“BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE VHS” (8 CULT RARITIES!)

Zach Clark's Open Letter To VHS

(Curated by filmmaker Zach Clark, who also programmed last fall’s “VHS Turkeys” program, “Beneath The Valley of the VHS” opens at the reRun Gastropub on Friday, April 27, 2012. Visit the reRun website for the full lineup.)

Hey VHS,

I missed you. I went away for a long time and I’m happy you took me back. I like spending time with you again. I know I strayed for a while. Replaced you. I’m sorry I did that, but… well, you’re not perfect. But then again, neither am I. Neither is anyone. And maybe that’s why we’re all coming back to you.

Things are too clean now. Things are too easy. If I wanna see a movie, I can play it on my TV crystal clear without getting off my couch. You made me look for you. If I couldn’t find you one place, I’d have to call around and see if you were hiding somewhere else. Sometimes I couldn’t find you anywhere. And sometimes you’d only be available in Japan and I’d have to buy you off of eBay.

And when I found you, you were never pretty. You always had crinkles and you always had fuzz. Even if I found you brand new, you wore out fast. You got soft. You got blurry. Every time you came out of that machine, you were a little more ragged, a little more worn. To enjoy you, I had to ruin you a little.

And maybe that’s why you always felt a little dirty and a little dangerous. Porno, splatter movies, GG Allin concert videos—these are the things you’re made for. As much as I loved my childhood copies of Beetlejuice and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in their red plastic Erol’s Video boxes, you had the most lasting effect on me at the back of the video store. The oversized cardboard cover for Color Me Blood Red, displaying a woman strung up in front of wood paneled wall, her stomach ripped open and her guts hanging out, burned itself into my prepubescent retinas. For all I knew, there was a genuine snuff movie waiting inside that cover, nestled into its black plastic cradle. You had me. I was a VHS kid.

And now a whole generation of VHS kids have grown up and turned into filmmakers and cineastes and we’re coming back to you. We miss your fuzz and your crinkles. We like that you look used and dirty. And we realize that in order to really love something, you have to ruin it a little. It’s not easy having a good time.

So hey, we’re going to spend a lot of time together for the next week. I’m doing this thing called “Beneath The Valley of the VHS” at this theater in Brooklyn called reRun. I’m showing movies that I discovered in my video store days that haven’t made their way to DVD or Netflix or anything like that. And, like you, the movies are all a little dirty, a little fuzzy, a little used. Even if I had brand new 35mm prints, I’d still prefer you. That layer of milky video grime you add makes the sex sleazier, the gore nastier.

Beth B’s Salvation! Is a real hidden germ—uh, gem! It’s got amazing original music from New Order, Cabaret Voltaire and others, an early appearance by Viggo Mortensen, and the only major dramatic turn from X lead singer Exene Cervenka. But, like B’s equally incendiary Vortex, its been all but forgotten. Lurking somewhere between comedy, melodrama, heavy metal music video and Cinemax movie, it’s a singular vision from one of the most important female directors of the ’80s.

Autumn Born might be the sleaziest movie ever made, after the fact. Like the essentially banned Clownhouse, it’s a movie whose impact is heightened by the real life atrocities that befell its star off-screen. Less than a year after making her big screen debut, playing an heiress who gets kidnapped and “disciplined,” Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten would be murdered by her jealous boyfriend. Every second spent watching this movie feels deeply, deeply wrong. Poetically, the skin-pink, oversized cover tells us “Much like the autumn, an innocent season whose beauty is all too quickly gone, Autumn Born allows us the beauty and innocence that was Dorothy Stratten.” Ick!

Terror 2000 is just about the craziest movie I’ve ever seen. As far as I can tell, this is the only movie from director Christoph Schlingensief to see any kind of commercial release in America. Also, from what I can tell, all of his movies are totally f**king nuts. Sex, gore, every body fluid imaginable, Nazis, rock-n-roll, and hilarious slapstick comedy are all on ample display. And it stars the incomparable Udo Kier (delivering, I’m convinced, the most depraved, disturbing performance of his career) and frequent Fassbinder muse Margit Carstensen. It’s screening right after A Man Like Eva, which is a gender bending biopic of Fassbinder himself, starring actress Eva Mattes as Rainer Werner. Do you think it could be the double feature of the millennium?

It’ll be fun, I promise. I love you in a very special way and the movies in “Beneath The Valley of the VHS” all contributed to that. I hope people come out to see them on the big screen. It’s such a weird and wonderful way to float in the analog swamp.

Let’s never break up again.

Love,

Zach

[***NOTE: The following trailer for the series is incredible, but it’s also incredibly NSFW!***]

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