The newest entry in the V/H/S series is still far away from coming out, so why not review a past entry while we wait? Check out our review for V/H/S/94. Hail Raatma.
The V/H/S series features horror anthologies held together by an overarching plot. This time, the movie’s framing device has a SWAT team raiding a cultist’s hideout, where they find each of the movie’s segments burned into VHS tapes.
Considering how this is an anthology, we’ll divide the review into segments, and close up by going over the overarching plot, just to keep things concise.
Production Company: Bloody Disgusting, Shudder
Director: Jennifer Reeder, Chloe Okuno, Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, Ryan Prows
Release Date: September 26, 2021
The first segment in V/H/S/94 is Storm Drain, which centers around the news reporter Holly Marciano unwillingly covering a local urban legend, called the Rat Man. The local cryptid has been mainly spotted inside a storm drain, which the reporter really does not want to go inside of.
The reporter interviews local residents who supposedly spotted the creature, all of which act in increasingly weirder ways. Holly decides to wrap things up after interviewing a man holding an assault rifle, having had enough of the town and its weird citizens.
With enough interviews and B-roll, Holly deems her coverage complete, but the news station asks her to record inside of the storm drain. Holly compromises by filming at the drain’s entrance, but notices the armed man stalking her in the distance and decides to go inside for safety.
Inside of the storm drain, Holly finds toys and homeless tents, and becomes rattled by the implication that kids could be living inside of a storm drain, but also realizes that she may have a story in her hands, way better than cryptid sightings.
Going deeper into the storm drain with her new mission, Holly encounters more homeless tents, as well as a man covered head to toe in a black substance, who mutters incoherently before vomiting a black substance and forcing Holly to run away.
Actress Anna Hopkins does a fantastic job as Holly, and helps to sell the character with some good nuance. Holly isn’t exactly a bad person, as she does seem to be honestly disturbed by the homeless people’s living conditions, but at the same time her end goal is getting a good story, and hopefully a Pulitzer Prize.
Holly and her cameraman are knocked out while trying to run away from the strange man, but get knocked out and captured. They wake up surrounded by homeless people, including a priest that Holly interviewed earlier. Holly tries pleading with them, but it’s quite clear that she stumbled upon a cult to the Rat Man.
The priest calls out to the cryptid, actually named Raatma, who crawls out of a pipe on the wall. The Rat Man is a disfigured humanoid creature with a rat head, who vomits an acidic black liquid.
The priest covers Holly’s cameraman in the black substance, as a way to see if he’s worthy of the Rat Man’s blessing. The liquid burns through his skin, killing him instantly. Holly is next in this rite of passage, but seemingly survives her baptism through goop.
The segment ends with Holly being rescued from the storm drain, and reveals that she has now been promoted to co-anchor at her news station. The program resumes, with Holly attempting to call in the next segment, but slurs through her words. She then proceeds to vomit a black substance on her co-anchor’s face, causing his head to melt, and ending the show with a “Hail Raatma”.
Storm Drain has easily become my favorite segment in all of the V/H/S series. Not only is it perfectly paced, but it also manages to escape from all of the pitfalls that we commonly see other directors fall into.
The V/H/S series has a constant issue with directors relying on the most basic horror tropes, and it’s refreshing to see such a creative segment that manages to establish its own unique monster and actually wraps up in a satisfying manner.
The Empty Wake:
Speaking of wrapping up in a satisfying manner and creative segments, we have The Empty Wake, which is none of those things.
The Empty Wake centers around a woman named Hailey, who is asked to host a wake by herself. Her boss shows her the ropes, and assures her that everything will be fine, leaving her alone to complete the task.
Hailey grows more and more uneasy throughout the night, as nobody shows up for the wake, and she starts to hear knocks coming from inside the coffin. Things start getting bad when the power goes out multiple times, with the last blackout revealing that the dead man is now walking around in the dark, with half of his head completely missing.
The segment ends with Hailey being attacked by the dead man, and then stumbling out of a broken window, supposedly possessed by his spirit.
If it feels like I didn’t talk a lot about The Empty Wake, that’s because not much happens. Most of the segment features Hailey walking around while doing nothing, completely boring the viewer.
The short does manage to build a decent amount of tension, but does what a lot of other V/H/S segments do, which is to rely on zombies as their supernatural entity. I happened to watch this movie right after V/H/S/2, which also relies on zombies way too much, making this short even more frustrating to watch.
There’s really not much to talk about when it comes to The Empty Wake, as the final scare does not make up for how monotonous and boring it is throughout.
