A blog exploring the sexy, shocking, surreal, and silly side of horror films.

March 12, 2010

Horror VHS in the Digital Day?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

An interesting post over at HorrorBid (generated by a debate on their forums) poses the question: Is it better to watch horror films on VHS or on DVD and Blu-Ray formats.

Let me be honest. I don't own ANY horror VHS tapes from the 1980s and 1990s. None. It's not a video format I'm a fan of.

For one, VHS looks terrible on my modern wide-screen TV. The picture does not line up properly when I play from my budget VHS / DVD combo. Therefore, my VHS / DVD combo spends most of the time stored away so I can watch DVDs and streaming video via my Xbox 360 because it has an HDMI cable. Primarily, however, I don't own a lot of VHS horror because when I was old enough to spend my own money the VHS had already given way to the DVD revolution. I've watched and rented a lot of horror films on VHS back in the day, but even now I own fewer films than I've actually seen. I still love VHS horror box art as an art form (you heard me -- an art form!), and that is largely why I've started this blog. I just never occurred to me to buy VHS tapes.

Even back in the day, I wasn't a fan of watching VHS films despite my love for their packaging. Until I saw the films on DVD as an adult, I never really experienced the value of many classic horror films. Take for example Sam Raimi's Evil Dead. When I rented the original Evil Dead VHS, the picture looked something like this.

Only darker. Grainier. A nauseating ride of visual sea sickness. I spent most of the time just trying to figure out what was going on. Even the parts that were clear were still grainy and hard to see. For years, I enjoyed Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness better only because their VHS copies were less stressed. It wasn't until about four years ago that I finally got to see Evil Dead on DVD and realized it was legitimately one of the best and scariest horror films ever made. It quickly became my favorite of the series (putting me in a minority, I know. Let's save that debate for another day.)

Therefore, when people ask me if I've seen 'this horror movie,' or 'that horror movie' from the age of VHS, my usual response is, "Sort of." Based on the quality of the VHS films I rented in my youth, one can hardly say I saw the films at all. 

Picture and sound quality aside, renting a VHS movie often resulted in misadventure and heart break. For example:

Rosemary's Baby on VHS: Rented three or four times from different stores only to have video stop or break on each occasion.

Gods and Monsters on VHS: First attempts to rent the film resulted in me receiving a mislabeled copy of Pierce Brosnan's Grey Owl and, once, a copy of Steven Segal's On Deadly Ground that was itself mislabeled as Grey Owl.

These are just two of several memorable examples of VHS-related snafus. I could have sworn someone was fucking with me on purpose. Never mind all the VHS tapes that suicided into my VCR by barfing spools of tape into the machine, killing itself and the machine in the process (not unlike a very lethal bee).

One the one hand, I see the appeal of watching VHS horror. I do miss the gritty, worn look of a film print when those films are still visible on screen. I don't miss popping in a film to see nothing but the VCR work itself into a heart attack trying to tame the wild tracking.

If you ask me, the best way to watch a horror film, regardless of VHS or DVD, is in a small, intimate theatre with a like-minded group of horror fans.

This intimate screening is exactly what we offer through Horror in the Hammer. Horror in the Hammer is a group of writers, artists, filmmakers, and fans based in Hamilton, ON who host and sponsor horror-themed events. Each month, we do a film screening at the Staircase Theatre (27 Dundurn St. North) called FRIGHT NIGHT THEATRE. This month we screened Korean vampire film Thirst. Next month, we're screening Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge. Come check us out if you like variety in your horror and an intimate horror movie experience. Don't worry, I won't try and cop a feel -- unless that's what you're into.

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to back you up here, brother - 'The Evil Dead' is my favorite of the franchise, too!



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