V/H/S/85 (2023) [Fantastic Fest 2023]

I’ve been an avid fan of the “V/H/S/” movie series since its initial release, and it’s been fun watching it evolve and run through the aughts over time. With Lo-Fi horror still a big deal in the modern internet stratosphere, “V/H/S/” has a surefire shelf life of at least two or three more entries. However, I do hope we get a much better installment than what “V/H/S/85” ends up becoming. It’s not to say that this newest entry in the series is terrible, it just feels so confused and lacking in the chaos and scares that make the original first two films so exciting.

“V/H/S/85” is the sixth installment of the horror anthology series that unfolds five horror stories. The stories are unraveled through a combination of a mixed VHS tape playing for the audience, the wrap around segment of course setting the stage for the various segments. One of the strongest aspects of “V/H/S/85” is the wrap around story “Total Copy” directed by David Bruckner and written by Evan Dickson. This revolves around a group of scientists observing a mysterious, sentient organism they name “Rory” who has a peculiar addiction to television and begins to mysteriously morph and mature over the course of their video studies of it.

The first interwoven segment is called “No Wake” from Mike P. Nelson centered on a group of friends that go boating in a mysterious lake. Things take a turn for a horrifying when they’re attacked by a sniper in the woods that begin to inexplicably pick them off. This segment is great but suffers from a real lack of resolution. Ambiguity is great, but this segment has no real ending, nor does it really close up the narrative. “God of Death” from Gigi Saul Gerrero is the chaotic segment involving an Argentinian news station hit by a massive earthquake. When a Rescue crew attempts to save the lone survivor, they end up going too deep and discover something at the bowels of the building. This is probably the most anxiety inducing story that teams up a simple but great story and gruesome effects.

“Tknogd” by Natasha Kerman and Zoe Cooper is an okay segment with a nicely gruesome finisher involving a performance artist who delves in to VR attempting to coax out the God of technology. Things spiral out of control as she gets so much more than she asked for. The weakest segment “Dream Kill” from Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill involves a vicious serial killer whose mutilated victims are discovered by local authorities thanks to a mysterious confidant. When they capture who might be the killer, the culprit becomes shockingly integral in to the killer’s identity. Despite a very well filmed finale, Derrickson’s segment borders on incoherent quite often. The finals segment “Ambrosia” from Mike P. Nelson is a surprising segment involving a young girl hosting a family party.

The party takes a weird turn when she plays her newest home video for her close relatives, resulting in all out chaos. This is a very good segment primarily for the performances, but it only adds on to the whole film’s lack of coherence and the confusing format in which the segments are delivered to the audience. Nevertheless, the movie is redeemed by the finale of “Total Copy” which ends a blood soaked, darkly comedic note, something the series is known for. “V/H/S/85” isn’t as good as the previous entries in the horror series, but it compensates for the lack of scares with some prime talent behind the camera as well as some really unique ideas.

Fantastic Fest 2023 is taking place from September 21st to September 28th at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar in Austin, Texas.