El creciente coleccionismo de VHS raros en USA comienza a reflejarse en medios importantes de comunicación y deja de ser un fenómeno underground.
Ojalá se entienda que no todos los VHS cuestan mucho dinero ni son coleccionable, sino depende mucho de la rareza y antiguedad de la edición y de la película.
Esta nota se da en el contexto de que hoy (19 de Mayo) se va a realizar la primer convención de coleccionistas de VHS de USA.
“I’ve always had VHS. I grew up with it,” he said. “Every other day in high school, for me, the afternoon was all about grabbing some snacks, some junk food, going to the video store and grabbing five or six movies. It was an experience.”
Now, with more than 2,700 cassettes in his collection, Kessler is the organizer of long-running film series Severed (formerly “Severed Sinema”) at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg.
To share his passion, Kessler is pairing the series’ third annual Short Film Night on Saturday, May 19, with a VHS collectors’ convention.
There, analog-addicted tape-heads and the casually curious alike will be able to browse the tables of video vendors hawking hard-to-find oldies and new independent films on VHS.
“It was an idea that was always in the back of my mind,” Kessler said. “This sounds nerdy, but it wasn’t until I brought it up in a VHS collectors’ group on Facebook and saw how strong support of the idea was that I decided to throw it into the Severed mix. … We have people coming from all over, from surrounding states and all the way up to Canada for this.”
It isn’t just die-hards like Kessler who find something magical in these clunky slabs of black plastic and magnetic tape. Recently, interest in VHS has been revitalized, especially among fans of cult, horror and exploitation cinema.“In the past year or so, sales of VHS have definitely gone up,” Jay Notartomaso, owner of used-media store Musical Energi in Wilkes-Barre, said. “It’s not the best-selling format, but there’s definitely a niche. It’s like vinyl records.”
With services like Netflix offering convenience and developments like Blu-Ray offering a higher level of video quality, what’s the appeal?
“People come in and buy big blocks of VHS. You can get a VHS for $3 instead of spending whatever DVD costs. You can take a gamble on different stuff because it doesn’t cost much,” R.J. Harrington, owner of Embassy Vinyl in Scranton, said. “There’s so much weird stuff that you can find on VHS that’s not even on DVD.”
Like any potential collectable, however, a tape’s affordability is directly tied to its availability. While VHS provides an opportunity to acquire oddities and obscurities from the outer fringes of mainstream cinema, not all can be had for a mere $3.
For example, at press time, an eBay listing for Planet Video’s release of the 1981 film “Nightmare” was priced at $350.
“There’s different kind of collectors,” VHSCollector.com founder Paul Zamarelli said. “Some people will splurge, if they’ve got the money, and pay whatever the asking price is on eBay or wherever. Others are like Indiana Jones, hunting down tapes, trying to find the best deals.”
Zamarelli started VHSCollector.com in 2011 with the hope of growing the site into an exhaustive, one-stop resource for treasure-hunters on the prowl. At press time, it has 2,239 releases in its database.
Zamarelli isn’t alone. More websites, like VHS Wasteland and VHShitfest, have sprung up to satisfy collectors’ appetite for analog. The founders of VHShitfest are even working on a feature-length documentary called “Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector.”
FAST-FORWARDING INTO THE FUTURE
If VHS’ appeal lay solely in nostalgia or collectability, the recent resurgence could arguably be written off as simply a boom in the collectors’ market. Distributors, however, are getting in on the act, too. Intervision Picture Corp. and Camp Motion Pictures are just two of the companies that have begun releasing movies on VHS once again.
The first movie on fledging distributor Massacre Video’s slate was a re-release of the notorious 1988 slasher movie “555.” When company founder Louis Justin decided to make the movie available on limited-edition VHS as well as DVD last year, he didn’t expect the reaction it received.
“The VHS sold out in about two hours,” Justin said. “Pretty much everything I ever put out is definitely going to be on both DVD and VHS.”
Josh Schafer, editor of VHS fanzine Lunchmeat, believes the reason people respond so strongly to the format is because of its inherent inimitability.
“VHS prints have their own look to them — they have their own aesthetics. … The look is totally different and unique,” he said. “Believe it or not, I enjoy the analog waves and wonky tracking. It’s an idiosyncrasy of the VHS tape that no other form of media can duplicate.”
As VHS continues to find supporters, those supporters likewise continue finding ways of giving the old format a fresh spin.
Take Philadelphia-based record label Video/Horror/Show, which forgoes the traditional route of using CDs, audio cassettes or LPs for its releases. Instead, company founder Justin Miller has made the unusual choice of using VHS to distribute the music of such artists as Suffer the Shards of the Lost Cult of Silence, Psychic Teens and Mascara.
“There’s something about watching a crappy copy of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ that’s been rented a hundred times and that’s starting to fade and get distorted, which I feel fits very well with the music I’m releasing,” Miller said. “Unlike vinyl, video is not a superior medium. But that’s something to be embraced. There’s a charm to it.”