The Movie Waffler New Release Review - V/H/S/85 | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - V/H/S/85

V/H/S/85 review
Sixth instalment of the found footage anthology series.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: David Bruckner, Scott Derrickson, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Natasha Kermani, Mike Nelson

Starring: Jordan Belfi, Freddy Rodriguez, James Ransone, Dani Deetté, Rolando Davila-Beltran, Justen Jones, Marcio Moreno, Ari Gallegos, Forrest Hartl, Duffy McManus, Eric Pierson, Felipe de Lara, Tom Reed, Vivian Morse

V/H/S/85 poster

Found footage horror may have died out in the mainstream a few years ago but on its current home of Shudder the V/H/S series continues to fly the format's grainy flag. Six instalments and two spinoffs in and V/H/S/85 shows there's still some fun to be had with found footage.

Following previous instalments set in 1994 and '99, this sixth offering takes us way back to 1985, a time when the first consumer grade VHS camcorders were hitting the market. This is reflected in various characters' curiosity regarding the devices they're being filmed with, and there are a couple of geeky references to how VHS beat out Beta in spite of its inferior quality.

V/H/S/85 review

As with previous films in the series, the shorts are presented in the form of being discovered on a VHS tape that also includes various (presumably fake but convincingly authentic) TV commercials, clips of monster truck rallies, home movies etc. The overall effect reminded me of being a kid in the late '80s and staying up late to watch Manhattan Cable, a show that compiled the weirder moments of American public access TV.

David Bruckner helms the wraparound segment 'Total Copy', which is presented as an episode of a current affairs show examining a team of scientists' research into an alien creature that appears to mimic whatever it happens to be exposed to. Chopping up this short into so many segments doesn't do it any favours as we have to keep reminding ourselves of what previously happened every time it pops up between one of the other shorts. The whole thing feels stretched out and ends in a rather lame visual gag.

The best of the shorts is Mike Nelson's 'No Wake', which opens like a classic '80s slasher as a group of young friends head off to a lake in their RV. While out waterskiing they come under fire from an unseen sniper shooting from the lakeside. The bloody effects are made all the more real by the scuzzy VHS format, and despite its period setting it evokes the sort of tense footage you see too often on the internet now whenever a mass shooter wreaks havoc in the US. If the short seems to end abruptly, don't worry, it returns for a second part later on. This expands the concept and introduces the sort of lore that could easily make for a feature length spinoff. I was certainly left wanting more of this idea.

V/H/S/85 review

Gigi Saul Guerrero's 'God of Death' adopts a real life backdrop, the Mexican earthquake of 1985. The action takes place in a TV studio that collapses when the quake strikes. When a rescue team shows up, the only survivor is the cameraman, who leads them to the only way out, descending several layers into the earth and uncovering something sinister in the process. Guerrero's short plays like a cut down version of As Above, So Below, the 2014 found footage horror set in the Paris catacombs. It perhaps could use a little more time to establish its characters but it gets its point made quickly. Guerrero has fun reminding us of the lack of professional boundaries in the 1980s as the news crew make the sort of lewd comments to one another that would result in an internal investigation today.

The briefest and weakest segment is Natasha Kermani's 'TKNOGD', which is presented as a recording of a performance art work by a performer named Ada Lovelace (the actress seems vaguely familiar but I can't find her credited anywhere online). Lovelace employs the then nascent tech of Virtual Reality to mock "the God of technology," which backfires in gruesome fashion.

V/H/S/85 review

Another segment that could easily be expanded into a feature is Scott Derrickson's 'Dreamkill'. As the director of Sinister, Derrickson knows how to create an unsettling image with vintage media, something he does to queasy effect here with what appears to be Super 8 recordings of home invasions that end in homicide and dismemberment. The recordings are sent to the local police, but before the murders have actually taken place! Derrickson does take a rather lax approach to his found footage brief with a few cameras in places that seem all too convenient, but the short sucks us in with its intriguing premise and remains atmospheric and unsettling  throughout.

While two of the segments are unremarkable, none of them could be considered duds and two are among the series' best offerings. If directors like Derrickson and Bruckner, who have established themselves in mainstream Hollywood at this point, are still willing to get involved, it seems the V/H/S series won't be running out of tape any time soon.

 is on Shudder from October 6th.

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