The found footage anthology franchise has offered various different stories of bloody mayhem and creepy imagery
The V/H/S series came out at a time when the found footage was in the midst of a boom thanks to the enormous success of Paranormal Activity only a couple of years prior. But as a slew of other feature-length found footage films hit the market and quickly learned just how difficult it is to maintain that particular style for an hour and a half, V/H/S seemed ahead of the curve in branding itself as an anthology film, with various short segments making up the whole.
The franchise launched three films before coming to a stop after 2014’s V/H/S Viral, and all three contain some brilliantly fun and creative work from the various filmmakers from all around the world that the series has brought on. The first new entry in seven years, V/H/S/94 is a proper return to form that features some of the very best shorts yet, adding to an already impressive list of inspired found footage horror that the franchise has spawned.
We narrowed down the numerous short films to the top ten, which include everything from mad scientists to zombies to cults and everything in between. Here’s hoping that the V/H/S films are here to stay, because they’ve given the horror community some of the most entertaining moments of the past decade.
‘Slumber Party Alien Abduction’ (V/H/S/2) by Jason Eisener
Undoubtedly the segment with the best title, Slumber Party Alien Abduction is also one of the simplest. A group of kids have the house to themselves after their parents leave, and a fun night of immature antics quickly turns into terror when aliens arrive to abduct them. A camera attached to the family’s small dog captures most of the action, which not only makes for a unique perspective, but also adds to the disorienting and eventually horrifying feeling of an innocent home video going terribly wrong. A simple premise executed as effectively as found footage can be.
‘Dante the Great’ (V/H/S Viral) by Gregg Bishop
V/H/S Viral may be the point where the specific concept and aesthetic of the franchise got tossed out the window, but Dante the Great shows that the film still had plenty of creative filmmakers at the helm. Presented as a documentary interspersed with interviews, the segment follows the career of a magician (Justin Welborn) who becomes incredibly famous after coming into possession of a mysterious cloak. The cloak allows him to perform feats of actual magic, but there’s a steep price to be paid that’s eventually discovered by his new assistant (Emmy Argo). Dante the Great is clever and features a pair of wonderfully imaginative sequences of magic action, as well as some great performances that take it a step above the rest. Scary? Not quite. Entertaining? You betcha.
‘Second Honeymoon’ (V/H/S) by Ti West
One of the first segments from the original film, Second Honeymoon is the home video tape of vacationing couple Sam (Joe Swanberg) and Stephanie (Sophia Takal). The two check out tourist attractions around Arizona and it’s clear that they’re suffering from some issues, particularly the way Sam often talks down to Stephanie and dismisses her. Much of the dialogue feels natural, perhaps even slightly improvised, which helps the segment feel all the more immersive and makes it all the creepier when a stranger breaks into their hotel room in the night and records some footage of their own. It’s a nightmare come to life: you’re snoozing away and someone comes in to mess with you in the dark with a knife. Sometimes the more realistic frights are stronger than the more fantastical.
‘Storm Drain’ (V/H/S/94) by Chloe Okuno
Filmed in dark, damp, and claustrophobic sewers, Storm Drain kicks off the first new entry for the franchise in seven years and manages to remind audiences how good the found footage subgenre can be. The sewers serve as the home for an urban legend known as The Rat Man, which local news reporter Holly (Anna Hopkins) foolishly decides to explore in search of a good story. From the perspective of her cameraman, the limited light and 90s era quality of the image make for a horrifying setting. Okuno stages some legitimately scary sequences and the story only keeps getting crazier, establishing a wonder of a balancing act between serious scares and a cheeky bit of humor as well. It’s all the better for it.
