Permanent Collections: Ryan’s VHS | Varyer

Ryan's VHS

"TTYL in Hell" is a trademarked phrase and an upcoming short film I may have created.

Like anyone who has recently hit 30, I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. Naturally, I thought “hey, I should write a will so all my cool junk can be forced onto my friends & family when it’s my time to say ‘TTYL in Hell’ or drive my car into the ocean…etc.” I won’t go into the specifics, because I’m alive and well (and love my Subaru '99 wagon too much to even consider any water logging mold issues), BUT, the hardest item I have yet to ‘willify’ is my VHS Collection.

"TTYL in Hell" is a trademarked phrase and an upcoming short film I may have created.

Let's break down the
secret meaning of V-H-S:


Viewing

The commitment to the chosen tape — the notion of sitting down and pressing play (and getting swept away!) Many scholars also denote this as “The Inverse Effect of Streaming Content”, where there’s a tendency to try something for 2min, say “eh” and then browse for 2 more hours until you give up.You chose the tape. The tape chose you.




History

Artwork/Big-Boxes/Clamshells/Ex-Rentals/Library Stickers/Smeared Boogers… the physical history most tapes carry is something so rare these days. The intention of preservation is beautiful — and important as many great flicks were only released on VHS. It’s like the vinyl record, you feel the history on the box.



Standard (Definition)

Yes, I know your wall-sized screen has 15k resolution and motion smoothing and can re-edit the movie to cut out boring scenes & replace them with Ads (curated to you from Sirilexa listening to you breathing on the couch)… but where’s the vibe? If it’s even present, it’s harsh. Flip the script! Don’t be shy of seeing grit, a little grain, some tracking issues… forget photoshopped plastic HD for a hot sec here. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder — and for better or worse try wearing Ry-Vision-480p knock-off wayfarers for a smidge of a moment.

DISCLAIMER: avoid driving or operating heavy machinery, Ry-Vision may induce heavy nostalgia & strong vibes. The surgeon VHGeneral recommends a couch and a cold bottle of Moosehead.

Coven

Director: Chris Smith

American Movie is a documentary made about a young director making a no-budget film in Wisconsin. I think it is the best documentary I’ve ever seen. Mark Borchardt, the subject/filmmaker in the documentary, is not a fan of this film. I have nothing but respect for him and I find American Movie to be the most profound telling of true, no-budget filmmaking and the American Dream aspect of that journey. That said, I wanted to find Borchardt’s work, not work about him making work. Enter Coven, shot on 16mm B&W film, released on limited-run VHS & signed by him. It is the extension of the American Dream story but brought full circle. I’d highly recommend watching both films mentioned here, and Mark’s other work (including his latest “The Dundee Project” which my creative collab bud Jeremy & I released via our now retired indie VHS distribution company, Weird Life LTR, a few years back.) LTR = Limited Tape Run!

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Director: David Lynch

This film you likely know, but you likely haven’t watched in a while (or ever all the way through) so I’ll go the more personal route here. I am so fond of this film & would say it’s my favey Davey flick, particularly in VHS format. ~*Flashback*~ As a fresh art school grad in the fall of 2014, I moved home to my folks' casita to ‘figure it all out’ and would watch this film in chunks over a (many) cup(s) of coffee before riding around the burbs on my old moped, sneaking cigarettes from my sweet folks, and waiting for a ‘meet cute’ with some suburban goddess (which somehow happened in kind of similar fashion not long after & I’m marrying her this summer! I digress.. ) Some days I’d watch 30min and others 15min, but the tape always remembered where I left it. Thinking of those emotions of excitement and fear for what was next in my life (still relevant), the inspiration I felt from this insane film, & just being in my parent’s basement with the ol’ VCR harks a very special feeling of comfort.

