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‘VHS MASSACRE’ (review)


Produced by Jason Carvey, Tim Kulig,
David Leute, James Richardson, Debbie Rochon
Directed by Kenneth Powell
and Thomas Edward Seymour
Starring Joe Bob Briggs, Lloyd Kaufman,
Greg Sestero, Debbie Rochon, Deborah Reed,
Mark Frazer, James Nguyen

A documentary from Troma?  Well, sort of.

From the minds behind the New York Cine Radio podcast comes VHS MASSACRE, which has the rather lengthy and ambitious subtitle Cult Films and the Decline of Physical Media.

Like many a Troma flick, this one’s low-budget to a fault, with bad audio amateur editing and basic graphics.

But it’s also filled with geeky passion, a monstrous topic and enough chutzpah to be over-the-top entertaining.

Directors Kenneth Powell (Troma’s Monster Kill) and Thomas Edward Seymour (Rudyard Kipling’s Mark of the Beast) have brought together a really impressive group of minds to wax poetic on the demise and slight retro appeal of the VHS tape.  Talking heads include midnight movie guru Joe Bob Briggs, Troma god Lloyd Kaufman, Found-Footage’s Nick Prueher, and actress Debbie Rochon, and offer the most insight into the film’s subtitle.

A lot is covered in this documentary, and it is all set along a great subplot which is the main title’s VHS Massacre.  During the course of filming and podcasting, the filmmakers have collected a mass of discarded discount VHS from the many closing stores.  Not only does this document the closing of a long-holding-on Blockbuster Video, a mom-and-pop gem, and the last remaining Kim’s Video in New York City’s East Village, but it brings the film’s anticipated climax.  The podcasters celebrate the ending of the documentary with a festival from the found VHS cassettes.

The living room Massacre is a blissfull relief after the heavier post-mortem story being told throughout.  Through interviews, the story of VHS is covered, from the initial need for content driving opportunity for independent filmmakers to the long-debated digital piracy debacle.

This is a less polished film than Josh Johnson’s Rewind This!, which was better structured and had a little more substance.  Still, there’s something very charming about director Thomas Edward Seymour bringing to the documentary his personal tale of distribution challenges in a digital world and deep love for physical media.  He carries a lot of the film, and it’s a noble attempt to structure what’s a lot of material covered.

Ironically enough, VHS Massacre premiered on Troma’s TROMA NOW subscription service in April, but a DVD release is coming.  You can check out the film on their channel here.

I highly recommend it to anyone that’s ever went down a YouTube hole watching nothing but videos of Blu-ray hauls, box set unboxings, and, of course, VHS hunts at flea markets.

Not that I’ve ever done that, mind you.

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