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V/H/S/85 (2023)

Release Date: 10/06/23 [Shudder]
Genre: Horror. Thriller.

Studio: Shudder.

"Unveiled through a made-for-TV documentary, five tales of found footage horror emerge to take viewers on a terrifying journey into the grim underbelly of the 1980s." 


The long-running anthology series V/H/S returns with five new tales ranging from cosmic horror to domestic terrorism. The main storyline, shown in small chunks between the bigger stories, a staple in this series, focuses on a small boy from out of this world. The main tales consist of a group of friends having a fun day at the lake that ends in disaster and oddity, a rescue crew evading a natural disaster, a nasty trip into the world of virtual reality, a family celebrating the most antithetical of happy human experiences and a true crime nightmare. I haven’t seen every entry in this franchise past the first two. I rather enjoyed the ones I saw for the most part. Anthology Horror has always been a bit of a crapshoot with its quality. Some heavy hitters, such as Tales from the Darkside, Tales from the Crypt, and Creepshow, have stood the test of time. The VHS series has walked the middle ground between forgettable trash and a jaunty good time. V/H/S/85 neither breaks new ground nor crashes completely. 


These types of horror movies are always a risk because they pack so much material in quite a short time. The previous V/H/S entries I’ve seen also had some standout stories and a few misfires sprinkled in, and that is the gambit of anthology horror. This new film has only one interesting break-out story that only partially sticks the landing. The rest of the stories, including the overarching narrative involving an alien, are terribly average. 


Like previous installments, these pocket stories are shot on what is meant to be low-quality prosumer video footage. I always marvel at the inventive ways filmmakers mount their cameras to achieve coverage effectively. The aged quality of these films is apt for the context of the movie’s theme being set in 1985. It’s a love letter to the romanticism of the 1980s, which I’m guessing is more appreciated by the younger viewers who didn’t live through the decade. 


The stories do their best to appear dated to the time they are set in. The vehicles, costume choices, made-for-tv, and home video aesthetics all taste like a forgotten time. We get treated to fun callbacks to VCR tracking effects, warped music, and cheesy effects that existed in taped-over home movies. 


The fans of Scott Derrickson, who made Sinister and The Black Phone, will get a treat with the final story, “Dreamkill,” which revolves around true crime. While not wholly imaginative, that story floats by on its construction and execution that viewers of those other Derrickson works will recognize with expected enthusiasm. 


V/H/S/85 is currently streaming on Shudder and will be a fun addition to the viewing rotation for both franchise and casual horror movie fans. Just don’t expect too many new surprises or subverted expectations. 

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