The V/H/S franchise is the frontrunner in keeping survival horror alive, offering fairly consistent smatterings of supposedly recovered footage depicting all sorts of living hell. It continues to carry that baton with the latest entry, V/H/S/99, which adds a hue of 90s nostalgia to proceedings to good effect. Once more, it’s testament to the creativity and diversity of the franchise, able to adapt to any time period.

The film runs at just under two hours, and consists of five segments. Unlike other entries in the franchise, there isn’t much connective tissue in V/H/S/99 to tie all the shorts together. An attempt is made, mostly tying into The Gawkers, easily the collection’s most controversial entry. But aside from a few aesthetic elements, there isn’t much of an overarching narrative between each one. That said, the themes of monstrosity and revenge run quite clearly through them all.

My personal favourite is Ozzy’s Dungeon, a pastiche and commentary on exploitation in children’s game shows, directed by musician Flying Lotus. Starring Steven Ogg as the host of the eponymous game show, we witness just how sadistically it treats its juvenile competitors, shaming them for their low income and acting ignorantly towards serious injuries. It’s here where the plot takes a total U-turn, as the victims of Ozzy’s excess and overbearing drive for entertainment enact revenge in some of the most gruesome ways you could image. It’s anchored by a stunning lead performance from Ogg, melding bits of Bruce Campbell and Nicolas Cage, and is scary on a human level, which isn’t always easy to achieve.

That said, most segments in V/H/S/99 prefer to lean on the supernatural. In fact, all five have some tie to a monster or mythology at some point, which does occasionally grow stale when it seems like something more human is being set up. The worst culprit is The Gawkers, which shuns a revenge plot showing the deserved comeuppance for a group of teenage peeping toms for something unexpected, but less earned. However, it does come off well in Suicide Bid, directed by Johannes Roberts of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. It unpicks the cruelty of American college hazing to good effect, and contains some of V/H/S/99‘s most effective scars. On top of a magnetic lead performance from Alexia Ioannides, it’s another highlight.

V/H/S/99 works best when completely subverting your expectations, which it does fairly often. The teenage frolics and reckless abandon of the cast in Shredding, the opening segment, sets the stage for a two-hour thrillride which rarely relents in its gory violence, realistic practical effects, and sharp turns away from reality. Across the board the production design and editing are arresting and realistic, harkening back plenty of 90s nostalgia while also ripping off the band-aid and showing you a gruesome spin on the decade. The same can be said for the final segment, To Hell and Back, which explores the underworld in a stunningly realised way, reminding me of video games like Scorn and Agony.

The only issues V/H/S/99 has are the inconsistency between segments, with some much more enjoyable than others, and lack of focused storytelling across each segment. While the themes run as a current through them all, it would’ve been nice for it to tie up together in a more rewarding way, rather than functioning as five fairly disparate parts. That said, if you like schlocky horror, retro aesthetics, and plenty of shocks you won’t see coming, this is a VHS worth playing.


V/H/S/99 is out on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital on March 27, 2023.