Saturday, April 1, 2023

V/H/S/99 (Acorn Media International Blu-ray Review)

V/H/S/99 (2023) 

Label: Acorn Media International 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: 18 Certificate 
Duration: 109 Minutes 
Audio: Uncompressed English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Directors: Johannes Roberts, Maggie Levin, Tyler MacIntyre, Flying Lotus, Vanessa & Joseph Winter
Cast: Verona Blue, Dashiell Derrickson, Tybee Diskin, Jackson Kelly, Jesse LaTourette, Kelley Missal, Melissa Macedo, Aminah Nieves, Keanush Tafreshi, Alexia Ioannides, Isabelle Hahn, Brittany Gandy, Logan Riley, Steven Ogg, Amelia Ann, Sonya Eddy, Jerry Boyd, Charles Lott Jr., Stephanie Ray, Lauren Powers, Luke Mullen, 
Emily Sweet, Tyler Lofton, Duncan Anderson, Ethan Pogue, Cree Kawa, Janna Bossier, Wallis Barton, Hannah Cat Jones, Danny Jolles, Joseph Winte, Archelaus Crisanto, Melanie Stone, Kim Abunuwara, Ehab Abunuwara, Vickie Hayden, Perla Lacayo, Ariel Lee, Tori Pence, Dustin Watt, Coe-Jane Weight 

The seminal found-footage anthology horror series V/H/S returns for with it's fifth instalment, the Shudder Original V/H/S/99, the segments are all set in 1999 and exploit the VHS home video format and 90's pop culture to fun and gory effect.  First up is Maggie Levin's ‘Shredding' which combines the prankster shenanigans of Jack-Ass with the antics of a pop-punk band called R.A.C.K. whose members regularly record prank video for an on-going web series. They set out to video document their adventure to the Colony Underground, condemned former music space that burned down, killing the members of local band Bitch Cat, who were trampled by their audience during the panic to escape the flames. The band members of R.A.C.K. are all uniformly annoying, by design, but that's just fine as they will all be shredded soon enough. Whilst down in the Underground Club ruins they fool around a bit, but after denigrating effigies of the deceased band the angry reanimated zombie corpses of the Bitchcats show up and the annoying pop punk pranksters are bloody dismembered. This one took a bit long to get to the good stuff but once limbs start flying and faces start melting I was into it, I also liked the pop-punk tunes and seeing the 90's fashions was a fun throwback, and the creature FX were cool as hell. 

In the sophomore segment ‘Suicide Bid' from Johannes Roberts (Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City) we have Lily (Ally Ioannides) a college student desperate to be accepted into a vapid sorority. Her could-be sorority sisters put her up to a deadly initiation stunt - she has to spend the night buried in a coffin at the local cemetery, with a camcorder to record it (of course). The sorority sisters tell her the local legend of a previous pledge named Giltine who did the same thing only to disappear and never be seen again, but she still agrees to it. It turns out they weren't just blowing smoke up her skirt, while buried in the coffin spiders attack her, water starts seeping in, and ultimately she is visited by a frightful looking demonic Giltine who has come to drag her to Hell... but the sonority sisters don't escape the wrath of the evil entity, either. This second segment is a winner with the claustrophobic 
coffin terrors and a terrific creature design for Giltine which far and away was the best looking creature effect in a film loaded with 'em., the design itself sort of reminded me of metal-gods Iron Maiden's "Eddie" mascot.  

The Flying Lotus (Kuso) directed middle-section 'Ozzy's Dungeon' stars Steven Ogg (TV's Snowpiercer) as the host of a Nickelodeon's Double Dare styled kiddie game show that put's it's kid contestants through the slime-covered wringer with the promise of a reward that's impossible to win. When a young girl named Donna (Amelia Ann) is horrifically injured on the show her protective mother (the late Sonya Eddy, TV's Legit) waits a couple of years to have her revenge, and after the show has been cancelled she kidnaps the callous host and puts him through her own murderous gauntlet, which strangely ends up in a bizarre Lovecraftian cosmic horror-comedy territory. This one starts off strong with a cruel riff on Nickelodeon's Double Dare and Ogg playing the demented host with a cruel flair. It goes off the rails towards the end, which sort of threw me, but in a good way. That it goes so bananas at the end was a welcomed detour, this is certainly one of my favorite segments of this entry thanks to the demented nature of it and the off-the-rails finale that delivered the good. 

