I’m a big fan of VHS.
Yes, I’m also a big fan of V/H/S, as a series, but we’re tabling that for now, stick with me.
The clicking and whirring of the tape spindles and the movements of plastic across metal scratch an auditory itch for me. The scanlines and color saturation of the films put on a little visual grime I can’t help but like. It’s all very scrappy and humble-looking, which is partially why I find it a bummer when I see how limited of a lifespan they really have.
The VCRs of yesteryear are an aged tool that has now become fragile after years in dutiful service and aren’t going back into production. Their ever-dwindling numbers put this medium in a bizarre limbo, leaving us with a surplus of content on tape that is easy to find but increasingly hard to view. For those of us who grew up with VHS before trading up to DVDs and Blu-Ray, it’s a bittersweet sensation, staring at the contents of these clamshell and cardboard cases that one day, sooner than later, will become impenetrable. This leads me to the crux of why I found V/H/S94, the newest Shudder exclusive installment in the found-footage horror anthology franchise, so compelling.
V/H/S94 returns to the ethos of the first film and delivers a great collection of shorts that are rewatchable both together and on their own. It stays far and away from Viral’s cringe-worthy social media angle in favor of a more grounded narrative, involving a gruesome tape-obsessed cult and the SWAT team sent in to deal with them. This collection of shorts sticks to a formula while still planting itself firmly within its ties to retro media and the new kid on the block in horror, the subgenre that is analog horror.
For those out of the loop, analog horror was born out of creator Kris Straub’s smash-hit web series, Local58, an apocalyptic late-night local broadcast depicting various end-times, along with the victims of eldritch entities and government experimentation alike. I really cannot do it justice here in so few words, so I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t seen it to go check it out.
Since then, many creators inspired by Straub have brought in that candid quality of analog media to their own projects. The slew of successors has shown that, just like the horror of yesteryear, this pioneering wave of horror creators are in the same boat as many traditional horror directors and writers; they’re creatives with visionary ideas on micro budgets and they have serious potential to be the future of horror.
And while V/H/S94 is admittedly not as small scale as those productions, it maintains that energy; it has a low-budget charm while retaining a fine polish. It embraces the particular dirtiness embodied by the technology of the decade its set into great effect. “Storm Drain” feels like a small production between a handful of people about an urban legend, dripping with atmosphere and terror. “The Empty Wake” is presented on both vintage security footage and the funeral home attendant’s personal camera, giving it that necessary grit and silent tension of someone unsure that the corpse they’re looking over may not be dead. And the frame story of “Holy Hell,” with its grisly final hours of police being picked off one by one by deranged snuff film producers brings all the stories together with a distinct nastiness brought to the table by the artificial deterioration of the footage. This analog horror, contained in the tapes of people forced to record for their own sanity and safety, lends an effective level of realism viewers can get lost in, as well as providing an uncomfortable level of intimacy.
And it was upon making that connection, one of intimacy, that I realized why V/H/S94 and analog horror at large has become so popular. This type of fiction stands at the center of an offputting world, not of the current media we have, but of the analog media we know we’re going to lose, the world of lost media. After all, the rediscovery of something that was lost and changed has been the driving force behind the popularity of the V/H/S films thus far.
We see the obsoletion of things like VHS tapes, and in turn, observe not just the inevitable death of the mechanisms, but the memories inside of them. We lose not just the cartoons and movies of your childhood, but home movies, school recital recordings, weddings, and baby showers. Good times end up cursed to wither in the confines of something we can’t use and gain a new life only as a reliquary for vague familiarity. Analog horror takes that familiarity we have with the quaint and personal, removes their markings, and exploits our nostalgia before it turns it on its head to give us a gruesome, twisted version we can’t look away from. It adds a dark tinge to a medium that is obscuring itself from us in real-time and implants the thought that these tapes, the tapes that used to be ours, might just hold as much fear as they do nostalgia.
You can watch V/H/S 94 on Shudder!
It Came From Shudder: December Edition
It’s the first Friday of December! You know what that means, it’s time to share a small selection of movies that we’ve watched, or are looking forward to watching on Shudder. Look, we get it, Shudder serves up tons of content and it’s constantly adding new stuff to its catalog. So we’re here to help you with a handful of recommendations.
What to watch on Shudder this Month
A Wounded Fawn
This trailer caught my eye from the start. From what I gather, it’s about a woman who goes on a weekend getaway with a man she’s been seeing who happens to be a serial killer. Starring Sarah Lind and Josh Ruben, this movie looks very suspenseful… and weird? I can’t wait to watch this and get to the bottom of all the weird visuals sprinkled into the trailer.
Christmas Bloody Christmas
Directed by Joe Begos, this movie takes place on Christmas Eve and pits a record store owner against a violent homicidal robot Santa Claus. Yes, I know how that sounds, and yes, I’m sure it’s going to be awesome. The trailer looks so colorful, and it immediately transported me to my second most favorite time of the year, Christmas. Robo-Santa Plus looks brutal and over the top, two things I love in my horror. Christmas Bloody Christmas is available to stream on Shudder starting December 9th.
Scare Package 2: Rad Chad’s Revenge
If you’re a fan of horror anthologies like we, then you’re going to love Scare Package 2: Rad Chad’s Revenge. The highly anticipated sequel to fan favorite Scare Package follows Rad Chad’s funeral, where attendees must survive death traps based on Chad’s favorite movies.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Shudder outdid themselves this time. Bringing us not just A Nightmare on Elm Street, but the entire collection! Do yourself a favor and rewatch these movies immediately, because I can guarantee you it’s been too long since the last time you did. As a bonus make sure to give Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street a watch. Seeing Nightmare on Elm Street 2 actor Mark Patton’s perspective and experience as a gay actor makes for some of the most touching, compelling TV in recent memory.
Joe Bob’s Goultide Get-Together
Live streaming Friday, December 16th at 9 PM Eastern on Shudder TV. This holiday-themed episode will surely be filled with fun facts, awesome interviews, and a double feature that will have us all tweeting in excitement. As of now, we have no idea which movies will play and that’s half the fun! The other half? Guessing Darcy’s cosplays for the night. If you have never participated in a Joe Bob live stream, make sure you tune in on time and have Twitter ready to engage! It’s a good time. If you happen to miss the live stream, no worries! The episode will be available to stream later on in the weekend.
Next time you’re looking for something to watch on Shudder, make sure to stream these titles!
There’s News Down in Newville: ‘The Mean One’ (Horror-Parody of ‘The Grinch’) Trailer Has Arrived
As the release of The Grinch horror parody draws near, The Mean One trailer is finally here!
David Howard Thornton, who has recently skyrocketed in popularity due to his fantastic performance as Art the Clown in the Terrifier films, plays the titular “Mean One.” Given his previous success with making a monster that can be as entertaining as terrifying, he is a perfect match for the role of the antagonist in this Christmas horror comedy.
Directed by Steven Lamorte, the film follows a grown-up Cindy You-Know-Who (Krystle Martin) who witnessed her mother be murdered by the Christmas-hating green monster years prior. As the trailer shows Cindy arming herself with weapons, Krystle Martin’s character promises to make for a badass female lead.
One marked difference between this film and its source material is that it gives us a monster amongst humans rather than a creature amongst other creatures. Judging by the trailer, that will be far from the only difference offered by the horror parody of the Dr. Seuss Christmas favorite.
He may not stop Christmas from coming, but he will make it his own.
Check out The Mean One in theaters on December 9th!