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“V/H/S/94” Is a Solid Addition to the Iconic Franchise

India has been an avid fan of all things spooky and scary ever since she can remember.

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“Finally, followers, tonight is the night you've been waiting for. Track my signal…The signal is salvation.”

— “V/H/S/94,” 2021

As any horror fan knows, making an anthology is a risky venture. After all, there’s always the chance that some segments will be much better (or worse) than the others, or that one may fail to encapsulate the message embraced by the rest. (“ABCs of Death,” anyone?) Luckily, “V/H/S/94” delivers a clear and compelling message which will resonate with viewers long after the credits roll. While it’s true that some segments are stronger than others, there is something to be learned—and goosebumps to be gained—from each of them.

The film begins with a S.W.A.T. team infiltrating a cult compound in search of a mysterious and incredibly lethal drug. (No, it’s not fentanyl.) However, upon entering the building they are shocked to find it full of corpses—as well as stacks of VHS tapes. (Do people still use those?) As the team moves further into the compound, one of the tapes begins to play…

"Storm Drain"

“Storm Drain” follows Holly Marciano (Anna Hopkins), an ambitious reporter frustrated by her latest assignment: covering an urban legend about a rat-like creature living in the sewers of her small town. (Can’t blame her there. The station should have let her look for Bigfoot. At least he doesn’t live surrounded by human waste.) However, Holly soon discovers the Rat Man is no myth.

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While this segment doesn’t reinvent the wheel (or the rat monster), watching it was nostalgic, as the Rat Man (Raatma to his friends) harkens back to creature features of the 1980’s, while the cult which worships him is reminiscent of the “Satanic panic” of that same era. (And speaking of nostalgia, you’ll love the Veggie Masher infomercial.) “Storm Drain” won’t keep you up at night—unless you have a paralyzing (and perfectly understandable) fear of human-rat hybrids—but it’s an enjoyable watch nonetheless.

"The Empty Wake"

In “The Empty Wake,” Hayley (Kyal Legend) is a young funeral home employee hosting a wake for a man known as Andrew Edwards. However, as she waits for the family of the deceased to arrive, Hayley begins to fear that Andrew isn’t dead after all.

While I’m a sucker for zombie movies, this segment would definitely have benefited from better pacing; for a while, things are as dead as Andrew is supposed to be. Still, once the story gets going it’s worth the wait. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that Andrew isn’t exactly your typical zombie. (There are so many hurtful stereotypes out there, you know? The undead have feelings too.) Watching him hunt Hayley in the darkened funeral parlor will send shivers down your spine.

"The Subject"

“The Subject” was by far my favorite segment, with director Timo Tjahjanto delivering a suspenseful and thought-provoking narrative which is both terrifying and heart-breaking. The story is told from the perspective of a young woman known only as S.A. (Shania Sree Maharani), who has been abducted by a scientist determined to create a successful human-mechanical hybrid.

Admittedly, when I began watching “The Subject” my expectations were modest—the opening shot reminded me of a low-budget J-horror flick—but as the story progressed, I became invested in S.A. and her predicament. Not only are the special effects decent and the characters sympathetic despite the limited amount of time we spend with them, but "The Subject" raises provocative questions about ethics, morality, and the nature of humanity. S.A. may no longer be human, but she has far more soul than the scientist who created her.

"Terror"

“Terror” follows an extremist group which is planning to blow up a government building in a bid to “take back America.” (No word on whether this is scheduled for January 6.) As part of their (less than brilliant) plan they are siphoning blood from a vampire they somehow managed to capture, in hopes of using it as a makeshift bomb (no, really). There's just one problem: the vampire isn’t exactly on board with this idea.

"Terror" is the weakest of the four segments, so it seems appropriate that it is last. While it isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen—not by a long shot—“Terror” features a disjointed story and clumsy political commentary that, while insightful, detracts from rather than enhances the narrative. It almost feels as though the director was so focused on denouncing the far right that he forgot about the vampire! Which is a shame, because I’d love to know how these idiots managed to catch one in the first place.

© 2022 India LaPalme

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