In an effort to fill the void digital has created, collecting physical media has become en vogue again. And with the current trend of 80s revival penetrating the culture, VHS tapes have come back from the dead.
I have a soft spot for VHS tapes. I had a great collection during the days when I had things. I loved to re-watch movies so much, rather than rent them, I would just buy them.
When the local video store, Fox Video, lost the war to Blockbuster and announced it was closing, I went and cleaned out their classic section. It was a sweet score with shelves of Hitchcock and the epic cut of The Godfather Part I & II (a box set with the two films edited in chronological order, paired with a massive full color book featuring making of photos) coming home with me.
When DVDs became a thing, I held out as long as I could. Let’s just say VHS quit me before I quit them.
I loved video tapes. I loved going to the video store. I loved the sound of a tape rewinding at 100 mph and then the sudden stop that made you wonder if the thing just snapped. I loved the mystery blank tapes that had random movies recorded on it. I got one with Clash of the Titans and Body Double that was awesome. I loved how impractical tapes were. They were large, loud, poorly made and easily damaged. Which is why they were so great. No one gave a shit about VHS tapes so they were just everywhere and no one treated them like precious metals. You really couldn’t be pretentious about your tape collection like the vinyl snobs out there. That was reserved for film print collectors. No, VHS is the PBR of collectibles. Or, perhaps more fittingly, the Dial-Up of entertainment. A great entry point that has helped expose millions of people to a world of things they would have never known before, but we’ve moved past it now.
So VHS is back and there is a whole subculture that collects tapes now, seeking out variations of cases and shit, and they were out in force at VHS Fest at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater this past weekend.
There were a dozen or so vendors slinging everything from Retro designed T-shirts and patches to mummified reptiles, and, of course, VHS tapes. It produced a parking lot full of dudes in black t-shirts roaming around with big blocks of nostalgia in hand.
At one stand, as I perused a collection of sketchbooks made out of VHS boxes, a debate arouse between the vendor and a dude in a patched up jean jacket over who had seen GWAR more times. I believe the vendor’s 28 won.
Four films were on tap for Saturday night. Slime City, The Abomination, Mutilations and Faces of Death with a series of videos by Mr. Nasty playing between the features.
I had no intentions of watching Faces of Death again. That was a high school, half-day rental along with the original UFC videos that had Ken Shamrock, Royce Gracies and a bunch of lumberjacks in a day long tournament that usually devolved into a mess by the second fight when most of the winners had to drop out because of injury.
I didn’t make it to Mutilations, the 3rd feature of the evening. It was already 1am when it was coming on and I was mentally exhausted from Slime City and The Abomination.
Slime City was a gory good time. It had the basic functionality of a vampire movie, but with a punk rock feel and lots of gloppy special effects makeup.
I have made the case before that a good ending can save a mediocre film. The final scene in the kitchen of Slime City does just that.
The Abomination is what you would get if Little Shop of Horrors was set in Pee Wee’s Playhouse but after Pee Wee moved out and a psychopath took over the rent.
In some weird mishmash of horrorshow editing, they laid out the entire movie in the first five minutes with this weird clipshow of gore and trashy effects that I first thought was the trailer for the movie before I realized it was the actual movie. They pulled off the most bizarre use of ADR I’ve ever seen. It actually felt like someone had purchased this weird lot of footage and just VO’d a story to it.
It was probably the most insane thing I’ve seen in a while, which makes it a great drive-in movie.