V/H/S/85 (2023) Movie Review - The Best Entry Yet?

Horror, Found Footage, Anthology | 110 Min
Cover from found footage horror anthology movie V/H/S/85 (2023)
  • Director: David Bruckner, Scott Derrickson, Gigi Saul Guerrero
  • Actors: Alex Galick, Anna Sundberg, Evie Bair, Jennifer Edwards, Justen Jones, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Gabriela Roel, Florencia Ríos, Chivonne Michelle, James Ransone, Freddy Rodríguez, Jordan Belfi
  • Writers: David Bruckner, C. Robert Cargill, Zoe Cooper, Scott Derrickson, Evan Dickson, Natasha Kermani, Mike P. Nelson, Gigi Saul Guerrero
  • Producers: Josh Goldbloom, Brad Miska, David Bruckner, Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, James Harris
  • Country: United States, Mexico
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Parental: Violence, Gore, Language, Female Nudity, Injury Detail
  • Horror, Found Footage, Anthology | 110 Min

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.

Welcome to Knockout Horror. I’ve been catching up on some movies that I happened to have missed in recent years. I tend to spend more time watching low budget crap than I do brand new Hollywood horror. Meaning I end up with a massive back catalogue that I need to clean up. Today’s movie is 2023’s V/H/S/85.

Believe it or not, I have watched every iteration in this series of Horror Anthologies but only ever reviewed two of them – V/H/S and V/H/S/99. Part of that is down to the fact that I watched most of them before I even had a horror review website. And part of it is down to the fact that they are all fairly uneven. So How does V/H/S/85 hold up? Let’s take a look.

Catching Up

The V/H/S series is six movies deep, believe it or not. Another release, a sci-fi horror themed anthology, is set for October this year. So I figured it was probably time for me to catch up on some reviews. If we are being perfectly honest, I think the majority of horror fans can probably take or leave the series, as a whole. V/H/S has a bit of a cult following but none stand out tremendously. Even with the bevy of well known horror directors attached to them.

A Screenshot from found footage horror anthology movie V/H/S/85 (2023)

The majority seem to consider V/H/S/2 to be the series’ best entry. But I probably prefer the first movie or even 2022’s V/H/S/99. V/H/S: Viral, in my opinion, is one of the worst horror anthologies I have ever seen. And V/H/S/94 has slipped my mind completely. Though I believe it is the most critically well regarded entry. 

More of the Same

V/H/S/85 is more of the same. It crams six stories into a little under two hours. Though one of the stories, Total Copy, is segmented between the others as a sort of wraparound feature. And another two, No Wake and Ambrosia, are connected in setting and theme.

Naturally, everything is filmed in an old school, grainy, VHS style, 4:3 aspect ratio with the exception of Dreamkill which is shown in 16:9 widescreen. We even have the occasional commercial spliced in, ala WNUF Halloween Special, and everything is presented as if played directly off of a worn out VHS tape.

Total Copy, directed by The Ritual’s David Bruckner, acts as the wraparound story and follows a team of scientists studying a shapeshifting creature known as Rory. No Wake, directed by Wrong Turn’s (2021) Mike P. Nelson, sees a group of friends heading to the lake for some fun in the sun. Only to find their day ruined when a sniper takes aim at their boat.

A Screenshot from found footage horror anthology movie V/H/S/85 (2023)

God of Death, directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, is set during the 1985 Mexico City earthquake and sees a group of rescuers attempting to find their way out of collapsed building. While inadvertently entering the underground resting place of an Aztec God. TKNOGD, directed by Natasha Kermani, follows a performance artist attempting to summon the god of technology in a virtual reality world. 

Mike P. Nelson’s second segment, Ambrosia, sees a family celebrating their teenage daughters completion, and filming, of a traditional family ritual. And the final segment, Dreamkill directed by The Black Phone’s Scott Derrickson, follows a police detective attempting to find out the identity of a brutal serial killer.

