Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Episode 6: Video Violence (1987)

Ten years ago, I doubt anyone would’ve seen it coming, but the VHS resurgence is here, here to stay, and attracting fans from all corners of the United States. Thanks to recent documentaries like Rewind This! and Adjust Your Tracking, disciples of the clamshell have had the opportunity to share their passion (and obsession) with the masses, as cameras follow them to flea markets, conventions, and dusty basements. Steadfast and eternally vigilant, these hardcore fans spend every spare moment on an endless search for obscure titles to expand their already extensive collections.

So inspired by this undying love for all things VHS, whether it’s big box, slip case, or (God forbid) cut box clamshell, I knew there was only one film (and I use the term loosely in this case) to help in the celebration of a bygone, yet still highly regarded era: Gary Cohen’s 1987 SOV opus Video Violence.

I discovered this one, paired with its painfully unwatchable sequel, on Netflix just under ten years ago. By then, video rental stores, especially those independently run mom and pops, started dropping off like flies. I’d spent the previous summer nursing a broken heart, as my my favorite indie rental shop closed its doors for the final time. Video Violence, as I came to find, was the perfect movie to bring fans back to a time when there was one of these stores on every corner and there was always something wonderfully sleazy to be found on those dusty shelves.

I watched with glee as the story followed a hapless video shop owner who gets mixed up in a small town murder conspiracy documented on VHS. The scenes that took place in the video store left me more than a little nostalgic and I longed for a time when I could walk the two blocks to my neighborhood video store and scour the aisles for some undiscovered gem.

Granted, I went into this commentary with every intention of discussing the movie, but somehow, that got pushed aside and I spent most of the 100 minute running time sharing stories about my favorite mom and pop and how it became such a huge part of my formative years in South Philly. I tend to sift through my memory banks for long lost anecdotes during all of the commentaries I’ve recorded thus far, but this one really took me back. It seemed that each time the camera panned a line of video boxes, or an unlabeled VHS was shoved into the open mouth of a VCR, I had a new story to tell. Whether it’s neighborhood kids defecating in the porno section (yes, that really happened) or my experiences briefly working for Blockbuster, there’s an endless trove of memories shared and I hope you enjoy taking this journey with me.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Episode 5: Kolobos (1999)

It’s hard to imagine a time when reality television wasn’t dominating every network, but in the 1990s, these shows were few and far between.  Talk shows like Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, and Jerry Springer were in abundance.  Court TV, up until “The Trial of the Century,” was hanging by a thread.  The only way to catch a glimpse into the lives of strangers was with The Real World and, towards the end of the decade, The Osbournes.  It was still quite a while before you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing one or more of the Kardashians.  I wish I’d appreciated that time a little more.

In 1999, directors Daniel Liatowitsch and David Todd Ocvirk collaborated on an incredibly dark experiment in raw brutality that was very much ahead of its time: Kolobos.  Much like The Real World, the plot involves a group of strangers who’ve agreed to have their lives videotaped for the purpose of a groundbreaking documentary.  Unfortunately, all fun and games come to an abrupt halt when the cast discovers that the enormous house is sealed off, booby trapped, and a hideously scarred maniac wielding a straight razor is roaming the corridors.

With a story that pulls the viewer in from the very first frame and some pretty realistic special effects, this little-known gem should be a slasher staple.  Sadly, as many of my genre favorites have, Kolobos slipped into obscurity some time in the mid ‘00s (before that, there were many who compared the film to Marc Evans’s My Little Eye, a far less satisfying film with a very similar plot that came three years later).

Admittedly, I’ve been scouring the Internet for years in hopes of a special edition or perhaps Blu ray release of the film, but so far, no dice.  The American DVD released by York Entertainment is essentially bare bones, containing nothing more than a trailer and some bios.  I’d love to hear a commentary track by the directors and maybe see some interviews with the cast and crew.  Perhaps one day.  But for now, let the mutilation begin! 

“Wanted: freeloaders. Artist seeks five progressive-minded individuals for groundbreaking experimental film. Participants will share free lodging in a fully furnished home in the Mount Olympus resorts. If you’re willing to laugh, cry, love, hate, befriend, betray, and confess it all on VHS, I want you.”