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.
So you knew of Godzilla’s roots, but did you also know The Magnificent Seven and A Fistful of Dollars were remakes of Asian films?
Add to that list this weekend’s Oldboy, a Spike Lee re-creation of a violent Chan-wook Park film. Josh Brolin plays a man searching for answers as to why he was kidnapped and held in solitary confinement for twenty years.
Spike Lee says the original director only offered up one piece of advice. “Josh went to Park and asked for his blessing,” he told MTV. “Park gave it, and the one thing he said to Josh — which Josh related to me — was ‘make a different film; don’t do the same thing I did.’ [So] that’s the way we did it.”
Hollywood has looked to Asia for inspiration for years.
Akira Kurosawa’s films provided fodder for two redone classics. The epic Seven Samarai became the Wild West gunfighter flick The Magnificent Seven and the director’s Yojimbo provided the backbone for A Fistful of Dollars, starring Clint Eastwood.
Once again old west gunfighters subbed for samurai but the premise of one man playing rivals off one another remains. Since the movie was an unofficial remake Kurosawa sued, won and later bragged he made more money off of Fistful of Dollars than Yojimbo.
At the turn of the millennium Japanese movies like Ringu, Ju-on and Geoul Sokeuro helped reinvent Hollywood horror. The best known of the Asian horror remakes was The Ring, an unlikely story of a cursed videotape that caused the viewer to die within a week of watching it. Roger Ebert called the movie boring and “borderline ridiculous” but it was a huge hit and paved the way for others like The Grudge and Dark Water.
Hollywood has often looked to Asia for inspiration, but sometimes it has worked the other way round.
Saidoweizu is a Japanese version of the wine soaked romantic dramedy Sideways, director Toshikazu Nagae put his own spin on Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night and A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop transports Blood Simple’s action from 1980s Texas to 19th century China.