Josh Johnson directed a wonderful documentary all about VHS called REWIND THIS! and it is available digitally with extras here(including the soundtrack which is awesome): http://buy.rewindthismovie.com/It is also now available on DVD here:
Follow Josh's exploits on twitter here:
See his Film Discoveries from the last few years here:
Project Nightmare (1979)
While looking into other work by MURDERLUST director Donald M. Jones, I stumbled onto this mysterious and inexplicable head trip. Two men wander through the desert, pursued by a force they don't understand, moving towards a destination that may no longer exist. Ostensibly a science fiction film, the presentation is more of an abstract, existential nightmare. Shot in 1979, the film sat on a shelf until Academy Entertainment released it on VHS in 1986, further contributing to it feeling completely lost in time. Shares some plot elements with the television series LOST, but don't let that stop you.
Wicked Woman (1953)
Famed singer Herb Jeffries croons the theme song over the opening credits ("Whyyyyyy is a wicked wooooooman a fascinating game..."), and you know right away you're in for something special. Beverly Michaels is Billie Nash, fresh off the bus from the last town she destroyed and eager for employment in a local dive bar. As you might expect, every man she comes into contact with is all too eager to get to know her. While a somewhat familiar narrative spins out of this scenario, the defining quality of the film is the joyless world it creates. Nobody is in search of happiness, only slightly less pain. In typical noir fashion, nothing goes according to plan, leaving everyone to sink further into the morass of self-hatred. Good times!
Satan Place: A Soap Opera from Hell (1988)
A shot-on-video horror anthology with surprising complexity and occasional feminist flourishes. The stand-out is a meta segment called "Too Much TV", in which a woman invents murderous plans while watching various movie parodies on television, complete with an invented horror host. The small screen antics influence the real-world developments, lending an extra layer of cleverness to the whole thing. Made for very little money, there is nonetheless a lot to admire here, both in terms of inventive storytelling and technical craft. A gem waiting to be appreciated by new audiences.
Back in Black (1993)
One of the highlights of my year was working on supplemental features for the first ever home video release of the Niagara, Ontario cable access sci-fi action movie PHOBE: THE XENOPHOBIC EXPERIMENTS. Late into that process I was able to see a copy of the directors first cable access movie BACK IN BLACK, which we were luckily able to include on the disc. While less refined than the movie that would follow, this effort plays like the ultimate no-budget tribute to growing up in the early video era. Indiana Jones adventure trappings collide with regional accents and tabletop gaming fantasies, with neon-tinged explosive results. If you ever made movies on a camcorder in your back yard, this is probably what you were hoping to achieve.
If Footmen Tire You... What Will Horses Do? (1971)
This is Christian propaganda of the highest order. Estus W. Pirkle was a Baptist minister who wrote and preached at length about the temptations of the modern world and Communist forces working to overthrow the American way of life. Here he collaborates with filmmaker Roy Ormond to produce a series of vignettes, framed by his own preaching, that suggest the grimmest possible view of contemporary society. Torture, sexual perversion and child murder are all in the mix, presented with the grace of a sledgehammer to the nose. It's difficult to imagine this crazed mixture of hyperbole and scripture swaying anyone to the side of the church, but much credit should be given to the filmmakers for committing 100% to their ideas.
Black Noon (1971)
How had I managed to make it so long without being aware of a made-for-TV horror western starring Henry Silva, Ray Milland, Gloria Grahame, and Yvette Mimieux? I'm certainly glad I finally caught wind of it this year, as this is one of the most unique works of television from the period. The music and shooting style reminded me of the KUNG FU series, while the occasional dreamlike horror sections felt akin to ROSEMARY'S BABY. If you've ever wanted to see a reverend combat a devilish cult in the Old West, this is the movie for you.
Suffer Little Children (1983)
This movies comes to us courtesy of the Meg Shanks Drama School in England. Written and produced by Shanks, and directed by her husband, this supernatural horror story was made with the participation of the child students of the school. This becomes of particular interest when those very same students begin to get killed in spectacular fashion. So many questions rise up while watching this all unfold. What did the parents think? Did they know what their kids were involved with? It all culminates in a profoundly satisfying occult ritual in which all the kids sit in a dark attic, strobe lights cranked to the max, chanting "Come Devil Come" in unison. I give this assignment an A+.
This movie has a surefire recipe for success:
*Take (1) pornographic sci-fi movie
*Remove all sex scenes
I didn't fully understand the plot of this movie, but the world building is surprisingly assured. I've yet to watch the XXX version (CABARET SIN), but I feel like it probably won't answer any of my questions.
Folies Meurtrieres (1984)
French splatter captured on Super 8, lending it a voyeuristic home movie quality. What appears to be red house paint doubles for blood, dripping down the windshield of a car. A pitchfork murder punctuates a surreal sequence of ever-escalating tension. This feels like it was imagined by a French teenager in 1984, daydreaming in algebra class, refusing to be constrained by the rules of storytelling. Watching this made me nostalgic for my own youth in a way few movies ever have.
Pretty Executor (1987)
A friend in Tokyo gave me this, and I've not been able to find much information about it at all. Shot on video at some point in the 80's, it comes across as a delirious mash-up of all things otaku. Battle girls, giant monsters, fighting robots, elaborate models of city skylines, and more more MORE. Once again, creativity trumps limitations as the action heats up, drawing you into a high-energy microbudget universe of its own making. I assume this was made in a garage with the leftover funds from a single person's salary. If anyone has information about this movie, please let me know. I'd love to write a thank you letter to its creator.