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The Ending Of V/H/S/99 Explained

It's been years since the first "V/H/S" anthology horror film gave audiences a voyeuristic peak at the horrors that can unfold in the lives of average folks. The series of films has bestowed a seemingly haunted feeling on the classic medium. Let's be honest, if you found a box of unlabeled tapes in a dusty attic of an abandoned home, would you be curious enough to see what's on them? Or has the "V/H/S" films taught you otherwise? Bite-sized horror has made a return with the advent of films like 2007's "Trick 'r Treat." "Creepshow," a classic horror anthology film has enjoyed a resurgence in the form of a Shudder exclusive series offering viewers two tales of horror per episode. Several indie films have even emerged like "Southbound," "Holidays," or "Ghost Stories" that offer a smattering of short horror stories primed to rile up viewers with disturbing imagery.

The "V/H/S" films have been popular among fans with "V/H/S/99" being the fifth entry in the series. Each segment often features a new set of characters and different director giving audiences horror experiences from multiple perspectives in one sitting. The fabled series often dedicates it time to karmic comeuppance for souls who are bold enough to tempt fate or offend others. Their grisly fates are often the stuff of nightmares. With the recent release of "V/H/S/99," let's dive head first into the macabre tales of the sinister and supernatural and analyze the themes and narratives that unfold on screen.

The absence of an over-arching plot

The "V/H/S" films have often followed a set formula. Typically, the film has a central storyline that interconnects a handful of other stories. For instance, the first film depicts vandals breaking into an abandoned home, and they watch tapes found in the house. After each viewing, one of them seemingly disappears. There's ultimately a finality in the film that results with the culmination of what has been occurring between each segment — or tape.

"V/H/S/99" differs in the fact that it has no over-arching plot. There is not really a story that plays out in between segments and ultimately connects the stories to one another. Instead, sequences of stop-motion animation take place. One of the boys from the segment "The Gawkers" is creating his own stop-motion film using army soldiers and other assorted toys to simulate an ongoing battle mostly for laughs. "The Gawkers" sequences ends with the boys either being brutally killed by their next door neighbor or turned to stone — but we'll get to that in a moment.

Don't fear the bhuta

"Shredding" introduces us to the punk band R.A.C.K. The name is derived from the names of its four members: Rachel (Jesse LaTourette), Ankur (Keanush Tafreshi), Chris (Dashiell Derrickson), and Kaleb (Jackson Kelly). During the '80s and '90s, punk rock was at the height of its popularity with the emergence of bands like Green Day, The Offspring, and Blink 182, among countless others. It's fitting, then, that "V/H/S/99" would use the punk rock scene to establish one of its horror settings. Like many punk bands of the era, R.A.C.K. isn't just all about the music. In typical teenage fashion, they thrive on wild antics that they can film for their web series. Enter the Colony Underground: a dilapidated and abandoned performance hall that burned down years ago during an electrical fire. A band, by the name of B**** Cat, was performing when the fire broke out, causing the crowd to panic and flee for the exits. The only casualties in the event were the band members themselves, who were trampled in the chaos.

Ankur is the only trepidatious member of R.A.C.K. fearing supernatural retaliation for what he perceives is a mockery of the dead by his fellow bandmates. He claims that the bhuta will haunt and destroy them. In ancient Hindu mythology, a bhuta is the spirit of a person who has typically died rather violently and remains in the mortal plain due to the spirit's unrest (via Britannica). Ankur has claimed to have heard stories of the angry spirits wreaking horrifying vengeance on those who disturb them. His bandmates take his fears lightly and even prank him, causing him to bail on the entire affair.

Mockery paid for in blood

Ankur is afraid of disturbing the dead. So what do his bandmates do? They use inflatable sex dolls filled with fake blood to represent the four women of B**** Cat on stage. To further demonstrate their total lack of class and taste, the teens then proceed to stomp on the dolls, thus reenacting their deaths for the web series. At this point, we're just begging to see some vengeful spirits give these arrogant teens their just desserts. Well, viewers don't have to wait long. During the production, Kaleb gets a tad overzealous with his stomping antics and is quickly snatched up into the blackness of above. His dismembered remains then fall at the feet of Rachel and Chris who then flee in terror.

Rachel and Chris then become the stars of the show as one of the spirits grabs the camcorder and films their attempts to flee the undead punk band. Chris is cornered and summarily ripped to shreds by the vengeful ghosts. Ankur never manages to find his way out of the Colony Underground and is an unfortunate casualty in the bhuta rampage, despite his refusal to participate in the unsavory production. Rachel is the last of the four teens to survive but is quickly found by the specters and dismembered. Following her brutal death, the spirits can be seen dragging her torso in front of the camera and attempting to put pieces of her body back together like a puzzle. The final scene is a twisted image of what R.A.C.K. set out to do. But instead of B**** Cat being the butt of the joke, It's R.A.C.K. The four ghouls reassembled the bloody body parts of each teen and placed them on the stage like puppets for the band's web series. What a fitting demise.

