Tyler MacIntyre (“Tragedy Girls”) helms the modest but forgettable “The Gawkers,” which takes the concept of suburban perverts to extremes—again, almost all of these shorts feature someone who messed with the wrong person. In this case, it’s a bunch of sexually overcharged teens in an average cul-de-sac who lose their mind over the beauty of a new neighbor (Emily Sweet). They keep amplifying their voyeurism to the point that they literally install spyware and discover, well, she’s not your average girl next door. This segment is fine but it lacks the energy of the best “V/H/S” chapters.
My favorite is probably “To Hell and Back,” from Vanessa & Joseph Winter, who directed the SXSW hit “Deadstream,” which lands in theaters soon. The manic, Raimi-esque energy of that project is on display here in this tale of two filmmakers (Archelaus Crisanto & Joseph Winter himself) who decide to document a demon-summoning rite on New Year’s Eve and end up going the other way instead. In other words, instead of a demon coming to our world, these two mopes go to Hell. “A found footage movie set in Hell” is too clever a pitch to deny and the Winters have a blast in Satan’s realm, fueled by a fun performance from Melanie Stone as a tour guide of sorts through the insanity they find there.
“Suicide Bid” and “To Hell and Back” alone make “V/H/S/99” worth seeing for anyone who’s a big enough horror fan to subscribe to Shudder. In the end, these films are perfect for a streaming service, bite-sized jolts of genre entertainment that aren’t ever long enough to be truly annoying, even when they’re not working. And while I think they could be more refined, I admire the go-for-broke DIY nature of these shorts and their quirky charms. Even when they’re this pissed off.
This review was filed from the Toronto International Film Festival. “V/H/S/99” drops on Shudder on October 20th.