V/H/S/99 (2022) – Flying Lotus, Maggie Levin, Tyler MacIntyre, Johannes Roberts, Joseph Winter, and Vanessa Winter

The most recent installment of the continuing found footage franchise, V/H/S/ feels like a bit of a miss to me. There are some interesting story ideas here, but they either take too long to develop, the camerawork is TOO shakey, or they tried to do too much.

This time out there is five tales, none of them connected, and there are no bookending pieces of narrative that provides a throughline.

There’s some fun stop-motion stuff, which pops up throughout the film but doesn’t really have any narrative connection, that eventually becomes The Gawkers, but the film opens with Shredding which follows a punk band that also shoots prank videos for their web show.

The band goes to the Colony Underground, a destroyed and burnt-down music venue where a punk group known as the Bitch Cat met their demise. The band has the intention of just goofing off and disrespecting what became the burial site of the grrl group. Only one member of the band isn’t keen, and of course, he was right, because as soon as band members start goofing off, things begin happening and Bitch Cat returns to the stage with a vengeance.

Suicide Bid is definitely one of the strongest entries in this collection and just needed to be a little tighter and maybe less shakiness to the camera (I get that is the point, but it doesn’t have to be all that bad). Lily (Ally Ioannides) is eager to join a sorority, so eager that she makes a suicide bid to be accepted by them.

The sorority sisters agree to her pledge if she will spend the night in a buried coffin. Things are amplified with a ghost story about a dead sorority sister who was forgotten about in her coffin. Lily is buried and things, of course, get progressively worse, not just for her but the sorority girls.

Ozzy’s Dungeon is a riff on those crazy kid shows where they race through obstacle courses and take on odd stunts all to win a big prize. When a young contestant is injured during her time on the show, her family plans vengeance, but nobody is ready for the almost Lovecraftian twist that occurs at the climax. This one was interesting but felt too long.

The Gawkers follows a group of moronic teens who use one of their younger brothers to hook up some spyware onto the webcam of a lovely next-door neighbour who has a predilection for strange statues. When she becomes aware of their activities no one is safe. This one was a fun spin on a familiar mythical creature but took way too long to get going.

The final story is called To Hell and Back, and it would have been the best of the bunch if it hadn’t been for the horrible shakey-cam work that marks the found footage genre. A pair of videographers and friends, Nate (Archelaus Crisanto) and Troy (Joseph Winter) are on hand to record a coven raising a demon to inhabit the body of one of their own. But when a minor demon interrupts the ceremony Nate and Troy are mistakenly banished to hell along with the demon.

They have eight minutes to get across a horrific hellscape to find reach the demon the coven is attempting to raise if they want to get back home. They are aided by Mabel the Skull-Biter (Melanie Stone). Will they be able to safely return home and survive into the year 2000?

With the number of bodies piling up in this instalment, I wouldn’t count on it.

Of all the V/H/S/ films this is the first time in a long time to make me queasy while watching shakey cam, and that isn’t a compliment. It could have been shot a little better, what about a film crew with a Steadicam, that one would have been a really nice touch for To Hell and Back.

We’ll see if the series continues and diminishes some of the nausea-inducing shakey cam and tells some really spooky stories.

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