Now on its fifth film with VHS 99 the horror franchise that plays like the old compendium films from Amicus but here centred around home movie found footage has attracted several directors of note or who have gone on to greater things. Those directors have included  Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett (Scream 5 & 6), Adam Wingard (Godzilla vs Kong) and Gareth Evans ( The Raid) but here the only director of note is Johannes Roberts who has had a varied career helming films such as the very good shark movie 47 Metres Down and his segment here is Suicide Bid where a sorority girl wannabe allows herself to be buried alive as part of a hazing process to join a college house populated by that staple of teen movies – the bewilderingly stupid student and  all the antagonists in VHS 99 are almost wilfully daft. For anyone who suffers from claustrophobia it’s a bit of a hard watch but is one of the better chapters even if it does stretch the found footage idea to accommodate the films plot.

Equally the chapter The Gawkers again featuring bewilderingly stupid and frankly creepy male students wanting to get a glimpse of female flesh by peeping Rear Window style on their pretty female neighbour. Their desperation to see her naked pushes them into frankly criminal territory when they covertly install a spy camera only for it all to end catastrophically. It’s got a great punch line reveal unlike the chapter ‘Ozzy’s Dungeon’ that has a kids game show akin to the Pat Sharp hosted Fun House but here when one of the child contestants injures herself her mother takes out her revenge on the show’s host culminating, as several of the chapters have in previous films , in deliriously bonkers fashion.

Perhaps the most effectively disturbing vison is achieved in ‘To Hell and Back’ where two videographers document a séance to raise the Devil only to find themselves mistakenly plunged into Hell themselves.  It is chillingly and disturbingly realized with all the unsettling detail of a Hieronymus Bosch painting as the pair of film makers do their best to escape. Although from a story perspective it’s no masterpiece but the production design for Hell is quite something on such a low budget.

The disc has a bunch of extras that include director commentaries for each as well as deleted scenes and some behind the scenes featurettes. Like all the films in the franchise it is uneven with undoubtedly the least of the chapters in VHS 99 is ‘Shredding’ that documents a wannabe punk band who watched Jackass one too many times who break into a venue where an all girl group played a gig but got trampled to death. It is noisy and mostly incoherently shot in shaky cam and is not the chapter to have opened the film where viewers may quickly switch off and really needs to be buried in the middle of the film or better still cut out altogether.

VHS 99 is titled at a time when VHS was on its death bed and DVD’s were on the rise so this would seem to be the obvious end point for such a titled franchise but that shouldn’t stop the franchise continuing to evolve with upcoming film makers experimenting with digital formats. There’s enough here to satisfy fans of the films and see which of the directors will also go on to greater things

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Here’s the VHS 99 trailer…….

VHS 99 is released on blu-ray, DVD & digital from 27th March 2023


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