V/H/S/94 (2021)

Director: Jennifer Reeder, Chloe Okuno, Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, Ryan Prows

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Starring: Anna Hopkins, Christian Potenza, Kyal Legend, Budi Ross, Donny Alamsyah, Christian Lloyd, Thomas Mitchell-Barnet, Dru Viergever, Kimmy Choi, Nicolette Pearse

Almost a decade after V/H/S was released, Shudder has revived the anthology series with a brand-new 1994-set entry. Brought alive by five separate directors, the segments each share excellent practical effects amidst an era-appropriate style, effectively replicating VHS recordings.

Bookending the segments is Holy Hell, directed by Jennifer Reeder. This wraparound tale follows a SWAT team raiding what they believe is a drugs compound, only to discover a cult with collections of bodies and nightmarish tapes. It's a shame this is the first and last thing viewers see, as it's the weakest chunk that's constricted by a need to half-heartedly connect to the other segments.

Things pick up once the stories begin unfolding, starting with Chloe Okuno's claustrophobic tale titled Storm Drain. It follows a news-reporter and her cameraman entering a storm drain in search of an urban legend called the Ratman, though the further they venture, the more unsettling matters become. A simple and effective tale in how disturbing it becomes. Following that is The Empty Wake, directed by V/H/S alumni Simon Barrett. While recording an overnight wake at the family's request, a funeral director employee is tasked with watching over the coffin. Complicating matters is a storm raging outside which affects the lights and makes travel difficult, worsened by strange noises coming from the casket. This by-the-numbers segment becomes rather unnerving, working off simple fears such as the unknown.

After previously directing a fan-favourite segment from V/H/S/2, Timo Tjahjanto returns to helm the grisly high-point of this feature. The Subject depicts an unhinged scientist performing horrifying experiments on kidnapped subjects, attempting to create a biomechanical creature. The bulk of this segment occurs from one subjects perspective, a novel twist on the found-footage format while capturing their desperation to escape this nightmare. As others get involved, the situation becomes complicated and transforms into a blood-soaked fight for survival. At points resembling a terrific video-game, complete with a first-person shooter segment, this is an excellent slice of cyberpunk horror.

Closing things off is Terror, directed by Ryan Prows. The opening scene depicts armed men approaching a room that's covered in makeshift crucifixes, before entering to execute the prisoner. This isn't the first time they've killed him, and it won't be the last. These men are part of a violent militia, planning to use a supernatural element to bomb a U.S. federal building. Prows takes the idea of right-wing extremists weaponizing an unstoppable force for their heinous means, and then asks "what if the people in control of this power were ineffectual morons?" It's a fun spin on a familiar mythos, although this segment doesn't become much more than that, feeling like a single idea stretched out.

A familiar worries anthologies share is the quality changing between segments, as it takes a few rotten inclusions to drag down the entire feature. Thankfully, the latest V/H/S film is more consistent to ensure the lesser elements are worth sitting through for the high-points. By the end, be prepared to chant "Hail Ratma!"

V/H/S/94 is available to stream on Shudder