‘The Last Video Store’ Fantastic Fest 2023 Review: A B-Movie Tribute to a Bygone Era

The last video store

Those lamenting the loss of physical media as society transitions to digital will probably find comfort in Cody Kennedy and Tim Rutherford’s The Last Video Store. There are still vestiges of the VHS era that remain intact across North America including Scarecrow Video in Seattle, Kim’s Video in the basement of the Alamo Drafthouse’s Manhattan location, and the newly minted We Luv Video in Austin, TX.

This year at Fantastic Fest, I learned of another store in Canada that’s still fighting the good fight after Videomatica closed its doors in Vancouver, British Columbia. A man named Kevin Martin owns the Edmonton rental store The Lobby DVD Shop. In truly meta fashion, the store serves as the location of the fictional Blaster Video seen in the movie. Martin also stars as a slightly nerdier version of himself playing the only employee working one night when a mysterious customer named Nyla (Vanessa Adams) comes in to return her father’s overdue rentals.

Nyla’s dad was movie-obsessed before his untimely death. In contrast, the obscure titles she has in her backpack go completely over her head. Watching cult classics and geeking out about them was her dad’s thing, and Nyla is about the furthest thing from a passionate cinephile. Kevin, on the other hand, happens to love each movie, especially Beaver Lake Massacre 4 (a campy send-up of Friday the 13th). Two other films, Preystalker and Warpgate, are obvious knockoffs of Predator and early ’90s B-movie sci-fi that served as Full Moon’s bread and butter. Then a devilish tape emerges called the Videonomicon that’s essentially the Necronomicon from Evil Dead in VHS form. When Nyla and Kevin decide to pop it into the VCR, it summons the creatures, killers, and D-list action stars from the other films into our world.

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In order to survive until dawn, they must rely on Kevin’s exhaustive movie knowledge that allows him to fan out and freak out at the same time. He knows so much about the Jason Voorhees ripoff from the Beaver Lake Massacre series that it almost looks like they could be friends in another life. That’s part of the charm that spills out from the script by Rutherford and co-writer Joshua Roach, actually. Kevin can’t tell whether he should be afraid or ask for an autograph now that the characters he’s obsessed over for years are suddenly standing there in the flesh. It’s an endearing quality, and one that mirrors the frenzied fandom that so many horror fans and VHS obsessives possess. Kevin is one of us; Nyla just wants to, you know, not die.

Based on their short film of the same name, Kennedy and Rutherford will be the first to tell you that The Last Video Store has been a tiring labor of love, to put it mildly. The movie itself resembles the worn out, makeshift appearance of Blaster Video’s interiors. At times, the broken seams and fast stitches start to show in parts that show a dip in quality and overall execution. That will most likely be a disconnect for some audiences that probably relate more to Nyla’s overall indifference over Kevin’s unbridled, movie-loving enthusiasm.

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For me, the feeling I got from watching The Last Video Store was more important than what it happens to looks like. Anyone who has seen the VHS documentary Rewind This! or the horror anthology Scare Package should be comforted by this overly ambitious, warm blanket of a film. There’s also a certain level of catharsis that pops up during some of the movie’s quieter moments when Kevin realizes the world has passed him by. “I used to get paid to talk about movies with people, but then they stopped coming,” he says sadly.

Usually when Canuxploitation tries to parody itself, it ends poorly. The Last Video Store doesn’t land every self-referential joke, far from it actually. Still, the loving homage to the so-good-its-bad movies of our childhood just manages to outshine some of the more trying moments of tedium that inevitably come along with this type of sentimentality, a feature that’s quickly becoming a subgenre within a subgenre. Besides, if you’re going to painstakingly craft a film that celebrates B-movies, shouldn’t it end up resembling a B-movie, too?

  • The Last Video Store


If you unabashedly love bad B-movies, The Last Video Store pays respect to the VHS obsessives with a mostly effective story about what happens when the drive-in characters decide to fight back.



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