‘Safe Haven’ (V/H/S/2) by Timo Tjahjanto & Gareth Huw Evans
The further you get into Safe Haven, the story of a documentary crew being granted permission to enter the grounds of a disturbing cult called Paradise Gates, the more and more insane things seem to get. The cult members, led by a deranged man that has others refer to him as Father, are unnerving from the start, and once the group gets separated, you know it can only mean disaster. But there’s no way of knowing what crazy and gory thing is going to happen next in the house of horrors that Father has put together. Safe Haven is one of the most memorable offerings from the V/H/S franchise for its excessive blood and guts and increasingly unhinged plot.
‘Amateur Night’ (V/H/S) by David Bruckner & Nicholas Tecosky
Amateur Night has the honor of being the full short of the entire franchise, and it absolutely delivers. As most people’s introduction to the anthology series, it’s likely one of the reasons the films have continued this far. The segment follows three young dirtbags who rent a motel room in the hopes of scoring some women for a fun night, and secretly recording the encounter without the women’s knowledge. The first three V/H/S films have an unfortunate tendency to learn a bit towards casual misogyny and bro-culture, but Amateur Night is one of the few segments to actually play off of it and feel self-aware. It’s smart with it’s use of the first-person perspective and as terrifying as it is darkly funny.
‘The Subject’ (V/H/S/94) by Timo Tjahjanto
Tjahjanto returns to the franchise with The Subject, and once again proves himself to be one of the most insanely brilliant and creative filmmakers to contribute to the series. The Subject takes place in a grim and bloody underground laboratory, where a mad scientist has been conducting horrendous experiments on kidnapped victims. What starts off as gruesome body horror goes into all sorts of different directions – speeches about morality and humanity, the combination of flesh and metal that acts as a symbol for the ushering in of the digital age (this takes place during the 90s, afterall) and eventually, an action-packed spectacle that resembles a combination of Red Bull and first-person shooters. It’s horror madness in the best way.
‘Parallel Monsters’ (V/H/S Viral) by Nacho Vigalondo
Further proving that V/H/S Viral refused to let the constraints of the found footage style stop it from doing whatever the hell it wanted, Nacho Vigalondo’s Parallel Monsters is an intriguing and ambitious concept. It follows an inventor named Alfonso (Gustavo Salmeron) who manages to complete his work on an interdimensional portal in the middle of the night. Upon turning the machine on, he’s greeted by a seemingly identical version of himself from a parallel world. The two Alfonso’s can’t help but want to explore each other’s realities, so, armed with only their own individual cameras, they venture out into the other’s world. The differences that they discover are beyond anything they could’ve imagined. Parallel Monsters has a lot of fun with its reveals, which are so absurd and weird that it can’t be anything but horror.
‘A Ride in the Park’ (V/H/S/2) by Eduardo Sánchez & Gregg Hale
A Ride in the Park is the classic tale of zombies getting their brain-munching on but told from a genuinely genius perspective: What if a zombie had a GoPro attached to their head? A man named Mike (Jay Saunders) is out on his usual bike ride when he stumbles across a mortally wounded woman. When Mike attempts to help, she takes a good chunk out of him and the Good Samaritan is suddenly infected with a bonafide zombie virus, and quickly gets to work biting others. The segment captures all of the very best that zombie entertainment has to offer; the tragedy of it, the gruesome violence of it, and of course, the macabre amount of fun it can be.
‘The Empty Wake’ (V/H/S/94) by Simon Barrett
Simon Barrett, known for his shorts in the original V/H/S as well as V/H/S/2, is another filmmaker who returns for the franchise’s return and delivers his best work yet with The Empty Wake. The segment follows a young girl named Haley who’s just begun a new job at a funeral home. She’s been left by herself one evening to handle the wake for a recently deceased man, but – perhaps due to an increasingly dangerous storm outside – nobody is showing up. The family requested that the wake be filmed, so the segment is told through the perspective of a camera in the corner of the room as well as a handheld one that Haley uses. Church organ music is what helps set the mood and create an effective atmosphere. The Empty Wake is a chilling slowburn that builds and builds until things reach a crazy conclusion.
‘V/H/S/94’ is now streaming exclusively on Shudder. Read our full review – HERE.