“V/H/S/85” is a chaotic experience, but that’s always been the fun of this series. The tonal whiplash is a feature, not a bug, and each filmmaker brings a very different flavor of horror. The uniting factor, as the title implies, is that each little horror story takes place in 1985, and is depicted as found footage cobbled together on a grainy VHS tape by … someone. But that’s where the uniformity ends.
Of the bunch, I found myself partial to Mike P. Nelson’s structurally unique segment about a rowdy group of campers who find themselves terrorized on a lake, but to say more would betray the surprising direction it takes, and how it plays with the franchise’s format in a compelling way. But the rest aren’t slouches: Scott Derrickson’s segment is perhaps ambitious to a fault, trying to shatter the mold of the found footage format (It largely succeeds, even if you can feel it begging for feature length treatment). Gigi Saul Guerrero’s segment is a bit more traditional in its structure, but its setting (a Mexican TV studio in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake) lends a flavor we haven’t seen before in one of these movies. Natasha Kermani and David Bruckner contributions are slow-burns with huge payoffs, and offer easily the biggest laughs of the film. Kermani’s in particular does the best job of the bunch of actually capturing the feeling of watching someone’s odd home movie and stumbling across something deeply troubling.
All-in-all: a classic “V/H/S” grab bag, one full of scares and laughs and, yes, lots of gore. As always, the squeamish need not apply.