Bleeders (aka Hemoglobin)

Director: Peter Svatek

There is one large reason I own or know of this tape. On certain copies, there is a plastic sleeve built into the cardboard tape box, enclosed with fake blood. Yeah, buddy! And hey buddy, two more tidbits to sell you… it’s Canadian (the land that birthed Rick Moranis) and Steve O’Bannon (Return of the Living Dead, Alien) penned the screenplay and passed shortly after. If I go out with something like Alien under my wing but my last work is about blood goblins & released on VHS with the ultimate gimmicky cover effect… you can rest easy I’d be a cheeseburger in paradise.

Ice Storm '91

Director: News Source 13 WOKR

This is a documentary piece from a small news outlet about a historic ice storm in Rochester, NY in… yup…1991. Incredible time capsule and truly a joy to watch! All proceeds benefited the American Red Cross & suggested retail at the time of release was only $14.95 (includes tax, ya cheapo!) Can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing there are only one or two other copies of these out there in functioning shape left — can I add archivist to my resume? Maybe right next to “overly wordy writer?”

The type of film is MADE for VHS. I am 99% certain Stevie B would be very upset if you watched this on Amazon Prime or even, god forbid, laserdisc.

Tree's Lounge

Director: Steve Buschemi

Steve’s directorial debut is about nothing much at all besides him drinking at a bar called Tree’s Lounge. The type of film is MADE for VHS. I am 99% certain Stevie B would be very upset if you watched this on amazon prime or even, god forbid, laserdisc. Pop it in, grab a can & you’ll never need to meditate again — Tree’s Lounge harbors the ultimate atmosphere of pure, relaxing nothingness. (And with Chloe Sevigny & one of the semi-weird-looking Baldwin brothers (not to be confused with the really weird-looking one)).

Dead Kids

Director: Michael Laughlin

This is a flick that I think is VHS exclusive — aka an indie before indies! Taking place in Galesburg, IL, and about “kids getting dead,” this film has all the good elements of classic VHS low-budget horror camp goodness. My favorite part about my copy is that it’s in pretty bad shape as an ex-rental cutbox. Cutbox’s are generally scoffed at by the VHS collecting community, but I fancy them more than my fancy shoes. See pictures and don’t tell me you wouldn’t let this driver go with just a warning even though they were going 15mph over in a school zone.

Cutbox = when rental shops would take scissors and literally cut the front side and back from the cardboard sleeve and then shove it into a plastic, library-style, VHS case. I suppose they thought it’d last longer. Little did they know, they were destroying art but simultaneously creating a new piece of art. Generation loss, anyone? Woof!

Adrenaline Drive
(アドレナリン・ドライブ)

Director: Shinobu Yaguch

Roger Ebert says “A Godsend for film lovers.” I say “A Godsend for film & VHS lovers.” This film is an incredibly funny, deadpan indie comedy/love tale from Japan. This type of indie flick is a rare find on VHS, as they didn’t always make a ton of copies for lesser-known flicks, especially of the foreign category (which for the record I don’t think is a proper category unless you’re one of those people that likes “Marvel Movies.”) I’ll step out of my comfort zone and encourage you to watch this even if you can only find a digital copy, because — no, I did not see the last Game of Thrones and yes I’d like to casually talk about more interesting films with you than HBO and PornHub collabing on violent, yet ~sexy~ high budget dragon pornos.

Notable Other Favorites:

My Bloody Valentine (where do you think your fav Irish band got their name?)
Blue Sunshine (beautiful remastered clamshell release about LSD, mustaches & murder)
The Trip (a smaller skate company released doc about skaters skating while on a trip. Early Jackass vibes with less of Bam Margera’s pale booty & more skating)
The Willies (amazingly campy anthology film. Also, I got my copy via my old local rental store “Nu-Time Video” on their closing day sale… and that’s just really nice.
A Clockwork Orange (mainly for the wildly complex case/packaging presentation. “They don’t make 'em like they used to” — most people above 59 years old.
Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God… Be Back by 5 (title says it all, friends.)


While I have plenty more tapes, we’re out of time. If you’d like a copy of any of the films mentioned and are having trouble finding one, get in touch and maybe I’ll make you a blank tape dupe (as long as it’s for personal viewing only – the FCC is already after me for other reasons).