I’m not usually the greatest fan of found footage movies. VHS 94, however, is one of the few to differ and bring something fresh and innovative to the horror sub-genre. Written and directed by five different writers, each short story brings a gory flourish to the movie as a whole. VHS 94 isn’t going to chill you to the bones, but the chances are it will bring great pleasure to the lovers of blood, guts, and gory kills out there.
The Five Tapes of VHS 94
‘Holy Hell’ by Jennifer Reeder
Holy Hell is the first tape featured in the gruesome package that is VHS 94; it’s also revisited throughout the entirety of the collaboration. The tape follows a SWAT team as they are sweeping what looks to be a disused warehouse. As they delve deeper into the decrepit building, they discover increasingly bizarre setups involving mannequins; static-emitting televisions, and dead bodies, with their eyes gouged out. All is not lost for the latter, however, as the eyeballs are also found at the scene.
As the spine of VHS 94, Holy Hell holds its own and conjures up a real sense of intrigue throughout its frequent revisitings. Overlayed with a static TV effect, we are always reminded that this is set in the nineties. The VHS effect proffers an abundantly raw atmosphere with an omnipresent sense of realism.
While Holy Hell stirred the thick broths of suspense, the tape concluded with anti-climatic confusion. Without giving too much away, it’s safe to say that it made little sense. It’s such a shame as this story had some real potential. The suspense was there, it just lacked any real substance. It’s always good for a movie to leave you with questions, it keeps you thinking. Without anything to speculate on, however, it’s just a dead-end of nonsense.
‘Storm Drain’ by Chloe Okuno
Storm Drain followed reporter Holly and her oafish cameraman, Jeff as they investigate reports of a man-rat hybrid lurking in the sewer system. As enjoyable as this was, it couldn’t be helped but to think of some of the dowdy monster movies of yesteryear. While dated, the premise quickly improved as the news team took to the drains in search of ‘The Rat Man’.
What started following the age-old plot of a typical monster movie, ended with an interesting twist that tied up the movie with a certain flair. If you can see past the fact that Storm Drain is essentially a story belonging to 1978, you will be happy with the outcome and its outlandish turn.
‘The Empty Wake’ by Simon Barret
When job newcomer, Hailey, is tasked with hosting the wake of Andrew Edwards, she’s in for one hell of a first day. The Empty Wake is a creeping, suspenseful tape that uses a sense of unease to build up to its dramatic boiling point. At first, Hailey feels she is in for a quiet night, shared only with the howling storms outside. When a series of events points to all not being what they seem, her attention is drawn to the coffin in the center of the room and the banging noises from within.
The Empty Wake is a neat collection of jump-scares, suspenseful fear, and gore a-plenty. While being pretty tame by today’s standards, the movie is done in a way that really works. With some creative gore and directorial flair, The Empty Wake was one of the more enjoyable tapes of VHS 94.
‘The Subject’ by Timo Tjahjanto
As with what happens to us all at some point in our lives, a man wakes up to find he is just a head attached to some mechanical spider legs. As the camera pans around, we see this is just one subject in a macabre laboratory of a crazed scientist. His aim is to merge man and machine once and for all, to some immensely gruesome ends. When his lab is raided by the police and the medical maniac is shot on-site, a failsafe is triggered and the SWAT team is trapped inside, along with the mutated experiments.
What follows is an action-packed shootout and some creatively brilliant deaths. Furthermore, the quick pace of The Subject leaves very little room for boredom to creep in. The Subject is clearly from the deep, dark depths of the mind of Tjahjanto, and it’s an absolute credit to him.
‘Terror’ by Ryan Prows
The First Patriots Movement Militia are an extremist militant group, plotting to blow up a government building. Living in a protected compound in Detroit, the team harvests the blood of a man they have held captive for its explosive properties (I know). We are shown this blood is activated by sunlight when a rabbit is injected with the boom-blood and explodes as the sun comes up. This is their intended explosive for their attack.
As if this was making any sense as a plot, the alarm is raised at their camp and it’s reported that ‘the creature’ has escaped. The inevitable follows and the guns bang and the guts flow.
While Terror has some enjoyable moments, it fails to ever make any sense or have any meaning. There’s a little there for fans of gore, but very little else.
VHS 94 – Summary
VHS 94 is an interesting collection of ‘found footage’ tapes. With each of the tapes being relatively short, there’s a nice, quick pace throughout. Consequently, none of the stories become tired or boring and entertain for the entirety of the production. VHS 94 has its flaws with its many cheesy moments. However, this is supposed to be the mid-nineties, so that was expected.
If you like plenty of blood to go with your horror then you should definitely see VHS 94. On the flip side, there’s a lack of psychological scares that could leave those psychological horror fans cold.