The V/H/S/ series is a fairly reliable found-footage anthology franchise that has its hits and misses, and this time out is no different. A wrap-around narrative loosely connects four other stories that show up on video throughout the main plot line.
The wrap-around story I found really interesting (tracking issues and all) until its final reveal, because it just felt too much of an easy out, especially after all the other WTF things that happen leading up to it. A group of cops raid a warehouse and find a strange cult-like set-up, but aren’t prepared for the discoveries they make in the building.
As they travel through the building, the handheld camera will occasionally linger on a static-filled screen which will then spring to life with one of the anthology’s stories.
The first is the Storm Drain, which follows a reporter (Anna Hopkins) and her cameraman, as they investigate the rumours of an urban legend about something called Ratman. They aren’t ready for what they find, and only the pure may survive, in a way. I actually quite liked this one, it was creepy, and well-shot, and I love the idea of the horrors that may be lurking in the miles of sewers right beneath our feet.
The Empty Wake is the next story, as the cops investigate deeper into the warehouse, and it follows a young woman, Hayley (Kyal Legend) who as part of her job working in a funeral home, is to host an all-night open wake. Unfortunately, the coffin occasionally moves, her bosses don’t believe there’s anything going on, and there’s a tornado warning in effect. I like the idea of this one, but it feels too long and drawn out.
In fact, that feels like it happens a couple times throughout this installment of the series. Both of the stories that follow this one, The Subject and Terror feel overlong as the audience clues into what is going on pretty early on, and it takes a while for the narrative to catch up.
The Subject is an interesting entry featuring a mad scientist working on marrying flesh and technology. He’s being pursued by the police for abducting people off the street for his work, and his two latest creations are almost finished when the police show up to deliver justice. This story felt like it could have ended a number of times, which makes it feels like it drags, and the visual effects for the gun bursts are so blatantly computer generated as to be laughable.
The final video short is Terror, and we’re introduced to a familiar stereotype, the angry white man cult that is looking to restore their preferred version of America. Aware viewers will catch on to what is happening very, very early on and have to wait impatiently for the other shoe to drop.
I wonder about the creature design for Terror, as it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense but I guess it’s more there for the potential scare factor.
We rejoin the main narrative of Holy Hell to wrap up, and that’s where the throughline narrative goes off the rails as well.
Tighter storytelling may have enabled another story to be told within the runtime, and perhaps a stronger ending could have been concocted. But for all that, the V/H/S/ series is pretty entertaining and interchangeable. So if you don’t like all the tales in this one, check out one of the other ones.
I’ll be checking out the most recent one next time!