Back in my formative years, if you wanted to see the newest-released movies outside of the theater, you had to travel down to the local video shop.
For a movie buff like me, it was like going to Disneyland, every time. Rows and rows of endless VHS movies. The deeper your delved, the older they became, but that didn’t detour any true film fan. The only problem with this was that unless you had the movie on hold or were lucky enough to catch it when the delivery truck came in, the newest movies were already in the hands of another. In the small town where I lived, some films had wait lists of longer than a month.
VHS tapes are a dying breed. In this day of instant gratification, digital-media providers like Amazon and Apple TV have replaced the need to leave your home to catch the latest and greatest new releases. And there is no waiting list. Even if you want to get out of the house, high-quality DVD and Blu-ray videos can be found anywhere to rent. Even your local drug store or gas station probably has a Redbox sitting out front, ready to dispense your digital drug of choice. There’s no more need for the true video-rental store.
Thomas Edward Seymour and Kenneth Powell made a documentary about this decaying form of entertainment. Their film, VHS Massacre: Cult Films and the Decline of Physical Media, delves into the rise and fall of films. While documentaries are not always a love of mine, the simple fact is that these guys found two cornerstones of my youth: VHS video and cult films. So, I had to check it out.
Tom and Ken interview several people from the Golden Age of cult films. Joe Bob Briggs (the host of the ever-popular show, MonsterVision), Lloyd Kaufman (Troma Entertainment’s head man in charge and a personal hero of mine) and several other actors and filmmakers all make their marks in the documentary. Nostalgia is strong in this movie.
As this film has been picked up by Troma, a lot of the documentary seems to look into the heart of their archives, but you won’t find a complaint from me. The number of tape submissions was amazing to see. I could actually even smell that odor you only find in the film archives. Not sure what it is, but it has a slight musky smell (or maybe I just need to clean the house better). In one scene, Aaron Hamel of Troma Entertainment even breaks out the original Betamax tape (yes, even with VHS being dead, Beta was dead long before it) submission of Cannibal! The Musical from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park. It was pretty awesome to see the origins of some great B-movie films by Troma.
If you are a fan of cult classics, B-movies and the like, you have got to watch this documentary. Honestly, it made me miss my days working at Video Quest, a small video store in my home town. Seeing all these great box covers took me back. Yes, the quality of VHS films is nowhere near that of DVD, but Joe Bob Briggs mentioned in the film that when people watch B-films and ’80s horror, they kind of expect the grainy and choppy effects, because it makes you believe the film may have been made by a killer. Truer words have never been spoken.
I would have preferred to see more interviews with some of the larger names in the cult-film business (where was Gilbert Gottfried?), but, hey, Troma is pretty much the best in the B-film biz, so I really have no complaints. Tom and Ken made a truly entertaining, nostalgic trip.
So, I am off to my local Goodwill store, to check out some of the films in their bins. Maybe even head out to the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, to see what the midnight cult film is playing this week. Until we meet again, have a great #hauntlife.