V/H/S/94 is the fourth entry in the inexplicably sprawling franchise that was spawned following the release of the first V/H/S horror anthology in 2012. The conceit of these films is that a wraparound story involves the finding of some footage, always a series of tapes, all containing horror stories filmed by handheld cameras. Like all anthologies, the results are mixed, though the best collection of shorts is by far V/H/S 2 from 2013, for what it's worth. This film was billed as being more of a continuous story than the previous entries, but it doesn't take a seasoned horror viewer to know that's a load of horseshit. So we'll be approaching and scoring each short individually.

Oh, also these tales of terror all take place in 1994 for reasons that surely have more to do with post-production publicity than an actual holistic concept, because nobody seems to have told the directors this.

Wraparound: "Holy Hell" (dir. Jennifer Reeder)


Sweet Jesus. None of the wraparound segments in the V/H/S films have ever made sense or been good, but this one rips open its own skin in its flailing desperation to show you a road map of the deepest flaws of this series.

The script is terrible: It's about a SWAT team making a raid on a warehouse containing what appears to be the remains of cult members surrounded by staticky televisions playing the VHS tapes in question, and they just keep shouting "Police! Search warrant!" I'm no devotee of SWAT S.O.P. but I'm pretty sure they can cool it. The acting is also brain-meltingly bad, and the special effects are straight out of a dime store's Halloween surplus bin.

Come to think of it, this entire short is like a particularly unimaginative neighbor's Halloween haunted house. Every room is stuffed with random shit (why would a cult that apparently worships "the signal" have a room full of upside-down crosses? You tell me!), and there's no rhyme or reason other than a deep-seated need to appear spooky with no regard to what imagery actually achieves this.

This short is also the worst offender when it comes to adding in digital artifacts and warping to make the image look more "VHS tape"-y, though every single short is chock full of them to their detriment. Sure, old VHS tapes can look shitty, but let me tell you. I just watched an ancient tape of Curse of the Blair Witch from 1999, and guess what? It wasn't perfect, but I could still see the picture the entire time! Imagine that! Also, if you really want to sell the idea that these are genuine images from VHS tapes, maybe don't make your movie in fucking widescreen.


"Storm Drain" (dir. Chloe Okuno)


This short follows anchorwoman Holly Marciano (Anna Hopkins) and her cameraman Jeff (Christian Potenza) as they investigate reports of a rat-human hybrid stalking the local sewers. It has a real problem with the found footage concept, smoothly sliding between a television news broadcast and the unedited camera footage without a care in the world.

"Storm Drain" starts off simple but promising, gearing up to provide a formulaic yet satisfying riff on the found footage format. Unfortunately, it ruins the elemental scariness of dark spooky tunnels with a bizarre overstuffed cult plotline and an eventual creature reveal that looks like a Windows 95-generated screensaver of a platypus. There is a funny The Howling riff of a coda that brings the energy up, but it unfortunately doesn't match anything else in the short.


"The Veggie Masher" (dir. Steven Kostanski)


For some reason, this 30-second SNL-style commercial parody was directed by somebody else even though it appears as an interstitial between scenes in "Storm Drain." It's actually the best thing in the movie, which is probably a very bad sign for V/H/S/94.


"The Empty Wake" (dir. Simon Barrett)


This short follows Hayley (Kyal Legend), a young woman who works at a mortuary. She is hosting a wake for a man whose body was pieced together after a horrible accident, but nobody shows up. Nevertheless, her boss insists that she needs to stay for the whole wake. By the way, did I mention that it's a wake that apparently lasts all night? You know, the kind of thing that happens all the time to regular human beings. I would have forgiven this ludicrous conceit for one of two reasons:

1) If it ended up being about vampires.

2) If it had been titled "Graveyard Shift."

Alas, we're 0 for 2. Fortunately, the monster gag at the end is well worth the slog through the mind-boggling setup. It's a solid campfire story that probably would have been served by cutting two or three minutes, but it's by a good margin the best legit short in the movie.


"The Subject" (dir. Timo Tjahjanto)


"The Subject" follows a mad scientist (Budi Ross) in Indonesia who is experimenting on kidnapped people to see if he can successfully make cyborgs. The bulk of the short is depicted through the eyes of one of his horrifying creations. Tjahjanto turned out the single best short in this entire franchise ("Safe Haven" from V/H/S 2), so I had high hopes for this one.

Those hopes weren't unfounded, exactly. The problem is that the producers also know "Safe Haven" was the best thing they had to offer and gave him far too much run time to play with. When the short descends into a charnelhouse of gruesome robot abominations turning a team of policemen into raspberry jelly, it's an utter delight, boasting the best effects work in the entire shebang. It's just such a long walk to get there, through a parade of dry scientific babble that is reminiscent of the first act of The Human Centipede. Mostly in that it's fabulously boring.


"Terror" (dir. Ryan Prows)


Your mileage with "hillbilly hick American patriots who literally have a conversation about guns giving them boners are trying to restore a country that's being overrun by spineless liberals" may vary. Obviously this short is a satire, but I'm not entirely clear what it thinks it's a satire of. It does have a decent monster lurking in the dark center of the plot, but it also has absolutely no idea what to do with it.

There are far too many plot threads waving around like live wires. It never coheres into something manageable, merely content to ruminate on the shrillness of raw masculinity. It's giving Rob Zombie's Halloween levels of unhinged male shrieking, and while that might be someone's cup of tea, it ain't mine.


Brennan Klein is a millennial who knows way more about 80's slasher movies than he has any right to. He's a former host of the Attack of the Queerwolf podcast and a current senior movie/TV news writer at Screen Rant. You can find his other reviews on his blog Popcorn Culture. Follow him on Twitter or Letterboxd, if you feel like it.