Released on October 6, 2023, “V/H/S/85” attempts to recapture the nostalgic allure of the 1980s, anchored in the heyday of VCR tape players and VHS camcorders. However, the film falls short of its promise to transport viewers back to the analog past, delivering a lackluster collection of segments that struggle to explore the mediated nature of reality.
The film kicks off with the wraparound segment, “Total Copy,” a confusing tale of government cover-ups and shape-shifting aliens, plagued by awkward attempts at humor. Despite being helmed by renowned director David Bruckner, the segment feels unnecessarily drawn out, lacking the tension needed for a horror anthology.
Following this, “No Wake,” directed by Mike Nelson, offers a generic slasher pastiche set in an abandoned summer camp. While it features grisly scenes and amusing twists, it fails to escape the confines of predictable horror tropes. Gigi Saul Guerrero’s “God of Death” presents a chaotic news broadcast interrupted by an earthquake and supernatural events but fails to match the impact of similar narratives explored in earlier films.
The standout segments in “V/H/S/85” are its shortest ones. Natasha Kermani’s “TKNOGD” portrays a performance art séance descending into an unexpected bloodbath, while Nelson’s “Ambrosia” captures a family reunion turning violent after a police raid. These segments succeed due to their brevity and sharpness, although “Ambrosia” could have delved deeper into its portrayal of folksy terrorist militias.
“Dreamkill,” directed by Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, offers a visually striking yet lackluster experience. It follows a killing spree filmed by the murderer, incorporating closed-circuit footage from the police investigation. Despite a unique twist involving tapes from the future, the segment is marred by overbearing dialogue and an inability to suspend disbelief.
In essence, “V/H/S/85” struggles to strike a balance between nostalgia and fresh storytelling. While some segments manage to captivate, others succumb to predictability and failed attempts at subversion. Ultimately, the film serves as a reminder of the challenges in revitalizing past glory without adding substantial depth to the narrative.