The legend of Giltine

It's a tale as old as, well, at least 1977's "Sisters of Death" — a film about a sorority initiation (or rather a hazing) gone awry. In fact, there have been many horror films dedicated to the premise of fresh-faced candidates for college sororities vying for a chance at sisterhood but ultimately meeting a grisly fate by accident. Out of fear for the obvious legal ramifications, the sorority typically keeps the truth suppressed. But as all good horror movies go, the dark secret emerges in the form of an undead or vindictive killer bent on a revenge. Perhaps the most modern example of this premise is 2009's "Sorority Row." The segment, "Suicide Bid," follows Lily (Alexia Loannides), a college freshman who entered an exclusive rush bid to Beta Sigma Eta. The title of the segment refers to when a sorority candidate puts all her eggs in one basket, so to speak, by only applying to one sorority. The risk is, of course, that the sorority won't accept her, and she'll face social isolation.

The sorority decides to take Lily's application and compels her to complete a daring task. They tell her she has to spend an entire night buried inside of a coffin that they've rigged to a bell above ground. Lily can ring the bell if she gives up but then would forfeit her place in the sorority. Before burying her, they tell her of the local tale of Giltine, another sorority candidate who was given the same challenge but left there by the entire sorority for over a week. When they unearthed her coffin, it was empty with many rumoring that she crawled directly to the underworld. It's all just bluster and folk tales in an attempt to scare poor Lily.... Right?

A pact with Giltine

As is typical with these types of stories, the sorority is horrendously cruel. One of the members gives Lily a box and puts on an earnest face telling her that she can open it only when she needs strength to continue on through the night. Once Lily is in the coffin, the sorority toys with her by using sticks to knock and rattle her coffin. Scared, Lily opens the box only to find it filled with spiders, so she rings the bell.

However, security arrives at that time, and the sorority girls flee, understanding they could be expelled for the prank. They agree to come back and release Lily in the morning. But, of course, a rainstorm begins that floods Lily's coffin. Simultaneously, a horrific ghoul breaks into Lily's coffin. Obviously, Giltine is the real deal. The sisters find the flooded grave site in the morning and panic. They attempt to see if Lily is still in the coffin but find that it's empty, mirroring the story they told her of Giltine. Agreeing to stay silent on the matter, the sorority parts ways only to find themselves awakening inside their own separate coffins with cameras. A zombified Lily appears alongside Giltine in the coffin to reveal that she struck a bargain with the fabled Giltine: She'd trade the souls of the girls in the sorority in exchange for her own. The good sisters are then killed inside their underground coffins. It's rather poetic.

A creepy game show

Most remember the colorful obstacle course game shows of the '80s and '90s. In "Double Dare," families were pitted against one another in series of mini games and obstacles they had to complete in order to win the day. On Nickelodeon, "Legends of the Hidden Temple" was an ultra-popular obstacle course-style game show where young athletes would compete in wild sequences that involved plenty of running, jumping, and climbing. They'd often be tested both in knowledge and physicality in wild Mayan temple-themed gauntlets. These are the types of shows that the segment "Ozzy's Dungeon" draws inspiration from. Steven Ogg plays the enthusiastic host of the game pushing the young competitors to outdo each other in the obstacles that lie in their path. During a final sequence in the games, one contestant, Donna (Amelia Ann), gets stuck and is then severely injured, ultimately crippling her for life. The host carries on with the games uncaring of Donna's injury.

Years down the road, we're introduced to the host once again as he is being held captive by Donna's vindictive mother, Debra (Sonya Eddy). She tortures the host and forces him to run makeshift obstacles to humiliate him. Donna is wheelchair-bound, and the rest of her family aids Debra in taunting and threatening the host with his life. For a time, it seems this might just be the actual horror at play for this segment...

Donna's wish

But oh no, this is "V/H/S." The horror is always more creative than an unhinged family out for blood. Over the course of the host's imprisonment and torture, it's revealed that Debra wasn't really just a big momma bear seeking vengeance for the harm inflicted toward her cub on "Ozzy's Dungeon" years ago. In fact, she had been pushing her daughter to win the show so Debra could collect the prizes along the way. She's isn't exactly mother of the year, then.

