One’s appreciation of the VHS format and to a lesser extent, slashers – is truly tested when you have to physically carry one third your body weight in them across state lines. Let me lay this shit right out – I dig DVD. I dig what it’s done for bringing retro slashers into the impressionable minds of a new generation as well as stroking the nostalgia erection of 80’s refugees like myself. But at the end of the day, to me it’s all about the movie and just the movie, not the format. It’s the opposite for most of the public out there – I got to know this well during many years as a video clerk through the transition of VHS to DVD. These days, having set my sail from the industry, every store I walk into has the exact same fucking DVD library because the comparatively limited range of DVDs available has resulted in no choice whatsoever except for “what’s on DVD and what’s not”. Gone are the 20+ years of cultivated richly varied video libraries attuned to the store owner and the local scene’s tastes. All dumped because the public has been duped into thinking everything is on DVD or soon will be.
Seven years on, and only about 20% of my video collection is officially on the digital format. So when I heard one of the very last remaining local stores to carry any real sort of video collection was selling every single tape title off its shelves to make way for its you-know-whats, I hadda get my arse there, stat. Of course, considering my rural location now, “local” is back in a city, five hours away. I saw my duty and didn’t bat an eyelid. The following weekend, I rode a train down there packed between a kid kicking the back of my seat, and a teenage girl sitting in front of me talking about beer and STD’s on her mobile phone the entire trip – this did tend to drain me a bit.
But damnit, when I walked into that store and saw thousands of dusty plastic hardshells, I was instantly energized with the power of five Fulci’s. I had known they were charging $3.50 a pop and I had plans to talk them down to $2 a pop because I’d be buying well above the average disposable dumbass buying DIRTY DANCING on video for a lark and you just know the majority of tapes are gonna sit unsold – you’d almost have to give ‘em away these days. But I saw they had 3 for $6, bringing it down to $2 each – but I talked them down anyway and walked away with a cool 50 tapes for $75 – that’s a buck fifty each! It sure wasn’t easy, with the greasy manager constantly pressuring me to hurry up and choose because it was going to take time to take ‘em off the system one by one. The joke was on him, because in his haste he miscounted and I ended up with a freebie. But the 2 hours I made him wait were a glorious 2 hours indeed, as I not only filled up on every retro slasher I could find (well, ‘cept for that KILLER PARTY with a too-sunfaded cover), I had the luxury in bulk to pick up titles I simply had a vague interest in watching across the whole spectrum of genres.
Now, you don’t just walk away with 50 videos – you pack ‘em into boxes and bags and taxi outta there. Which is what I did until I could get my hands on a gigantic luggage bag. And it was the Transformers of luggage bags – filling it with the multicolored spectrum of plastic cases (even an additional 15 or so I picked up from other stores and friends while on my sojourn), every time I felt space was running short, I’d find a new zippered compartment with a cavernous chasm inside. And to top it off, wham! Wheels and a pullout handle popped out. So getting this home. Involved hopping a bus with this behemoth (plus a backpack full of that clothing and Crystal Lake Memories… hardcover, eurghh! Plus some metal albums, whose edges bend too damn easily), then that 5 hour train home followed by a lengthy walk dragging my stash.
By the time I got home the bag simply exploded, unleashing my VHS treasure onto my carpet. I now have 65 additions to my collection, many of those titles not on DVD. Many I simply got to watch on a whim. Many I simply got for the garish airbrushed covers. It was a hard trek, but I’m happy with the results, completely. Most times the journey is half the fun.