Contrary to what they say, VHS is NOT dead and gone! There’s an army of VHS collectors lurking throughout all the flea markets and antique shops around the globe in hopes to find a few gems and cross another title off their list. I am happy to report that I am part of this army. My fondest memories as a child were weekend trips to the video store. When you come from a strict Jewish family, sick and depraved films like these are not welcome in the home but I was fortunate enough to have an awesome grandmother that allowed us to rent whatever we wanted. Also, my parents were in Israel, a lot. There’s so much they don’t even know. We would throw parties while they were out of town and play films like “Private School” and “Porky’s.” This Mom and Pop store just blocks away from my family home had quite the collection. I practically drooled in the horror section every Thursday and Saturday afternoon. (We aren’t allowed to spend money on the Sabbath, Friday.) Just staring at all the cover art and clammy boxes was entertainment enough. Maybe something was wrong with me. I was around my daughter’s age when this happened and my daughter is too scared to look at these boxes. I was fascinated by it. Why horror? There seems to be more lost films in this genre than any other and as I mentioned before, it’s a lost art. Several films will never see a DVD release. The VHS also adds to the experience in a way that DVD simply cannot.
Now there are several protestors out there that will argue and continually ask, “Why do you still watch VHS? VHS SUCKS! DVD RULES! I AM ALL KNOWING AND POWERFUL!” DVD does have better quality and special features, I agree. However, you don’t understand. For some of us, it’s all about the lost art of the cover box. For me, it’s also sentimental because of my childhood. Same with Super Nintendo. I don’t play newer video games because they suck. I prefer old school Mortal Kombat and Donkey Kong. People also collect records instead of CDs. What gets me about DVDs is the excessive packaging issues. It takes me a really long time to pull all of those stickers off. They don’t allow you to skip shit, you cannot press menu or fast forward. DVDs skip so easily. VHS may slowly deteriorate but it’s easy to recover a lot of these tapes. They’re basically indestructible.
Co-founder of VHShitfest, Dan Kinem approached me with this documentary and I have been trying to spread the word as much as possible. Not just because I desperately want them to come to Texas so I can show off my VHS collection in the documentary as well, but because he and Levi ‘Dabeedo’ Peretic have created something beautiful. There’s a fun VHS horror group on face book where we post photos of our recent finds, buy, sell, and trade. It’s a fun group and at times, I am extremely jealous. According to Dan, in an interview with Headpress, they “want to remind people why VHS is so amazing but also explain to any VHS haters there are out there why so many people still love and collect it.” With footage of video stores, interviews with old video store owners, and their own videos about VHS producer Matt Desiderio and Dan thought it would be fun to make a documentary. In the documentary you can see interviews with many collectors, filmmakers, and video store owners. Keith Crocker makes an appearance to talk about his own personal collection of VHS. I have interviewed Keith before and this man’s film “The Bloody Ape” is pretty wild. You can expect Fred Vogel and Lloyd Kauffman on the documentary as well. It will be released in VHS format and there will also be a special feature DVD for those who no longer care about VHS.
I asked everyone on Face Book which VHS cover art stood out to them the most and the most repeated titles were; Rabid, Slumber Party Massacre, Sleepaway Camp, Toxic Avenger, Motel Hell, The Exterminator, Three on a Meathook, Curtains, Santa Sangre, Microwave Massacre, and Happy Birthday to Me. Which stood out the most for me? Night of the Demons.
As for Video distributors, it’s hard to pick a favorite so I will pick a few with my favorite covers. Academy Entertainment is one of the more popular and major independent video distributors that began in 1985 lasting until 1995 with films like; Flesh Eating Mothers, Bloody New Year, Rock N Roll Nightmare, and the Witchcraft series along with several erotic thrillers.
Embassy is one of my favorites. You may remember the $59.99 print at the upper right corner of the box. I have many of these in my collection. The company only ran from 1981 to 1986, which was the year I was born. Don’t hate, I am not the only fan of VHS in my late twenties. I was suckered in at a young age and stayed faithful!
Some of my friends go bat shit crazy over Key Video. Stripes run down the center of their boxes with a colorful key at the bottom. They ran from 1982 to 1990 with a lot of good films in their collection. Some of these films are pricey but collectors are willing to pay!
Media is another favorite of mine and dangit, it’s hard to pick just one cover so I chose two! It’s one of the earliest companies, forming in 1978 and closing up shop in 1992 with over 1, 000 films. The Nightmare on Elm Street series and Class of Nuke Em High always stood out to me on the shelves. This company has quite an impressive list.
Trying to move it along quickly, Prism Entertainment is another favorite of mine that I have been collecting. In fact, their boxes are some of the best. Prism lasted from 1984 to 1995 with many obscure titles on its list.
Regal Video has to be one of the worst but damn those are some fine covers! Regal was based out of New York City and is known for some of the shittiest transfers to date. There are still a lot of collectors out there that are after them simply because of the cover art.
Wizard Video seems to have a lot of the Video Nasties on its list. I chose Driller Killer because it’s one of those that stood out and scared uptight mothers around the world. These big boxes will always be some of my favorites.
Finally, we have Vetsron video. Some hate the transfers but collect simply for the art. The transfers don’t really bother me and I am quite fond of my own collection. Vestron ran from 1983 to 1995 distributing over 3, 000 films. Again, it’s so hard to pick a favorite but I went with Sole Survivor because it use to scare the bejeezus out of me.
Take your Blu-Ray and shove it!