Whereas V/H/S/99 doesn’t boast a unifying framing system like its predecessors, in most different respects it’s minimize from the identical magnetic tape. That’s true in relation to its tattered visions of the unholy and undead, in addition to with regard to its all-over-the-place high quality. There’s but to be a V/H/S enterprise that’s strong from high to backside, which might be a extra damning indictment if the identical couldn’t even be mentioned about related horror collections. The excellent news is that this fourth go-round—premiering within the Midnight Insanity part of this yr’s Toronto Worldwide Movie Pageant—boasts two amusingly wacko efforts that shrewdly mix the sinister and the surreal. They might not generate a lot in the way in which of screams, however at their finest, they elicit laughs of an astonished, I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening selection.
Rife with shout-outs to the turn-of-the-century tradition by which it purportedly takes place, V/H/S/99 references every little thing from Scorching Pockets and Limp Bizkit to Blockbuster Video, Radio Shack and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The final of these is featured in one of many movie’s standout chapters, “Ozzy’s Dungeon,” a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Nickelodeon youngsters recreation present Legends of the Hidden Temple. Director Flying Lotus’ phase begins as a simple riff, with a gaggle of youngsters sporting shiny shirts, helmets and goggles whereas going head-to-head in juvenile video games on a tv set embellished with Styrofoam props and many goo. The present’s host (Steven Ogg) is a smarmy jerk with a bushy mustache and a skinny microphone, and he hams it up in semi-mean trend as he prods contestant Donna to turn out to be the primary contestant to make it via a remaining impediment course whose prize is having the legendary Ozzy grant her a want. So far as tacky recreations go, it’s a strong one, and peaks with Donna struggling a brutal leg damage earlier than finishing the problem.
The preliminary section of “Ozzy’s Dungeon” is merely a retro goof. Nonetheless, it takes a flip for the demented when it cuts to a basement the place the present’s host, sporting solely his underwear, has been locked inside a canine cage by Donna’s mother (Sonya Eddy), who intends to get revenge towards the showbiz persona for her daughter’s damage by forcing him to endure her personal model of the present’s impediment course underneath risk of being burned with acid. With the overweight, maniacal Donna orchestrating this lunacy in a bra and sweatpants, this performs out like some type of psychotic fever dream, and by some means, Flying Lotus manages to additional up the ante by finally having Donna, her mother and the host make a journey to the present’s authentic set, the place the mysterious Ozzy apparently nonetheless resides. Deliriously incomprehensible bedlam ensues.
There’s no lucid rhyme or motive to “Ozzy’s Dungeon,” only a need to escalate issues to the purpose of jaw-dropping, laugh-inducing hysteria. On that depend, it succeeds admirably, and so too does the movie’s nearer, “To Hell and Again,” whose protagonists Troy (Joseph Winter) and Nate (Archelaus Crisanto) try and doc a coven of witches performing a Y2K ceremony to summon a demon right into a human physique and wind up being by accident pulled into the underworld by a wayward spirit. Rightly freaked out, they handle to befriend a mischievous, raspy-voiced resident named Mabel (Melanie Stone) who guides them via this rocky, purple lightning-illuminated realm in an effort to assist them return to the land of the residing. A charmingly excitable and menacing imp with spiky quick hair and an outfit made out of bandages, Mabel is definitely the star of this feature-length present, and administrators Joseph and Vanessa Winter shrewdly place a premium on dreadful absurdity, conserving issues gentle and weird up till their amusingly bleak conclusion.
If there’s nothing notably scary about these two episodes, at the least their giddy love of gore and mayhem is infectious. When it loses its humorousness, although, V/H/S/99 turns into a drag. “Shredding” is a dreary story a few grating Sum 41-style pop-punk foursome that visits an deserted music membership the place, years earlier, a fireplace led to the loss of life of a preferred up-and-coming band; unsurprisingly, the deceased are nonetheless haunting the joint. “The Gawkers” is a limp saga about horndog teen boys who spy on their new blonde sexpot neighbor and, for his or her Peeping Tom habits, endure hair-raising penalties. A minimum of “Suicide Bid,” the story of a faculty scholar (Ally Ioannides) who falls sufferer to a merciless hazing prank gone awry that leaves her on the mercy of a hungry ghoul, sharply skewers the monstrousness of Greek life rituals and people who perpetuate them. Sadly, it could’t drum up the claustrophobic thrills it seeks, and worse, it perpetrates a frequent found-footage sin: handheld camerawork orchestrated not by one of many characters however, as an alternative, by an (unseen) director.
V/H/S/99 tethers collectively its unrelated vignettes with schizoid snippets of TV commercials and a recurring stop-motion residence film involving little inexperienced military males, which don’t do a lot for the general package deal besides to offer a obscure nod to V/H/S/94’s memorable sewer god Raatma. Nothing right here approaches the franchise’s best moments, akin to the unique V/H/S’ “Beginner Evening,” V/H/S/2’s “Protected Haven” or V/H/S: Viral’s “Parallel Monsters,” all of which had been superior examples of quick kind nightmarishness. But the movie nonetheless boasts sufficient range and unpredictability to maintain one engaged, if not fairly on the sting of their seat. Its look and sound could also be ramshackle, however on the premise of this newest entry, the collection’ high quality isn’t degrading practically as quick as the fabric on which it is (supposedly) made.