Brigg’s “Monstervision” on TNT refined that taste. You know what also happened during that time frame of me watching 70s and 80s horror until 4 a.m. on weekends? A lot of blasé horror in theaters like “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” unnecessary remakes like “Psycho” and downright awful sequels like “Pet Semetary II.” Yes, I know the 90s had some hits and iconic films like “Scream” and “Blair Witch Project,” but it’s safe to say the 90s flat out sucked a lot of times for horror. So it’s impressive to me that “V/H/S 99,” the fifth film in the franchise, feels not only like a spot-on representation of that decade of bad horror, but equally nostalgic and fun.
Unlike previous installations “V/H/S 99” doesn’t have an overarching plot or narrative. It does have these brief stop-motion animation intros that eventually play into “The Gawkers,” but honestly they’re pointless. That being said, “V/H/S 99” dives head first into its first analog horror called “Shredding.” A skateboarder punk band that records its pranks and music for the internet decide to take their antics to an abandoned underground music venue where an 80s hardcore punk band perished. While I view it as the weakest vignette of the film, I appreciate the conflict of 80s hardcore punk versus the watered down 90s skater punk that was more whiny pop than angst-filled societal rebellion. The next short, “Suicide Bid,” feels like what 1998’s “Urban Legend” could have been if it was willing to take risks instead of relying on tired slasher film tropes. Our lead in “Suicide Bid” finds themselves buried in a coffin as a part of a sorority ritual gone wrong and it’s deliciously unrelenting in it’s cruelty.
Then there’s “Ozzy’s Dungeon.” It’s like watching an Adult Swim version of “Legends of the Hidden Temple” and “Family Double Dare.” It starts out by evoking early Nickelodeon television before ripping a page out of the “Hostel” playbook and ultimately ending on what I believe to be a nod to “Wishmaster.” Regardless, it’s a joy to watch the silliness and mockery of early 90’s kids game shows before we get to the gooey torture and flesh melting insanity. It’s hard not to think that “Ozzy’s Dungeon” will be the most talked about short in this film.
“The Gawkers,” is like watching the toxic 90’s frat boy culture celebrate with joy at the creepy invasiveness of the AOL internet days before flipping it on it’s head, almost like a premonition to the #MeToo Movement. While it is enjoyable to watch a bunch of douchey high school boys get their comeuppance, it doesn’t really coalesce towards the end. Then we get “To Hell and Back,” a short about two videographers capturing a NYE/Y2K satanic spell that transports our camera operators to Hell. This short, written and directed by the power couple behind “Deadstream,” is the cherry on top of the film, mainly because Joseph Winter has the best scaredy cat man scream in horror history. Two films in and I already feel like I will never tire of his squeals of terror because my reaction ranges from audible laughter to a smirk on my face. Watching his character traverse hell and scream at every gooey, creepy monstrosity is as fun as the monsters dotting the hellish volcanic landscape.
While I tried my best to summarize the film, it’s difficult to describe the scatterbrained approach to it all. The other “V/H/S” films seem to go for an aesthetic or attempted to wrap things up in a neat bowtie whereas the latest installation appears to throw whatever they feel like against the wall. They don’t care if it sticks. They don’t even care if it makes sense. I noticed several instances where the film broke it’s own found footage rules, but I also sensed the intentionality of it. Overall, “V/H/S 99” understands 90s horror. It understands that the best parts of that decade are overshadowed by the sum of equally bad films and those bad films have become guilty pleasures despite their flaws. “V/H/S 99” is the nu-metal of the franchise, you either love it for it’s nonsensical immaturity or hate it for that reason. The film gladly says “fuck it,” and plays out like Woodstock 99, a glorious shit show that breaks norms in a bonkers found footage feast of gory practical effects.