The V/H/S series has become a yearly landmark for most horror fans. It’s been a source of discovery for some prominent voices while established names experiment with their craft. This year’s V/H/S/85 features some of the biggest names to date, including Scott Derrickson (Black Phone, Doctor Strange) and David Bruckner (The Ritual). However, this will work as an excellent introduction for audiences unfamiliar with Gigi Saul Guerrero, Mike P. Nelson, or Natasha Kermani. Below, we break down each of the five segments. The order below is based on their first appearance (as several segments reoccur).
“Total Copy” – Directed by David Bruckner
A creature is discovered on Earth, and scientists quickly become obsessed with its metamorphosis. Borrowing from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, E.T., and other 1970s sci-fi, the creature design is impeccable. Bruckner’s best examinations come in its dissection of the primary scientist, as his monomania takes over all reason. It’s nice to see Brucker work with a goofier tone than his emotionally punishing The Ritual, but he maintains his eye for stunning creature design. However, there are elements of the short, precisely because it’s utilized as a recurring bumper, that hurt its ability to build momentum. The choice to add a Deadline/60 Minutes style narrator helps fit us within the 1980s vibes as well. It’s a good, but not excellent, short from an established director.
“No Wake” – Directed by Mike P. Nelson
A group of teens go to a local lake to enjoy the nice weather. However, the day turns when it turns out they are being hunted. Without breaking into spoiler territory, this was undeniably the most surprising short. Nelson builds the story in a way that helps us care about a group of characters quickly, and when the violence begins, we feel the stakes. However, the finale is both exciting and somewhat disappointing. No Wake walks a fine line, but it showcases that Mike P. Nelson was not a fluke with his 2021 Wrong Turn. If anything, he’s building a strong foundation toward a future mainstream hit.
“God of Death” – Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero
After an earthquake, a rescue team saves a member of a local news station. However, as the group attempts to escape the wreckage of the building, they discover a much more powerful force. Gigi Saul Guerrero may not be a household name yet, but that’s only a matter of time. Guerrero combines a shockingly dark human story with stunning visuals. Her exploration of ancient powers and supernatural events is quite upsetting. Depending on your reception of the ending, it might be the very best of the bunch.
“TKNOGD” – Directed by Natasha Kermani
During a one-woman show, the digital world and physical reality clash in violent, unpredictable ways. Despite focusing on technology, this is a minimalist sequence. Kermani challenges the audience’s dependence on technology with some interesting concepts. The monster and its melding the tangible world is an interesting twist. However, “TKNOGD” is held back by its fairly basic premise, and the “live audience” is not as effective as we might hope.
“Dreamkill” – Directed by Scott Derrickson
The most star-studded of the shorts (featuring Freddy Rodriguez and James Ransone) fits in the Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill oeuvre. One part true crime, one part supernatural, and a strong visual allusion to Michael Mann’s Manhunter play up their best efforts. However, the nuances are impressive, and the violence on display is some of their darkest and most upsetting to date. If you’re a Black Phone or Sinister fan, this will be in your wheelhouse, but if you’re not a fan of their work, this one might fall flat.
In many ways, this is the most ambitious V/H/S entry to date. The use of changing timelines, multiple cuts in the storytelling, and obscenely violent imagery firmly sell the collection. For Bruckner and Derrickson, both directors flex their established muscles while showing some potential paths forward for their subsequent work. However, Guerrero, Kermani, and Nelson become instant voices to watch in the horror community. They each showcase a strong eye for storytelling and visuals, and ignoring any of their next projects would be a mistake.