'The Gawkers' is directed by Tragedy Girls creators Tyler Macintyre – in it we have a group of horny, misogynist teen dudes living in the suburb cul de sac who are obsessed by their new bodacious neighbor Sandra (Emily Sweet). When she taps one of the crew's dweeby younger brothers to set up her new computer the guys convince him to install some spyware on her PC so that they can tap into her camera and peep her in her bedroom. They do get and eyeful and then some, unaware that the new girl is secretly a mythological creature who ends up making them rock-hard, but not in the way they had anticipated. A fun tale of toxic teen voyeurism gone wrong, these guys definitely messed with the wrong chick! This entry brought to mind the superior but similar  'Amateur Night' from the first V/H/S - not as well executed but it had that creature flavor and douchey guys who get what's coming to them.  

The grand finale of this cornucopia of found-footage shorts is 'To Hell And Back' from directors Vanessa and Joseph Winters (Deadstream). In it videographers Nat and Troy (Archelaus Crisanto & Joseph Winter) are hired to document an occult ritual on New Year's Eve (Y2K baby!) as the witches coven attempt to summon the demon Ukabon. The videographers end up getting much more than they bargained for when a minor demon Ferkus arrives and fucks things up. The duo find themselves errantly transported to Hell during the event, with camera in hand 'natch, and find themselves in a desolate Hellish landscape surrounded by flesh-tearing demons and horrific traps. They end up finding a more-or-less sympathetic demon named Mabel (Melanie Stone) who guides them through the feeding grounds of Hell in an attempt to get them back to the land of the living. This one is just good gory fun, we get all manner of demonic creatures in Hell, it's gory, it's all a bit ridiculous and it's a a fun Y2K themed capper to this found-footage throwback to '99. There's also a wrap-around featuring some making a hone video movie with toy plastic soldiers, which is connected to the Gawkers segment, but I wasn;t much of a fan of it. 

Audio/Video: V/H/S/99 arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Acorn Media International in 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) with uncompressed DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio and optional English subtitles. It looks fine, the source by design is meant o mimic late 90's commercial grade low-res VHS tape, and it does that well. Likewise the uncompressed audio reflects the intentional low-res audio of the day. 

There are a surprising amount of extras for this release there's an Audio Commentary with Directors Maggie Lemming, Flying Lotus, Tyler MacInture, Vanessa & Joseph Winter moderated by Trevor and Leo of Bloody Disgusting's Boo Crew Podcast that offers some great insight into the making of these, plus we get a 51-min Fan Experience Panel NYCC 2022, and a 2 -min Gag Reel  encompassing all the shorts. 

We also get some film specific extras for four of the short's with the exception of 'Suicide Bid'. 'Ozzy's Dungeon' has a pair of inconsequential Deleted Scenes; "Shredding' offers a 2-min BitchCat Music Video (2 min) and a brief Deleted Scene, 'The Gawkers' has a cool 1-min The Making of Medusa featurette that gives us a look at the way the Medusa creature was put together, plus a Deleted SceneBloopers, and a 3-min Camera Tests with Commentary that explains the process of finding the proper camera to use to achieve the proper retro late-90's video look. 'To Hell and Back' has the most in-depth set of extras, there's 8-min of Raw Footage, 2-min of Location Scouting footage in Utah, plus 5-min of Storyboards and Blocking Rehearsals. The single-disc release arrives in an oversized keepcase with a single sided sleeve of artwork featuring the film's key artwork.  

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Directors Maggie Lemming, Flying Lotus, Tyler Macintyre, Vanessa & Joseph Winter moderated by Trevor and Leo of Bloody Disgusting's Boo Crew Podcast
- AMC+ Fan Experience Panel NYCC 2022 (51 Min) HD 
- Gag Reel (2:15) HD
Ozzy's Dungeon: 
- Deleted Scenes (1 min) HD 
- Deleted Scene (0:22) HD
- “Shredding” BitchCat Music Video (2 min) HD 
The Gawkers:
- Deleted Scene (0:42) HD
- Bloopers (1 min) HD
- Camera Tests with Commentary (3 min) HD  
- The Making of Medusa (1 min) HD
To Hell and Back:
- Raw Footage (8 min) HD 
- Location Scouting (2 min) HD 
- Storyboards and Blocking Rehearsals (5 min) HD 

V/H/S/99 (2023) like most horror anthologies in that it has it's up and downs, not all shorts are created equal, but I am pleased to say as a whole this was a fun watch with some interesting ideas and terrific creature designs, and it make for a highly enjoyable Friday night watch. Recommended.