VHS tapes fell out of fashion years ago but there are many reasons to love the old school experience of sticking a cassette into that machine with the flashing 12:00. You can fast forward past the legal disclaimer, the covers were cool and if you don’t like the movie that came on the tape, you can record over it.
Here’s five films you best experienced on VHS.
1.) Technology may have killed off VHS but not before a cursed videotape knocked off a few of its own victims. The Ring, an American adaptation of the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, stars Naomi Watts as a journalist investigating the urban legend of a tape that kills viewers seven days after popping it into the VCR. “You start to play it, and it’s like somebody’s nightmare!” No, it’s not a badly dubbed copy of Rhinestone, it’s a series of surreal images from a dead girl’s life. The Ring is creepy and atmospheric until the last half-hour, but that’s when the VCR’s fast forward button comes in handy.
2.) Set in Tromaville, New Jersey The Toxic Avenger is the story of a 90-pound weakling who morphs into the lumpy-headed titular title character. Fighting corruption by spilling loads of fake blood, plunging hands into deep fryers and crushing a head, his methods provide unforgettable b-movie cheap thrills. That last effect—it’s a melon in a wig—is a timeless VHS classic and is actually enhanced by watching it on grainy video tape.
3.) A History of Violence makes the list because it was the last movie to be released on VHS in the golden age of video. Viggo Mortensen is Tom, a mild mannered man who must confront his violent past when local townsfolk start asking, “how come he’s so good at killing people?” An unopened copy of it will set you back $10,000 on eBay, but why would you want an unopened copy of one of director David Cronenberg’s best films?
4.) One of the main benefits of VHS tape is that it always stays at the point at which you left it. Snap it off at the twenty-minute mark, go back to it twenty years later and it will still be EXACTLY where you left off. In a way it’s kind of like hair metal, a genre that has loudly and proudly stayed stalled in the 1980s. Fans of bands like Poison and W.A.S.P. will want to rev up a VHS of The Decline of Western Civilization Part II, The Metal Years, because it rocks too hard to be released on DVD.
5.) The 1980s VHS boom gave us the dreaded direct-to-video movie and produced many bad flicks, countless of which had names that closely echoed those of big theatrical hits. In the down-and-dirty world of the actionsploitation genre, for instance, Schwarzenegger’s hit Commando became Strike Commando—”He’s A War Machine on the Warpath!”—only without the Austrian superstar or a budget for the big action scenes. The lurid cover art is better than the movie, but still, when viewed through a scratchy VHS snowstorm it’s a hoot.