VHS 85 Review: Be Kind, Rewind This Mixed Tape of Horrors


It’s time once again to celebrate the mediocrity of today’s “hottest” film directors with the horror anthology film “VHS 85”, a blend of nostalgia and innovation that both celebrates and critiques the found-footage genre. The film, streaming on Shudder, is the latest installment in the V/H/S series, a franchise that has been both lauded and criticized for its audacious storytelling and uneven quality. Directed by a cadre of seasoned and emerging filmmakers, VHS 85 offers a collection of five segments that delve into various facets of horror, all visually themed around 1980s found-footage technology.

The film’s segments range from the chaotic to the contemplative, each with its own unique narrative and stylistic approach. Natasha Kermani’s “TKNOGD,” for instance, is a performance art séance turned bloodbath that outwears its welcome very quickly. On the other end of the spectrum, “God of Death,” directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, is a chaotic TV news broadcast disrupted by a supernatural event. While the segment is visually arresting, it suffers from a lack of focus and a cluttered narrative.

VHS 85 Review

The film’s most compelling segment is Mike P. Nelson’s short, where a group of friends on a lake trip find themselves under sniper fire. The segment’s gritty realism and palpable tension make it a standout, capturing the essence of what makes found-footage horror so engaging. Yet, not all segments hit their mark. Some, like the aforementioned “TKNOGD” feel stiff and less engaging.

What can be appreciated about VHS 85 is its willingness to experiment, both narratively and stylistically. The film’s directors were encouraged to push boundaries, resulting in segments that are as audacious as they are divisive. For example, in a Polygon interview with the directors, David Bruckner described V/H/S movies as “fuck-you movies,” a term that encapsulates the film’s rebellious spirit.

However, the film’s experimental nature is both its strength and its weakness. While it allows for moments of brilliance, it also results in segments that feel disjointed and uneven. The anthology format itself, although interesting, starts to feel a bit flimsy when the segments don’t quite gel together.

VHS 85 is a mixed bag that will likely polarize audiences. Its audacious storytelling and stylistic experimentation make it a noteworthy addition to the found-footage genre, but its uneven execution prevents it from reaching the heights of its ambitions.

RATING: 3.0 out of 5.

VHS 85 is now streaming on Shudder.

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