Depending on how old you are the word VHS will invoke different feelings and emotions. For some younger readers you may not have a clue about the meaning of the word, or who knows you may be an avid collector. For me in my late 30s, the term VHS brings fond memories of a great time in my life, a time I am still trying to keep with me even now.
VHS was the most popular format for movies, documentaries and other forms of entertainment before DVD, Blu Ray and online streaming. It was a big chunk of plastic that you banged into a VCR and that you mostly rented from video stores.
And while you may recognize the format, you might not recognize the style of film the format represents. Due to the home viewing demand for movies from the public in the 1980s, pretty much anything could get made and distributed, and it did! You want tapes with just a recording of a fire place? You got it. A video to help you learn golf? No problem. Some cheesy, low budget monster movie entertainment? VHS would have you covered!
There has been a resurgence of sorts of this style with a number of key films coming out (like Drive, The Guest, the V/H/S series, Hobo With A Shotgun, Turbo Kid and the short Kung Fury) all having that VHS style.
Authors to have taken up the mantle and started to talk about their favorite finds from the VHS period. Artist Tom Hodge (aka The Dude) has created a lovingly designed book called VHS Video Cover Art which focuses on some of the incredible video boxes from the golden age of rental.
There are also a few collectors books out there focusing on both the cover art and cost of tapes. But it wasn’t until I read Noel Mellor’s book Adventures In VHS that I knew what was missing. This book has heart-warming tales about the format that mirror my own memories and adventures in VHS. This book reminded me of the reason I started collecting video tapes in the first place. That rush of excitement of finding an awesome movie never seen anywhere other than on tape, and the fun of reminiscing about tapes from the past.
Noel’s book started out as a series of podcasts covering some of the movies he was thinking of including in this book. These are great for VHS fans because he deconstructs every aspect of the film from the box art, to the trailers on the tape and then an overview of the film. In a lot of cases, he also manages to acquire interviews with people involved in the films he is talking about. Extracts from the podcasts focusing on his trailer reviews can be found here on his Youtube channel.
From this idea came the basis of the book. The fun of reading this is not the review of the film per say, but the history Noel has with it. He talks about his days of going to the video stores and getting these tapes (or not that is just as important in the book), and explains how his childhood self saw the films. Then he looks at them from an adult’s perspective and talks about the pros and cons of viewing them again after so long. Within the pages of the book you get these interesting tales, but you also get the sleeve art of the film which was always one of the main selling points for me.
This is the real joy of the book for anyone that has an interest in film (not just VHS movies). Noel talks from the heart about how these films made him feel, and with each look into the movie we go on an emotional journey with him, sharing his thoughts and in some cases agreeing, whole heartedly, with his conclusions.
Hoefully Noel will do another book on the subject, but we’ll have to wait to see which classics he picks for it. The only way to know for sure is to like his Facebook page which will keep you updated. There are still hard copies of Noel’s book which you can buy from his website, but you can also get it for the Kindle too.
VHS Vault covers all things video tape and should be your next port of call. Or ifyou like incredible horror collectibles, you can see more via our great Homemade Horror section. Finally, artists from around the globe have shown their love of VHS by making some great VHS covers for new movies which you can look at here.
Images: Noel Mellor, VHS Wasteland, VHS Archive,
Tom Hodge, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment,
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment,
Magnet Releasing, Epic Pictures Group,
François Simard, David Sandberg, Laser Unicorns.