Everything takes a wild turn when the host attempts to stop his own murder by offering to Debra the opportunity for Donna to secure a wish with Ozzy — the typical prize afforded to the champion. He claims he knows where Ozzy is. The host guides Debra and her family to the old, abandoned studio where "Ozzy's Dungeon" used to be filmed. Once they sneak past armed security and get inside, the family sees Ozzy, a deformed woman laying upon an altar. Ozzy clearly has worshippers who are wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the show's logo. It seems that they must be former contestants or likely champions who have also been able to obtain a wish from Ozzy. Kneeling before Ozzy, the host motions to Donna to "make a good wish." What happens next is the stuff of H.P. Lovecraft's darkest nightmares: An otherworldly creature emerges from Ozzy's stomach and begins melting the faces off the host, and Donna's family while Donna idly sits by smiling mischievously. It's clear that Donna is done being mistreated... even by her own family.

The gorgon

The primary subjects of the "The Gawkers" are just as the title implies: a group of teen boys who spy on their attractive neighbor. It's a commentary on the popularity of '90s and early '00s films like "American Pie" where invading the privacy of a young woman for sexual gratification was glorified for prestige and laughs. Here, it's turned into a horror that gives the peepers a terrifying comeuppance. Brady (Ethan Pogue) is the young teen who has been filming the stop motion animated films in between each segment. His older brother Dylan (Luke Mullen) takes the camera and goes out with his friends Mark (Cree Kawa), Kurt (Tyler Lofton), and Boner (Duncan Anderson). While the boys are filming their antics, they come across a large snake skin that has been left behind by the reptile.

Later, the boys spy on a neighbor named Sandra (Emily Sweet) while she's sunbathing in her backyard pool. The friends notice her home is decorated with ornate stone statues of individuals (subtle foreshadowing). After they see Sandra conversing with Brady, Dylan and his friends convince Brady to betray her trust and install spyware on her computer so they can access her webcam and potentially see her undress. Later, the group watches Sandra do just that, but are horrified by what they see. It's revealed that she's a gorgon of Greek myth. Gorgons, like the fabled Medusa, are horrific reptilian women with snakes for hair who are known for turning victims to stone with a simple glare. Sandra realizes she is being watched by the neighbors and leaps into their home. She viciously kills Boner, Kurt, and Mark. As Dylan and Brady flee, she corners them at the bottom of the stairs and turns them both to stone. 

A ritual gone wrong

Many of us who were around during the late 20th Century remember the looming specter of Y2K all too well. Conspiracies and rumors were abuzz with "end of the world" chatter. Mostly, the talk of the globe was that computers would go haywire from the date change heading into a new millennium that'd ultimately send us all back into the stone age kicking and screaming. However, "To Hell and Back" takes advantage of the nerve-wracking period in which many didn't know what to expect heading into an entirely new millennium. The film follows two documentarians, Nate (Archelaus Crisanto) and Troy (Joseph Winter), who decide to record a satanic cult's ritual to imbue a willing sacrifice with a demonic entity and the turn of the century. During the ritual, however, a feisty demon appears and pulls the videographers to hell. The pair emerges in a darkened world with dried, stony land as far as the eye can see... and that isn't very far. As lightning flashes, the pair can see the outline of an kaiju-sized demon on the horizon. Everywhere they turn, there are horrific monstrosities feeding on flesh and ripping at the beleaguered souls of the damned.

It's a horrifying hellscape that the filmmakers behind this segment — Vanessa and Joseph Winter ("Deadstream") — crafted with impeccable skill. The real crux of the segment is when the duo encounters Mabel (Melanie Stone), a twisted soul who has clearly been doomed to an eternity in the underworld. The only thing Nate and Troy care about is returning to the earthly realm. Mabel agrees to help them escape as long as they write her name in the book of the coven of witches who are performing the ritual.

Mabel's possible return?

The only way back to Earth is to swap places with the Ukabon, the demon that the coven is attempting to summon. As Mabel shows the videographers the way to Ukabon, they find the demon has plenty of acolytes. Nate, Troy, and Mabel are attacked by the cultists. Just as Nate and Troy attempt to escape, they tell Mabel to join them. However, she is stabbed by one of the cultists in the chaos. As the two friends jump into the stomach of the demon, they return to Earth. However, Nate has entered into the body of the voluntary vessel, Kirsten (Tori Pence). Because the ritual was a complete disaster, the coven of witches kill Nate and Troy. While dying, Troy writes Mabel's name in the book with his own blood. The tape ends and returns to the stagnate screen of Brady holding the camera still after being turned to stone by the Gorgon in the previous segment.

Viewers who wait through the credits can hear a tease of a possible future for Mabel. Towards the end, the sounds of the coven's ritual begin clearly attempting to summon Mabel. Perhaps some future "V/H/S" segment will depict a sequel to this storyline in which the tortured soul of Mabel will be resurrected. The next entry in the franchise is "V/H/S/85." So, it is unlikely we'll see any continuation come to fruition in this upcoming entry, given that its title suggests it takes place before the events of this film.