Geeking out over the bloody legacy of VHS


While I’m not personally a fan of poor image quality there’s a very nostalgic appeal to seeing some of those VHS box covers. They take me back to a time when renting a movie wasn’t something you did with the remote or with a few mouse clicks. And to a time before Blockbuster, when all video stores seemed to have the same cheap carpeting and faux wood paneling, when a film like Lenny would probably be in “Comedy”, unless the place was big enough to have a “Biography” section.

And most weren’t that big. When I was in college there was a video store a block away from my dorm that was a converted house. It was literally a mom and pop store–assuming the couple who ran it, who looked like they could have been extras from Splatter Farm–had children. It was so small it didn’t even have categories–The Elephant Man sat next to Faces of Death which sat next to Flesh Gordon. And yet that, along with the painted sign outside that just said, “Video Rental”, was part of the appeal. That and the fact that they had the craziest selection I’ve ever seen. I think they went to flea markets and thrift shops and bought up whatever cheap VHS tapes they could find.

And part of the appeal of renting there was the same as the appeal of getting a film with a remote or a mouse. There was a distinct vibe of, “Watch what you want. We don’t judge.”

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A friend of mine got a bootleg VHS copy of Blair Witch Project well before it became famous and the poor video quality made it seem incredibly real and far more terrifying than what everyone later saw in theaters.

I still have a lot of old VHS recordings of shows like MST3K and there’s a feeling of nostalgia when watching them that is not present when watching a pristine DVD.


If anybody wants to see some vhs glitch art there’s Max Capacity

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It’s ironic how the 90’s have more of less peaked as the height of TV/video connectivity. Cable TV had standards, VCRs just plugged in and worked, audio was analog. Hook up a few wires, program some stuff, and you were off and taping just about anything on the air. Now a days if you aren’t renting the lowest quality POS DVR from your local cable provider you are jumping through hoops to record anything in digital.

amen, brother. just getting gear with both inputs and outputs, and of any connection type except what was introduced within the last couple years, is practically non-existent.

Incredibly (or not), there is another doc about VHS maniacs making the rounds right now. I just caught REWIND THIS at the Grand Illusion in Seattle and found it very entertaining – though sadly, it was not shot on VHS.

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Personally, though I loathe the image quality of VHS, I really miss one thing about the tape era: dead-reliable sound sync. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had to endure out-of-sync sound on DVDs, Blu-Rays, and various streaming media… and there’s just no good goddamned reason for it.


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