Starring Lloyd Kaufman, Norman J. Warren, Kim Newman, Graham Humphreys, David McGillivray, James Mullinger
Directed by Darren J. Perry and Mark Williams
I was born in the 1990s, so I remember the final days of VHS before DVD took over. And sure, whilst watching a movie on a shiny digital disc will give you all kinds of luxuries such as interactive menus, subtitle options, and even bonus features, nothing will ever beat the joy of blowing the dust off a VHS tape before sticking it through the flap and experiencing a movie the old school way. I’m not young anymore.
The documentary VHS Forever? Psychotronic People from director Darren J. Perry and Mark Williams explores the golden age of home video before DVDs and streaming took over, and whilst it’s a film which will probably only appeal to a select few (namely, this who are truly passionate about cinema), I would implore both those who had the pleasure of living through the VHS era and those who were born after its heyday to seek this out, if only to hear Lloyd Kaufman condemning what he calls the ‘elitist MPAA system’.
After opening with brief footage of a guy driving a car into what I think must have been a recording studio, we cut to comedian comedian James Mullinger, who gives us a lengthy history of the VHS tape, setting the stage for what follows. From then on, we’re treated to a series of interviews from everyone to renowned author and critic Kim Newman to poster artist Graham Humphreys, all of whom have their own stories to tell about living and working in the VHS era. One particularly amusing segment was when Satan’s Slave screenwriter David McGillivray described his dismay at having to brutally rip his VHS tapes apart whenever they refused to eject from the machine.
A huge focus of the documentary is decimated to the so-called ‘Video Nasties’ (God, I hate that fucking term), and the struggles horror fanatics had to go through to watch movies in their original uncut formats. Remember that up until the ‘90s, the BBFC had a tendency to cut anything they deemed offensive, so the VHS era was actually a pretty dark time for horror fans living in the UK. But, as is often the cast with history, we learn from our mistakes, so I’m glad that VHS Forever highlighted one of the worst aspects of the VHS era rather than glossing over it.
It’s understandable that the filmmakers were working with a tight budget, but it also needs to be said that in some instances, the visual and audio quality of VHS Forever looked and sounded, well, like it had been shot on VHS.
Either way, it’s undeniable that VHS helped to shape the film industry into what it is today, so if you feel like revisiting the bygone era which played a pivotal role in the medium we love, VHS Forever? Psychotronic People makes for a highly relevant viewing experience.
Whilst it wasn’t the best-looking film in the world, VHS Forever? Psychotronic People still offered a fascinating insight into an era of film those of us of a certain age will all look back on fondly.