The Subject is V/H/S/94‘s most experimental short, feeling like a homage to Noboru Iguchi filmography (The Machine Girl, Mutant Girl Squad).
The segment is entirely filmed in first-person, and centers around an Indonesian doctor attempting to create very rudimentary cyborgs. The doctor, James Suhendra, records himself testing on Subjects 98 and 99, successfully turning them into robots, one with saw blades for arms, and the other with a camera for a head.
We see things from the perspective of Subject 99, as Dr. James plugs her camera into a nearby television. He deems Subject 99 to be his most successful project yet, until she catches a glimpse of a TV report detailing her kidnapping.
The doctor is frustrated that the cyborg retained her memories, and plans on lobotomizing her, but is interrupted by a police raid. The police immediately executes the doctor, and starts looking for the missing people, getting increasingly more horrified by the doctor’s experiments.
The Subject cleverly moves around the limitation of being filmed in first-person by using different cameras as points of view, cycling between Subject 99, the doctor’s recordings, and the police officer’s camera.
The police officers eventually settle for mercy-killing the subjects, rather than delivering them to their families, much to the dismay of a young police officer. Their arguing is cut short when the police team realizes that they are now locked inside, and that the lab is rigged to explode.
What follows after the explosion is a nightmarish sequence where Subject 99 goes berserk, after realizing what has been done to her. She manages to fight her way through the lab, but is caught and brutally beaten by the captain of the police team, who is shot by the younger police officer.
Subject 98 attacks the merciful young officer, fatally wounding him before Subject 99 can save him. The segment ends with Subject 99 slowly limping away after ripping Subject 98’s brains out, unfortunately too late to save him.
The prosthetics seen in The Subject are outstanding, and really manage to elevate the short, making Dr. James Suhendra’s creations that more nightmarish. Almost every surface in the lab looks disgusting, covered with either rust, gore, or machinery, and the care that went into building the lab to be as disgusting as possible definitely shows.
The Subject is a weird segment. It features as much characterization as it can with the police officers and the doctor, seemingly trying to compensate for its mute protagonist, but feels like a full-length movie condensed into a short format. It’s by no means bad, in fact, it stands as one of the best segments in the movie but I do wish it could have been expanded a little more.
Terror is the last segment found in V/H/S/94, and features an extremist redneck group planning a terrorist attack.
Terror takes place across multiple days, and shows the routine of this group as they record themselves killing the same man every day. The group’s daily routine also shows them plotting to blow up a government building, which they survey for security cameras and weak spots.
It’s revealed that the man they have chained up is a vampire, whose blood explodes violently when exposed to the sun. The group plans to use the man as a living bomb, in some nonsensical plan to “take back America”.
The men decide to have a celebration the day before carrying out their plan, but get too drunk to keep tabs on the vampire, leading him to escape. In their incompetence, most of the men kill each other while trying to subdue the vampire, eventually with one of them exposing the vampire to sunlight and blowing up their entire compound, in an effort to escape.
Terror is a disappointing segment, mostly due to how it sets up a premise but never delivers it. The short manages to establish things quite nicely, but fails to provide a “Yes, and?”. The short segment seems happy with wasting most of its runtime with the extremist group bumbling around and being stupid, but fails to properly land a satisfying ending.
Holy Hell is possibly the weakest framing device for a V/H/S movie yet. It features a SWAT team raiding a cultist compound, slowly revealing that some of the team’s members are actually part of the cult and plan on turning their raid into a snuff film.
Holy Hell is divided in four parts, which are shown in between each segment, but manages to feel incredibly half-baked. The segment feels too campy for its own good, and its two middle parts are simply filler.
It’s interesting that V/H/S/94 is contextualized in-universe as one of the snuff films sold by the cultist group, but that’s all the movie manages to do with the premise. The final POV shot of a SWAT agent being killed by having a camera bashed into his head is not bad, but doesn’t make up for the fact that half of Holy Hell‘s runtime was wasted.
It’s pretty disappointing to see the franchise mess up a segment so badly after being well into its fourth film, especially considering how good some of the framing devices were in past entries, like V/H/S/2‘s Tape 49, which was better than some of its main segments.
V/H/S/94 intercalates good and bad segments, making for a mixed viewing experience. Storm Drain and The Subject are fantastic pieces of horror anthology, but The Wake, Terror, and Holy Hell waste their own premises and time slots by meandering around before delivering a limp conclusion.
V/H/S/94 is still worth the watch for its good segments, but there’s no shame in skipping around its weaker parts, a.k.a, half of the movie.