V/H/S/85 Review

The latest V/H/S sequel has a few duds but is ultimately satisfying found footage with that great 80’s aesthetic.

PLOT: Unveiled through a made-for-TV documentary, five tales of found footage horror emerge to take viewers on a terrifying journey into the grim underbelly of the 1980s.

REVIEW: Found footage has never been my bag but I always try to give it a fair shot. It can often feel very limiting to tell a believable story when confined to a device like that. But over the years there have been films that have proven me wrong. While not every segment of the VHS series hits, the one’s that do show the heights you can reach within the subgenre. So it’s easy to get excited whenever a new VHS entry is announced. It’s even more exciting when the creative team behind it are some of the hottest writers and directors in all of horror. So it’s understandably a bit disappointing that this one is simply decent.

We technically start off with David Bruckner’s “Total Copy” where they set up a mysterious boy being observed under mysterious circumstances. This is the wraparound story that springs up throughout the film. The action quickly shifts to Mike P. Nelson’s “No Wake.” Following a group of friends as they go out to a lake, it’s a lot of “youthly” interaction. I’m not sure why found footage films often have an issue with natural dialogue but here is no different. It’s often stilted and lacking in reality. But it’s really the tension of the setup that is most intriguing. I spent the entire time anticipating when the horror would spring up. When all is revealed, “Copy” goes from stereotypical to really interesting. More on that later.

Gigi Saul Guererro’s “God of Death” is probably the weakest segment of the lot. Maybe it’s because the ’85 Mexico City earthquake is such a massive aspect of the story. While Guerrero clearly has a personal attachment to the quake, I found myself unable to really connect. Especially when it came to its connection to the 80’s. This felt like a story that could have been told at any point. I think a lot of that has to do with the events themselves not having much tension to them. There’s a quake and then the aftermath, but there’s so little context anything that’s happening. I was mostly just left bored by the segment and really just having to focus on whatever 80’s elements were at play. It’s easily the most disconnected of all the segments.

Ruth (Evie Bair) is ready for action in V/H/S/85 (2023).

“TKNOGOD” is the most trippy and technically impressive of all the shorts. Natasha Kermani is able to bring some cosmic horror in a very intriguing way. I’m a big fan of trippy visuals that make you feel like you’re in a fever dream and this had that in spades. I also enjoyed the stageplay aspect as it allows for more cameras to be utilized in a believable way. Sometimes the first-person view can be a little confining, so it’s a nice change of pace, especially being smack dab in the middle. But it definitely goes on a little long and could have used a few cuts to help with pacing.

“Ambrosia” is technically connected to “No Wake” and also comes from Nelson, so it has a very similar feel. But this also features one of the film’s only memorable characters in Evie Bair’s Ruth. I always loved a killer with personality and she has a lot of it. And the story itself has a great message of “just because it’s tradition, doesn’t make it okay.” If anything, I wish it went longer.

I really wasn’t sure what to make of Scott Derrickson’s “DreamKill.” There were aspects that I really enjoyed with the “videotape showing a crime that has yet to be committed” part. But where it ends up was extremely unsatisfying. But don’t get me wrong, outside of the final five minutes, the story is very well done. Being the only segment in widescreen is a very strange choice that I’m not sure I understand though. And there were a few instances where I couldn’t help but wonder who the heck was filming the situation. Being a “dream camera” can only go so far. It just comes across like Derrickson missed the assignment.

V/H/S/85

“Total Copy” takes on body horror in a very unique way. It’s not shocking that Hellraiser‘s David Bruckner really brings it when it comes to phenomenal practical effects. I’d akin many of these effects to what we’ve seen in Bruckner’s 2022 reboot as well as Carpenter’s The Thing. My favorite segment was probably “No Wake/Ambrosia” followed by “Total Copy.” They both introduce interesting concepts and do a good job of subverting expectations. In the past, some of the segments have been expanded into full-length features (ie. Kids vs Aliens). I could easily see Nelson’s segment being another one of those. It’s the only segment that really left me wanting more.

I found myself constantly nerding out over the technical aspects. The little shimmers in the analog tape and glitches were like music to my ears. I wasn’t expecting to be so engrossed simply because of the format. But there’s just something about the 80’s that just lends itself very well. It works so well that I question why it took so long for the series to end up here. While not every segment works (which is the case for most V/H/S films), the style is an 80’s aficionado’s wet dream. Overall, I enjoyed V/H/S/85 for what it was and am curious as to where the franchise goes next.

V/H/S/85 IS STREAMING ON SHUDDER ON OCTOBER 6TH, 2023.

V/H/S

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About the Author

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Tyler Nichols is a horror fanatic who resides in Michigan and is always on the hunt for the next great film. When not scouring the internet for movie news, he is usually off watching something dark, writing nonsensical musings, or playing in some fantastical video game world. While horror takes up most of his time, he still makes time for films of all types, with a certain affinity for the strange and unusual. He’s also an expert on all things Comic Book Cinema. In addition to reviews and interviews here on JoBlo.com, Tyler also helps with JoBlo Horror Originals where he’s constantly trying to convince viewers to give lesser-known horror films a chance.