The concept is similar to the previous three films with a wraparound segment (directed by Jennifer Reeder, “Knives and Skin”) about a SWAT team on a mission into a building that appears to have been taken over by a cult of VHS nasties. Bodies are slumped in front of screens, their eyes on the floor next to them. As the SWAT team finds increasingly disturbing scenes of carnage, the anthology unfolds on the TVs, and the production this time very accurately embraces the aesthetic of recording on tape, complete with picture jumps, static, and focus issues. (It’s the first one that actually feels shot on VHS.)
Chloe Okuno helms the first segment, “Storm Drain,” which tracks a reporter (Anna Hopkins) as she hunts down reports of a mysterious “ratman” that lives in the sewers. Thinking she’s turning an urban legend into a human interest piece about the homeless that live in a storm drain, the reporter finds herself in over her head pretty quickly. Cleverly shot and with some remarkable practical effects, it’s a solid tone-setter in that it’s mildly humorous before diving into the dark end of the drain.
Simon Barrett, a series regular, helms my favorite of the new film, “The Empty Wake,” which has a classic ghost story structure in that it follows a new mortician (Kyal Legend) who has been tasked with managing a wake on a dark and stormy night. Of course, no one is coming out in a tornado warning, so it’s just her and the body … which starts making noise. Barrett structures this one beautifully, ending it in a freaky sequence that this gamer thinks intentionally recalls both “Silent Hill” and “The Last of Us,” although I could be wrong. The film is wonderfully executed, maintaining the trapped POV of three stationary cameras, but cutting between them with perfect rhythm.