Horror

‘V/H/S/99’ is a Nasty Nostalgia Trip for a New Millennium


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Oh baby, baby, how were we supposed to know.

VHS99 01 39 42 03 0024 568x319 - 'V/H/S/99' is a Nasty Nostalgia Trip for a New Millennium [TIFF 2022 Review]  V/H/S/99 – Photo Credit: Shudder

On reflection, 1999 was a truly scary time. We were on the edge of a new millennium, Y2K paranoia prompting some people to obsessively prepare for what they thought might be the end of the world. Digital lines of communication were opening like never before, the rise of cell phones and widespread internet access giving us new ways to connect (for better and worse). Low-rise jeans and belly button piercings were in style, giving a whole generation raging body image issues. And movies like The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project dominated the box office, ushering in a new generation of genre fans and filmmakers (including yours truly).

V/H/S/99, the latest installment in the ongoing found footage anthology series, pays tribute to this terrifying time period with five original scary stories sure to chill those who lived to see the dawn of the last millennium to the bone. With period-appropriate and slyly referential segments from filmmakers like Maggie Levin (Into the Dark’s My Valentine), Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls), and Johannes Roberts (The Strangers: Prey at Night), and a standout entry from rapper Flying Lotus, V/H/S/99 brought this 1989 baby back to her early days as a horror fan who lived for the horror section at Blockbuster, but had to sleep with the lights on after reading a Goosebumps book.

Throwing you right into the action without a wrap-around segment to tie all its positively putrid pieces together, this may be the simplest and most streamlined V/H/S sequel yet. In a similar style to ’80s-set found footage fave WNUF Halloween Special, it really feels like you’re watching a mysteriously mislabeled tape you found in your best friend’s garage, its contents ranging from harrowing home videos to snippets from lost reality shows.

Kicking off with Levin’s gory ode to riot girls (“Shredding”), V/H/S/99 isn’t afraid to summon pop culture touchstones from the mid-to-late ’90s. Roberts’ “Suicide Bid” feels like Jawbreaker meets The Craft, following a sorority pledge so desperate to fit in she agrees to spend a night in a cursed coffin. MacIntyre’s “The Gawkers” attacks toxic masculinity with a slice of American Pie that has Jackass (or should I say CKY?)wannabes getting their just desserts. Lotus’ “Ozzy’s Dungeon” parodies Nickelodeon game shows like Double Dare and Legends of the Hidden Temple in the most deliciously deranged way possible. And the final segment (“To Hell and Back” from Deadstream duo Joseph and Vanessa Winter) turns the last day of the decade into an Army of Darkness-esque decent into practical effects madness.

While the spirit of Gen X is certainly in V/H/S/99, some of the cinematography is a little too glossy to feel fully nostalgic. Certain scenes rely too heavily on static interludes to create the right mood. But the costume and production design are on point in a way that could delight the Gen Z kids who just discovered Baby G watches and butterfly clips. I know this Courtney Love fan wishes they could have seen Bitch Cat (the fake band seen in “Shredding”) in concert before they bit the fictional dust.

Certainly still fun to watch in a theatre at the Toronto International Film Festival, V/H/S/99 will likely play even better at home when it starts streaming on Shudder later this fall. Like Ghostwatch (1992) or other POV horror flicks from the era, it has the potential to become a slumber party touchstone, the kind of movie you have to beg your horror-hating friend to watch with you at 2 AM. I know I’ll be rewatching it this Halloween with a bottle of Mountain Dew and a hefty handful of Cool Ranch Doritos.

Summary

A true millennial nightmare, this static-filled sequel double dares you to remember the worst parts of the life pre-Y2K.

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