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V/H/S/85 – Fantastic Fest 2023 (Film Review)

3 min read

V/H/S/85 - Still 5

This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

The found footage horror genre has undoubtedly experienced a boom in the past two decades with the release of heavyweights such as Cloverfield, Lake Mungo, Rec, and of course, the Paranormal Activity franchise. In 2012, became a firm favourite among fans of the shaky-cam flicks with its anthology style that offers a variety of stories in one sitting.

Since then the series has seen three sequels, two spin-offs, and a miniseries on Snapchat's Snap Originals that have all received mixed reactions. Screening at this year's , is the latest of the bunch platforming four fresh directors' stories tied together by another batch of grisly video tapes.

No Wake sees tackle body horror and shocking violence when a right-wing gun-nut opens fire on a picturesque lake, before Gigi Saul Huerrero's God Of Death sees a recovery crew uncover a hidden threat in the wake of a colossal natural disaster. directs TKNOGD which sees a performance artist's installation go horribly wrong as she tries to make contact with a mythical figure, and 's Dreamkill packs murder and mayhem into one enthralling segment.

What the V/H/S franchise does so well is bringing a variety of different horror subgenres and directorial styles together on a smorgasbord of talent that is sure to appeal to a wide audience. And V/H/S/85 is no different as the four new stories cover everything from gross-out body horror to murder splatter fests and supernatural apparitions while commenting on the likes of gun violence, politics, spiritualism, and more.

The eighties is depicted in no end of modern horror films trying to recapture the golden age of horror cinema, but the latest V/H/S film does so uniquely in that it doesn't automatically reach for the neon legwarmers and synthesisers, and instead utilises the fears of the era in each story to lead audiences to the chilling realisation that not much has changed in the last 40 years. The rise of right-wing Christian ideologies, the ever-impending threat of nuclear war and the end of the world, and wariness around technology are as prudent now as back then and are reflected back at us in V/H/S/85.

God Of Death is a standout within the film as Huerrero champions her Mexican roots in this spine-chilling tale of The Descent meets Aftershock. No Wake is a sobering tale of brutal violence that kicks the film off to a shocking start, while TKNOGD is sure to have audiences scratching their heads and marvelling at its creativity. Dreamkill, by The Black Phone director Derrickson, sends the film out on a notable high with one last gory hurrah.

While every segment in the film is consistently good, none appear to be truly great instalments in the franchise that will leave a lasting impact on the viewer. 's science fiction offering Total Copy intercuts each story with footage from a research facility that ties them all together. This link is not executed as seamlessly as some of the other V/H/S films and often feels shoehorned in to match the aesthetic of the previous instalments.

For fans of the franchise, V/H/S/85 is sure to be a welcome watch in time for Halloween that offers varied stories wrapped up in nostalgic eighties visuals perfect for a cosy watch as the nights draw in.

V/H/S/85 screened at on September 23. It streams on Shudder from October 6.