REVIEW: Cult of VHS (2022)

dir. Rob Preciado

From the opening moments of director Preciado’s feature-length doc about VHS collectors it’s clear this is a love letter to films from fans: with a grainy filter on screen – as if watching an old tape – the familiar message of “this movie has been formatted to fit the TV screen” pops up, as well as homages to Star Wars (1977) and The Thing (1982), all before the opening credits.

Answering the question “Why do people collect VHS tapes?” actor Michael Keene responds “It’s like vinyl, if vinyl kind of sucked. I mean that in the most loving way.” In interviews with several collectors the comparisons to vinyl are apparent: for many it’s about nostalgia and the hunt, the thrill of finding an item in a secondhand store by accident. VHS is the format many enthusiasts first used when they discovered their love of film, and it holds a special place in their hearts. 

While some of the same points could be made about owning any copy of a movie – even on digital – interviewees highlight what makes VHS special. The tapes physically hold up for a long time, meaning older tapes can be just as watchable as newer ones, whilst several folks remembered taping horror movies from TV, often while their parents were none-the-wiser, and having copies to show to friends that they wouldn’t have been able to rent. 

Ultimately a nostalgic call back to a time when many were first renting videos and falling in love with genre cinema, the end result is a celebration of a cult which continues to have a devoted fan base to this day.

Ariel Powers-Schaub


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