David Cronenberg’s cinematic commentary on the power of media and how the media eventually controls you in ways you’re never quite cognizant of still rings true today. Even though “Videodrome” was more aimed toward the idea of television and our fascination with violence and human misery, Cronenberg’s thriller is still incredibly volatile in an age where humanity does nothing but stare at glowing screens zipping through a ton of data that eventually begin to depict how we live our lives. James Woods plays Max Renn, the owner of a porn television station who also has a penchant for sadism during sex. When he’s introduced to a television frequency called “Videodrome,” he begins to form a fascination with the footage of people being tortured, victimized, and raped.
Kids today will never understand the joy of going to the local video store and spending hours within the aisles of your favorite titles just to find something to bring home. I fondly remember walking through my local video shop watching a graphic horror movie on a mounted television while my parents staggered to the counter with a stack of titles they planned to bring home to watch that night. And no, I don’t speak of “Blockbuster” video. I speak of actual video stores that were once as common as Laundromats.
Running for nearly three decades, production company p3 explores the beginning and painful end of one of Maine’s most popular and beloved communities for film lovers “Videoport.” With the advent of digital rental and streaming, every year more and more beloved video rental spots are closing down and “Videoport” is sadly one of the many to close down. What with almost twenty thousand movies to rent, and three decades of building a community and massive fan base, it stings to think that the store may be replaced by an outlet or discount store by a faceless entity.
“Videoport” explores in a nut shell how much the once prominent video rental store was a beacon, not just for discovering unusual films, but for commuting alongside like minded people. Many of the individuals interviewed for the documentary discuss how they met their significant others, and built lifelong friendships, only to see it now dissipate with time. “Videoport” ends on a bittersweet note with the curators of the store donating their entire catalogue to the local library, making it available to a new generation of film aficionados. It’s their last noble favor to a community that they’ve helped nurture for thirty years.
For other documentaries about the VHS resurgence and the nearing end of physical media, a lot of directors have spent their time trying to figure out where it all began and celebrate the idea of the VHS boom of the modern era. “VHS Massacre” seems to be standing in ground zero of the end of physical media and trying to figure out where it’s all going, rather than where it all began. For many of us that have reveled in the new wave of VHS appreciation, we all know how it began. VHS won over Beta, despite the latter have more quality simply because VHS had more appeal to its product. It cost less, the tapes stored more footage, and porn became almost exclusive to the format. But with the rise of digital media, VHS has gone the way of the dodo, now relegated to good will bins and mom and pop stores deep in small towns and counties.
“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” – Alfred Hitchcock
Oliver Park’s “Vicious” is a masterfully done short horror film that’s light on the exposition but packs in a powerhouse of a fright. I literally flinched back in my seat while watching “Vicious” and it takes a mighty good horror film to inspire that kind of reaction from yours truly. “Vicious” is indicative of a major directorial talent and Oliver Park deserves to go on to a bigger cinematic career. I think he can deliver a truly excellent feature length horror film if given enough resources.
After a considerable slump with “The Last Airbender,” and “After Earth,” Shyamalan gives us yet another humanistic, demented, mystery that is filled with his trademark themes about life and coming of age. In this case, it’s young Becca and Tyler, both of whom are still healing from a broken marriage that saw their father leave them years before we meet them. Cut like a mock documentary, Shyamalan tailors the film to give us more of a personal view in to the dilemma Becca and Tyler find themselves in, and what it ultimately means in their development as adults.
“Vacation” is a reboot of the original National Lampoon’s series, but it’s not dedicated to reminding fans that it stems from a once beloved series. There are your typical nods, but through and through the new film is its own animal that strives for its own brand of sleazy comedy, and for that I respect it. It acts as a sequel, and virtual restart, while also allowing a platform for fans to go out and check out the original Chevy Chase films for some frame of reference. It’s not mandatory, however. I also enjoyed “Vacation” much more than I thought I would, speaking as someone who went in to it with rock bottom expectations; even if it tends to be something of a mixed bag right until the very end.
For some people Halloween is a state of mind and not just a holiday. For the Counelis family, it’s a yearly ritual that begins in the middle of the year and ends when November finally rears its head. It’s refreshing to see a documentary that’s more grounded and down to Earth, and much like films like “American Scream,” Paul Counelis documents his family’s journey to build and construct a haunted house mainly because they want to give their neighbors some memories. Surely there’s a profit to be had by a haunted attraction, but that’s not what the holiday means to Paul Counelis and his large family.
Jess Franco’s vampire film genuinely doesn’t live up to the hype it’s garnered with horror and film buffs over the decades since its release. It’s a tedious and often dull affair that manages to numb the sexuality due to its incessant filler. The filler is ever present from the opening shots, and is used to pad the film’s run time, from performances in front of crowds, right down to dream sequences, much of it is used as a tactic to pad a thinly veiled “Dracula” remake.