‘V/H/S/94’ Movie Review: This VHS Tape Shows Its Wear

V/H/S/94 brings the found footage horror anthology franchise back to the land of the living since 2014’s V/H/S: Viral. The newest installment brings new and familiar directors onboard. The list includes Jennifer Reeder, Chloe Okuno, Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, and Ryan Prows, who direct a screenplay written by The Night House‘s David Bruckner. Fortunately, V/H/S/94 is a step up from V/H/S: Viral, but not by enough.

The tapes of horror return in ‘V/H/S/94’

'V/H/S/94' horror movie installment 'The Subject' mad doctor yelling in excitement
‘The Subject’ | Shudder

V/H/S/94 begins with “Holy Hell,” which is the primary story that instigates all of the terror. A SWAT team acts on a drug raid on a superlab. However, they soon discover that it isn’t the lab that they were expecting. They’re stuck inside of a cult compound drenched in blood and creepy paraphernalia. The anthology’s entries are introduced one after the other.

Okuno’s “Storm Drain” follows a television reporter who goes into a storm drain to investigate a story about a mysterious figure known as the “Rat Man.” Barrett’s “The Empty Wake” takes place during a funeral home’s overnight wake, which takes a terrifying turn for the young attendant.

Tjahjanto’s “The Subject” is centered around an abducted woman who’s going through a horrifying experiment at the hands of a mad man, who seeks to combine human and machine. Prows’ “Terror” follows a white terrorist militia that plans to use a supernatural entity to attack the U.S. government.

‘V/H/S/94’ showcases different voices in horror

'V/H/S/94' horror movie installment 'The Subject' hanging after being operated on
‘The Subject’ | Shudder

V/H/S/94 operates on fear of the unknown. “Holy Hell” takes a SWAT team that believes they know what they’re walking into. However, it quickly becomes apparent that they’re in unknown territory. The cult has the upper hand and they have now lost their confidence in the mission. Each VHS story forces its characters to fight for survival in unfamiliar environments, whether it be a reporter in a creepy storm drain or an inexperienced funeral home assistant during a late shift.

The focus returns back to “Holy Hell” after each tape. However, the bulk of the creepiness is packed into the beginning before the anthology installments start. It’s structured in a similar way to the previous V/H/S entries. The primary story isn’t truly relevant again until the end where a twist places the lead characters in an even greater state of danger.

The franchise’s most consistent installment yet

'V/H/S/94' horror movie installment 'Holy Hell' standing in front of static televisions
‘Holy Hell’ | Shudder

“The Empty Wake” and “The Subject” are the two best segments of the bunch, but for vastly different reasons. Barrett’s “The Empty Wake” slowly builds on its tension to a solid payoff. It’s certainly the eeriest of the lot. Meanwhile, “The Subject” is the most violent and entertaining. It’s a relentless exercise in what feels like a survival horror video game in movie form. It’s absolutely bonkers.

“Storm Drain” gets off to a creepy start as the reporter enters the darkness. However, it loses all of its power once the threat is revealed. “Holy Hell” and “Terror” are the weakest offerings. The primary story’s premise has potential, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. There were plenty of opportunities to utilize the cult stronghold in more terrifying ways. Meanwhile, “Terror” offers a couple of good kills, but it’s missing out on the creep factor of some installments and the balls-to-the-wall action of others.

If you’ve seen and enjoyed the previous V/H/S installments, then you already know what you’re in for. V/H/S/94 doesn’t offer fresh horror voices in the way the franchise once did. It achieves a relatively even tone for the majority of the film, but most of the shorts don’t utilize their time very well. Its lows aren’t as low as the previous entries, but consequently, its highs aren’t as high either. It has an even moderate tone, although the viewing experience is likely heightened by watching with a crowd. V/H/S/94 feels a bit stale, but at least it has managed to achieve consistency, even if it’s not consistently great.

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