V/H/S/99 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Acorn Media
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (30th April 2023).
The Film

"Featuring five new stories from filmmakers Maggie Levin, Johannes Roberts, Flying Lotus, Tyler MacIntyre and Joseph & Vanessa Winter, V/H/S/99 harkens back to the final punk rock analogue days of VHS, while taking one giant leap forward into the hellish new millennium."

In "Shredding", suburban punk band hopefuls and pre-"Vlog Squad" video pranksters Rachel (Jesse LaTourette), Chris (Dashiell Derrickson), Kaleb (Jackson Kelly), and Ankur (Keanush Tafreshi) decide to break into The Colony, an (literally) underground artists collective shut down and derelict since the night the members of alternative rock band Bitch Cat were trampled to death when a fire broke out. Their motivation is less than reverent as they not only plan to salvage any usable equipment for their band and swipe "souvenirs" but they also plan to pay tribute to the band's deaths with jello-filled blow-up dolls. Ankur is apprehensive given his religion's beliefs about the restless dead, and the charred corpses of Bitch Cat find the bodies of the desecrators useful for taking the state once again… that is, after they've torn them to shreds and put them back together. In "Suicide Bid", Lily () makes the titular bid to be part of the sorority Beta Sigma Eta with the risk of pledging only one sorority meaning that she could be a total outcast for the rest of the year if she is not accepted like her roommate Helen (Ally Ioannides). Lily is overjoyed when she is contacted by sorority sisters Annie (Isabelle Hahn), Lucy (Brittany Gandy), Hannah (Logan Riley), and Imogene (Caitlin Serros) that she is not the least bit suspicious when they get her drunk and take her to the local mausoleum for her initiation: spending the night buried alive in a coffin in honor of Giltine, a freshman who did the same dare twenty years ago and mysteriously vanished before the coffin was dug up. With just her camera to accompany her, Lily copes with claustrophobia and insects secure in the knowledge that her four future sisters are partying above ground… that is until a sudden thunderstorm comes and the coffin starts to take on water; whereupon Lily discovers that she is not entirely alone.

"Ozzy's Dungeon" is a "Double Dare"-esque cable kids game show on the cheap in which the host (Steven Ogg) takes sadistic pleasure in pitting children against each other for the prize of racing through the labyrinth and entering the titular lair to have their wishes granted. Injuries are plentiful but the children's parents signed releases. When young Donna's (Amelia Ann) leg is mangled beyond repair during the race, her parents bide their time before giving the host a taste of his own medicine with their own custom-designed game show set. His only chance of survival may be to see that Donna's wishes are granted; however, he is not the only one who underestimates how embittered she has become. "The Gawkers" are bored suburban teens Dylan (Luke Mullen), Mark (Cree Kawa), Kurt (Tyler Lofton), and Boner (Duncan Anderson) who spend their days trying to see up girls' skirts and impressing each other with death-defying skateboard stunts. Their latest obsession is Sandra (Emily Sweet), the girl next door who washes her car in short shorts and lounges by the pool. When the gang spies Dylan's loser brother Brady (Ethan Pogue) being invited into Sandra's house to help her set up her webcam, they make him a tempting offer to use his nerdy talents to install spyware on the camera so they can see what she gets up to in private. It goes without saying, they will not like what they see; especially with Sandra's petrifying stare back. Finally, in "To Hell and Back", slacker filmmakers Nate (Archelaus Crisanto) and Troy (Joseph Winter) jokingly accept the job of documenting a local cult's attempt to call forth a demon god into a human vessel. The portal goes both ways, however, and the pair are sucked down into the underworld where their only hope of escape lies with "Mabel, the Skull Crusher" (Melanie Stone) who has her own plans about making it back topside.

