By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
VHS Forever? Psychtronic People (2014) from writers and directors, Darren J. Perry and Mark Williams, is a remarkably fascinating, endlessly enjoyable, and compulsively watchable love letter to low-budget horror films, videos, video stores, and the myriad individuals who understood their endearing appeal. It is also a study in the ridiculous lengths the government, the Motion Picture Association of America, and related personages would go to conceal these daring types of art. The 110-minute documentary is filled with intriguing and intimate true life narratives that revel in the former and rightfully vilify the latter. Yet, it is just as much a riveting glimpse into what goes into the production of the title technology. It also operates just as well as a fantastic glimpse into some of the daily fears video buyers and store owners had during the days of the ‘Video Nasties’. A term coined in the United Kingdom in 1982, this refers to a list of often misunderstood terror and exploitation films, like Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981), that were banned for their graphic nature. These previously stated brilliant and bold masterpieces are frequently discussed in the picture. This docket of controversial cinema, and the attraction the record had to collectors, is a subject the bulk of the feature unveils with tremendous depth and insight.
These bits give the project a magnificent symmetry and variety. This is as it expounds upon its core theme of the interest derived from VHS. Particularly, the “dangerous” cinematic wonders that may be held within each one. Yet, what functions just as well in Perry and Williams’ endeavor are the lively and charismatic interviews from the creative minds, many of whom are fellow writers and/or moviemakers, who discourse so passionately on the topic at hand. Their stories are infectiously relatable and always engaging. This is most noteworthy in the segments involving Troma Studios co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman. His consistently amusing conversations on the various releases, promotional methods, and censorship troubles of The Toxic Avenger (1984) are a constant highlight. Another section I vastly relished occurs around the fifteen-minute mark. It is an anecdote involving a VHS copy of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s essential and unforgettable swan song, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975).
What also heightens my affection, as well as the sheer fun, radiating from the development is that there are even a few successful running gags throughout the venture. Among them is the wind being deemed “Psychotronic interference”. Moreover, the overall aesthetic of the exercise works perfectly in a similar regard. It calls to mind the look of early VHS. This is a dazzling touch. It is one which reiterates the distinct charm found in the cassettes so ardently touched upon in Perry and Williams’ undertaking.
In turn, VHS Forever? Psychotronic People is a must-see for anyone remotely concerned about film, its early home distribution forms, and its history. The labor has obvious esteem for its topic. Regardless, it does not shy away from stating some of the less desirable qualities of VHS with an underlying air of eager reverence. These hints make for an even more open, honest, and varied experience. This refreshing frankness helps make this gem worth seeking out with all the enthusiasm and merriment a collector would search for that one rare, elusive, uncut ‘Video Nasty’ on VHS. Perry and Williams’ feature is pure nostalgic joy.
You can purchase the Blu-ray and DVD of VHS Forever? at http://www.vipcoltd.com!