Monday, May 21, 2012

Video Violence (1987)

... aka: Video Violence... When Renting Is Not Enough

Directed by:
Gary P. Cohen

"One of the best SOV horror flicks" proudly proclaims the DVD cover... and that's actually no lie when you compare this directly to other 80s shot-on-video horror flicks, though admittedly you can't set the bar much lower than that! Still, some of these regionally produced cheapies do have their own unique charms and this is no exception. Video Violence is quite likable, boasts a fun premise, is fairly well made within its limits, has a non-professional cast who give it their best shot and, ultimately, rises above most of its competition simply by being watchable. Twenty-five years after its initial home video release, it also now has the benefit of being pleasantly nostalgic, at least to anyone who remembers the now-almost-nonexistence video rental business in its heyday. After a prologue (where a couple of store employees watch a woman in the dressing room on video monitors and then beat her to death with a baseball bat) we cut to the meat of our story. New York City natives Steven Emory (Art Neill) and his wife Rachel (Jackie Neill) have just moved to the small community of Frenchtown looking forward to a simpler, quieter and less stressful small town life. As they'll soon realize, they couldn't have picked a worse place to settle down.

At Steven's rental store, The Video Studio, he and his assistant Rick (Kevin Haver), who is also new to the area ("Just because I'm new in this town, they treat me like I got AIDS or something."), start picking up on strange behavior from nearly all of their customers. Why are the townspeople so secretive and unfriendly? Why do they all own VCRs and rent tapes constantly? And how come they only rent horror and slasher flicks? A mysterious tape shows up in their drop box one morning. Upon watching it, Steven and Rick discover its a homemade snuff video of the local postmaster getting beat with a hammer, having his hand cut off with clippers and then getting decapitated with a machete. Steven immediately goes to the police to report it but finds the chief of police (William Toddie) smarmy and uncooperative. He's able to convince to at least look at the video, but when Steven returns Rick is missing and the snuff tape has been replaced with another home movie. The police chief tells him to "lay off the monster movies" and then goes his way.

Meanwhile, two of the townies - obese, cackling cameraman Howard (Bart Sumner) and sadistic psycho Eli (Uke) - are busy at work making their own snuff tapes for "Basement Videos." They kidnap a woman, tie her up in the basement, pour bear on her chest and cut off her tank top, then Eli carves his name into her chest and stabs her through the heart with an ice pick. The duo were also responsible for killing the postmaster and several others, and eventually send a tape to Steven's video store of them killing Rick (which is promptly erased by the sheriff when Steven takes it to him). But Eli, Howard and the Police Chief aren't the only three in on this... nearly the whole town is! At a deli, the two owners poison a couple's lemonade, decapitate the woman with an electric carving knife and then make soup out of her head and then cut the guy's hand off and run it through the slicer ("Give me a half pound of arm!"). Seems most of the population is into making their "own brand of down home snuff movies."

It was filmed in New Jersey and originally distributed by Camp Motion Pictures on VHS (the director claims they were the only company who offered to create a poster for it); a revived Camp also handled the recent DVD release. It was first paired with the silly follow-up VIDEO VIOLENCE PART II: THE EXPLOITATION (1988) and features a commentary tracks as well as an interview with the director. A new box set from Camp (released in 2011) contained both Video Violence films as well as the director's barely released CAPTIVES (which had a shoddy and brief video release under the title Mama's Home) and THE BASEMENT, an unreleased SOV effort from 1989 making its belated debut.



Alex Jowski said...

I remember this as being one of the worst movies I'd ever seen. Though there is plenty of SOV that's a LOT worse. A friend of mine and I actually went on a road trip through Bayonne, NJ and saw a lot of where this film was made.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Yep, it's not the greatest thing ever but I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt factoring in the budget and filming method. Comparing it directly to others of its type it sure does get a lot worse. I can name dozens off the top of my head that make this look like a masterpiece!

I guess it might depend on when you made your road trip, but was "The Video Studio" still there?

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