Millennial Mayhem in V/H/S/99
The fifth installment in the found footage horror anthology series gets the Y2K jitters
Ask V/H/S/99 producer Josh Goldbloom about making a multidirector anthology movie, and he'll tell you it's "kind of like Ocean's 11. You're going in for the motherfucking heist, you've got to pick all the right people, and then the heist all just goes crazy."
The V/H/S films have always been a murderers' row of horror talents, from Adam Wingard (You're Next) to Ti West (X, Pearl), Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project), Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (the team behind Fantastic Fest 2022 selection Something in the Dirt) and the Radio Silence collective (Ready or Not). For the fifth film in the found footage series, playing at Fantastic Fest ahead of its debut on horror streamer Shudder on Oct. 20, Goldbloom's criminal conspirators include Johannes Roberts (Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City), Maggie Levin (My Valentine), musician/filmmaker Flying Lotus (Kuso), Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls), and Joseph and Vanessa Winter (Deadstream). Looking back on her predecessors, Levin said, "It's lots of horror legends that have done really innovative things with found footage, but one of the things that's so beautiful about this series is that it really encourages you to push the boundaries of what's been done before, and then of what you personally can do within the parameters."
But now, what were those parameters? Unlike a lot of anthology films, the V/H/S movies are not just a stack of shorts bolted together. Instead, there's a unifying narrative or thematic component. With the fifth film in the series, Goldbloom said, "We had dumb ideas like, 'Hey, let's do V/H/Xmas, let's take V/H/S to space, what if V/H/S is in medieval times?'"
"Sign me up," said Roberts.
"Straight up," Goldbloom said, "our first pitch to Shudder before we came back with V/H/S/99 was V/H/Xmas, and they were like, 'Try again.'"
"That's not a bad idea," added MacIntyre. "We need more holiday horror."
"Maybe V/H/S Chanukah," mused Goldbloom. "We'll take it in a completely different direction. The story of the Maccabees and shit."
However, the producers realized they didn't quite feel they were quite done with the last film in the franchise, V/H/S/94, and decided to revisit the era. Once the format was set, the task at hand became clear, said Levin: "Take the idea and crank it to 11."
That liberty could be a little off-putting for the filmmakers. Joseph Winter said, "I was worried that there were certain tones that we could do that would be off-putting to fans and didn't quite fit the other films, and at some point Vanessa and I realized that the only way we could do [it] was to just be our full selves."
Re-creating the era came in many forms: For Levin's segment, "Shredding," she referenced the promotional videos record labels used to send out to promoters and journalists ("I used to have a Spice Girls promo on VHS because my mother worked for Virgin Records," she said). MacIntyre brought back "that weird cultural artifact" of people wearing goggles on their foreheads "for this six-month period from October '98 to April '99." As for Flying Lotus, his segment, "Ozzy's Dungeon," demanded three different period-specific looks, mixing home movie-style footage with a recording of a Legends of the Hidden Temple-style TV game show, and an uncanny third environment. He said, "The challenge was the reason to do it, and it was an excuse to have some parts that are more polished-feeling, in contrast with the VHS vibe."
MacIntyre's segment, "The Gawkers," serves as an acerbic commentary on glossy late Nineties sex comedies, but he also wanted to make sure the visuals matched the suburban setting. He said, "We shot on a Hi8 camera that I haven't used in 25 years. You're using it, and going, 'Oh, this is great,' and then it starts to die and the dead pixels are showing up, and you go, 'I don't know if this camera is going to survive this shoot.' But you learn to roll in those very specific things that are from a specific era, and it becomes fun."
And that sense of fun is what attracted Flying Lotus to making a V/H/S component. He said, "Life is hard, making movies is hard, so if you're going to have to make something, make something that is going to be fun every day."
Sun., Sept. 25, 8:40pm; Wed., Sept. 28, 11:45pm