High Production Standards Throughout

Something that stands out about V/H/S/85 is how high the production values are. Naturally, these are a bunch of directors well versed in filmmaking and it shows. Everything feels polished and high quality. Practical effects are amazing, in parts. Acting is solid throughout and pacing is generally decent.

A Screenshot from found footage horror anthology movie V/H/S/85 (2023)

Each of the segments has its own unique style. The only thing tying them all together is some of the 80’s themes present and the VHS cassette tape presentation. Each story focuses on something that was a legitimate fear in that era. Crazy cults were a big thing in the 80s, as were alien creatures and sadistic serial killers. The ’85 Mexico earthquake was one of the most significant events in the country’s history and fear of technology causing job losses and worsening society was very prevalent back then.

Different Styles

Total Copy plays out almost like a documentary. With footage of the scientists conducting their work and an all knowing voice relating the fears of certain scientists. No Wake is framed as a camcorder recording of friends having fun at the lake. With the camera being passed around from person to person. God of Death starts off as a Mexican television news show before turning into traditional found footage. With the surviving cameraman refusing to stop filming.

A Screenshot from found footage horror anthology movie V/H/S/85 (2023)

TKNOGD is shown from two video cameras recording a woman’s solo performance art show with occasional glimpses into the virtual reality world. Dreamkill is a mix of distorted Super 8 camera footage recorded by the killer, police security camera footage and interviews. And Ambrosia plays out as home camcorder footage.

Each of the styles works well for its respective story. Though I would argue that Dreamkill’s will appeal to more people simply due to being a bit higher quality and a bit more varied.

No Truly Bad Segments

This has to be a first for the V/H/S series, right? There are, legitimately, no bad segments in V/H/S/85. All have their plus points and all are legitimately watchable. If I had to point to one segment as being the weakest, I would have to say it is TKNOGD. The concept is interesting and the Lawnmower Man style aesthetics will please some. But it just feels like filler and far less fleshed out than the other segments. 

The wraparound story, Total Copy, is pretty dull, in my opinion. It takes a long time to go anywhere and ends with a bit of a whimper. God of Death falls somewhere in the middle. With the Mexican daytime television styling being a lot of fun before it spends the rest of its runtime crawling through tunnels. I really enjoyed the end, though.

A Screenshot from found footage horror anthology movie V/H/S/85 (2023)

Dreamkill is great but goes on a little too long. It could do with being a little tighter but I am sure people will appreciate the almost analog horror stylings of some of the scenes. There is full movie potential here and the story was fairly compelling.

A Standout Segment

No Wake stands as the best segment in the bunch and, I would argue, one of the best V/H/S segments ever. There is definite full movie potential here. Practical effects are amazing, the setup is simple but effective, the filming style works perfectly and it is actually quite shocking in parts. The way this segment ties into the later segment, Ambrosia, is very creative. Though I can’t help but feel like it will leave people unsatisfied and wanting more. I doubt many will be left feeling like this was a fitting conclusion to one of the better segments in V/H/S history.

A Screenshot from found footage horror anthology movie V/H/S/85 (2023)

All in all, this is one of the better V/H/S movies yet. You have to temper your expectations, of course. A good V/H/S movie is still an average horror. But there are enough decent segments here to keep you entertained and enough polish to place it a few steps above most anthology horror. Some people are going to hate the 80’s aesthetic and some will be seriously put off by the grainy image quality and retro stylings. The movie is predictable throughout, as well. But, as far as these types of movies go, V/H/S/85 is pretty damn watchable.

Should You Watch V/H/S/85?

If you are a fan of horror anthologies and enjoy 80s style content then you should definitely watch V/H/S/85. It doesn’t really have any bad segments and a couple of the segments stand out as being pretty decent. Obviously no horror anthology is truly great, and they are always uneven by their very nature. But for an interesting and varied way to fill a couple of hours with horror goodness, V/H/S/85 is one of the better options.

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