The V/H/S found footage anthology rings in the millenium two decades late with a quintet of shorts that name check nineties pop culture and the anxieties of Y2K as window dressing for the usual situation-punchline setups. "Shredding" from Maggie Levin has a potentially good "found footage" scenario but there is little time for setting atmosphere and the characters are awful from the get-go that it just goes through the motions of wandering in darkness with flashlights before we get to frenzied running around with flashlights and some CGI gore. The most accomplished part of the short is the recreation of a nineties electronic press kit piece on the Bitch Cat band that rings true to the era. "Suicide Bid" has a bit of an EC Comics vibe but director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) gives his initially awful protagonist some nuance and the staging of action within the confines of a coffin is quite effective before the more conventional scares come around. "Ozzy's Dungeon" from musician Flying Lotus starts off a little rough with the desaturated and dark cinematography of the game show the seeming opposite of the bright and garish nineties game shows of the period but it constantly surprises, veering from a macabre twist on a children's show to torture porn to Lovecraftian apocalypse (which may either be the price of having a wish granted or it may actually be the wish of the child grown embittered with the universe). "The Gawkers" from Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls) is like "Shredding" a one-joke short that at feature length might have been an interesting study in suburban boredom and teenage toxicity. "To Hell and Back" from Joseph Winter and Vanessa Winter (Deadstream) is a rather comic wrap-up to the anthology but it is admirable for its economic realization of the underworld and an amusing twist; however, viewers probably should have expected a cheekier approach this time around with the substitution of the usual wraparound involving characters breaking into locations and stumbling upon tapes with a series of increasingly violent stop motion videos ostensibly created by the Brady character from "The Gawkers". With V/H/S/99 surely the series has run out of steam, although it is likely another iteration will pop up any time soon.


Shot in a variety of high definition formats - with digitally-augmented analog-look treatments - and analogue video formats upscaled in post-production, V/H/S/99 has the patchwork texture expected of the series as a whole, with the lesser (or digitally-reduced) resolution covering up some rough edges in the visual and practical effects departments. With the primary exhibition medium being Shudder's streaming services, Acorn's Blu-ray probably represents the look more accurately if only because of lesser compression.


The sole audio track for the entirety of the shorts and wraparound footage is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track in which the shorts utilize the surround field differently, with some being primarily up front and others utilizing the rears for scares or overall unnerving atmosphere. Source music are also subject to the individual mixes in which the "limitations" of analogue video emphasizing that the stories are being viewed rather than just unfolding. Optional English SDH subtitles are included.


The film is accompanied by a Zoom-recorded audio commentary by directors Maggie Levin, Johannes Roberts, Flying Lotus, Tyler MacIntyre, and Vanessa Winter & Joseph Winter, moderated by Trevor Shand and Leone D'Antonio of The Boo Crew Podcast in which Levinson recalls her mother working for Virgin Records and seeing tons of EPK tapes that inspired the Bitch Cat doc, casting the kids apart from stepson Derrickson, scouting the location for The Colony, and citing the more recent Ghost Ship warehouse fire as an inspiration. Roberts recalls coming across the Giltine legend, his fascination with the American "tradition" of hazing and the term "suicide bid" as well as discussing how the coffin set was realized. Flying Lotus recalls wanting to go on "Double Dare" as a kid, casting the children, and utilizing the same production office location as some of the other shorts for the "Ozzy's Dungeon" studio set. MacIntyre discusses the wraparounds, reveals that the stone heads seen in the film as set decoration utilized the head casts of the actors from "Shredding" and the need to drop in some ADR to make sure the audience knew what "spyware" was. The Winters discuss the quirky casting of the cult members, the hell set, and the various effects gags.

The disc also includes an exclusive panel from Reedpop's 2022 New York Comic Con (51:21) with the filmmakers, deleted scenes from "Ozzy's Dungeon", "Shredding", and "The Gawkers" as well as the full Bitchcat music video (2:28), bloopers (0:42), a look at "The Making of Medusa" (1:09), as well as camera tests (2:13) for "The Gawkers" with commentary by MacIntyre, raw footage (7:35), location scouting (2:11), and storyboards and blocking rehearsals (4:53) for "To Hell and Back" as well as a gag reel (2:15).


With V/H/S/99 surely the series has run out of steam, although it is likely another iteration will pop up any time soon.


Rewind DVDCompare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, amazon.de, amazon.it and amazon.es . As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.