'Rewind This!' and a Love of VHS


VHS Memorial By Tim Doyle

Right before I moved to Austin, I broke off a long-term romance. The romance was rather tepid by then, so I used my move as an opportunity to simply end it. I had no idea that just a few months later, that romance would be rekindled. What is this romance and why is it relevant to a movie website? Well, that romance was with my VCR and right before I moved I took crates of VHS and two VCRs to Goodwill.

Little did I know that I was moving to a hive of movie fandom. I knew Austin had a cool film scene but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I learned about quote-a-longs, I mastered the pancake, I heard all about people with numb butts and I soon learned about VHS fandom. There are lots of subgenres of film fandom and one of these subgenres is the lover of films and videos available only on VHS. Little did I know I was one of these lovers as well, and my feelings were simply repressed.

My love of VHS started at the young age of 11. I was still in elementary school when my father brought home a device the size of a reel-to-reel player that hooked up to our TV. This device was a Panasonic Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) and with it we could tape TV shows and would soon learn to rent and watch movies, in our house!!! It actually took a year or so before we took full advantage of this. I fondly recall my first movie watching party. Me and my 12-year-old friends went to the video rental store and rented three movies: The Exorcist, Friday the 13th and Death Race 2000. We had a blast staying up into the wee hours of the morning watching these "classics." I was forever hooked.

A few years later we moved to a small(er) town desert. I fondly recall the day that "Littlerock Video" opened. I was amazed at the unique selection of movies they had in the horror section. They had movies like The Driller Killer and Microwave Massacre. Where did these come from? I don't remember ever seeing them at a theater. I had no idea that there was such a thing as a "straight-to-video" movie. These were movies made just for me and my buddies to watch at home. I was in another level of heaven. There were more horror movies to feast on. And feast we did on these lovely exploitative treats. It's the existence of these exploitative treats that spurned the concept of VHS collectors.

Last year, I had the opportunity to meet three of the coolest VHS collectors (and people) on the planet: Josh Johnson, Carolee Mitchell and Christopher Palmer, here in Austin. They've been creating a documentary about the evolution of VHS movies, how they became popular and how 50 percent of the movies available on VHS are not available on DVD and probably never will be. I was in love with the idea. Their documentary, Rewind This!, has a lot of potential, exploring exploitation films, seedy video producers and a trek across continents to discover the history of the VHS tape. I love documentaries and this is an effort I can 100 percent get behind.

Team VHS, as they call themselves, created a Kickstarter Campaign to raise funds to finish their documentary. They have already met their goal, but are hoping for further donations so they can accomplish even more with the film.

[Image credit: Tim Doyle. Used with permission.]