Directed by Scarlet Fry, David Sabal, Walter Ruether
Distributed by World Wide Multimedia
This is going to be a rough review to write, but it will be short and to the point. If filmmakers aren’t willing to listen and learn, no good ever comes from writing a bad review for an indie film. There’s nothing I take more displeasure in than tearing down the work of a group of filmmakers who tried their hardest to make something good to celebrate their love for the genre. Yet, what defines the word “filmmaker“? Just because someone can record something and edit it together, does that mean he or she is a filmmaker? That’s like saying that just because someone knows how to type, it makes them a writer. Sadly, it does not.
Death by VHS (no doubt titled to capitalize on the popularity of the V/H/S anthology franchise) follows the exploits of two teens who hook up with a white drug dealer with a bad wig and equally as bad Rastafarian accent (this didn’t work when Jack Black tried it; it doesn’t work here either) who peddles them a VCR and a sack of old videocassettes that promises to get them high when watched. Don’t ask me how or why, I’m thinking that watching said videos can alter the viewer’s perception somehow. Anyway, our protags take their newly acquired goodies home, hit a bong, and start watching assorted poorly written and acted films with special effects of the local Halloween store variety until they end up dead themselves. Sort of.
Nothing works here. The sound design and quality are as awful as the camera work, and everything feels as if the kids down the street from you shot a movie and you’re being forced by their parents to endure the longest 75 minutes of your entire life. The gang behind this complete and total mess try hard to ride the lines between loving homage and just plain poor taste with reckless abandon, and for that I give them credit, but in the end to call this a failed attempt at making a movie is one hell of an understatement.
No doubt they didn’t have the budget to make a “big” movie with real equipment and actual special effects artists, but then again, did The Blair Witch people? Did any of the micro-budget filmmakers out there who have found success have any muscle behind them except for their own creativity? No. Look at Marc Price’s 2008 zombie film Colin. His budget? £40. That’s $78.48 U.S. Price accomplished this by using leftover makeup, free extras, and homemade special effects. The movie itself is fantastic too. Imagination and ingenuity will trump budgetary constraints every time. The makers of Death by VHS do have imagination, but when it comes to actual filmmaking ability, they’re horridly inept.
The lesson here is that just because you give someone sauce, cheese, and dough, it doesn’t mean they know how to make a tasty pizza. And if you put out a product like this out there, you had better have some really thick skin. Ironically, watching this flick is more akin to death by DVD than it is Death by VHS. Here’s hoping these cats will stick to it and learn the craft before their next attempt. Nothing would make me happier than to see them come back strong and deliver something cool. This is one skeleton that should remain locked safely away in the closet far from the reaches of mass consumption.
1/2 out of 5