VHS Nasty - VHS Nasty(DVD) [Filmlandia - 2019]VHS Nasty is the third installment of the 'VHS Lives' documentary series from director Tony Newton featuring interviews with his friends and colleagues from the world of low budget film making. The first in the series, simply titled 'VHS Lives: A Shockumentary' featured some well-known figures from the world of underground horror and sleaze with the likes of Nekromantik director Jörg Buttgereit and David DeCoteau who gave the world Creepozoids and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama both featured.
In this third instalment we don’t get anyone with quite such a high profile as Buttgereit or DeCoteau, with the exception of Troma overlord and general nice guy, Lloyd Kauffman who pops up albeit briefly at the beginning and end of the film, but what we do get are a group of low budget filmmakers who are passionate about horror, Newton himself has almost fifty directorial credits, mostly within the horror field and others involved in the project like Matthew Fisher, Nathan Hill, and David McDonough have fairly sizeable filmographies that include work not just as directors but as actors, musicians, producers and beyond. There is a lot of experience on which to draw. For this particular documentary, the remit is slightly different to previous entries in the series, this one is concerned with a specific list of titles that were banned in the UK during the 1980s by the Director of Public Prosecutions, these titles became known as The Video Nasties.
I am sure the vast majority reading this review will know what 'The Video Nasties' were, but for the uninitiated, they were a group of films that found themselves outlawed by the BBFC and the DPP under the Video Recordings Act of 1984, some were outlawed for excessive violence (Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust), some for sexual violence or extreme subject matters (Cannibal Holocaust again, SS Experiment Camp, Gestapo’s Last Orgy, etc), and some should never have been included at all (Inferno, Tenebre, The Burning, City of the Living Dead, Zombie Flesheaters, etc). Anyway, the ban merely led to a desire to collect these titles, films like the Island of Death, Forest of Fear and Beast in Heat which would probably have all but disappeared were suddenly thrust into the limelight and became incredibly collectible, fetching figures as high as £200 - £300.
Anyway, back to the documentary, it is quite interesting in some respects to hear American and Australian filmmakers talking about video nasties and what they make of what is largely a UK phenomenon, but it really is the words of director Tony Newton and the other UK based filmmakers that prove to be the most interesting for me. As someone who collected these films during that period, I can completely understand when they talk about the excitement of tape trading or watching 5th or 6th generation dupes of films that were difficult to find, or the thrill of the hunt round markets and car boot sales for original tapes. The overall feel of the production is that it was assembled inexpensively and that works fine for me, many of the films they’re talking about were put together on a shoestring and it seems appropriate to celebrate them in this way. I think it would make an interesting companion piece to Jake West’s superb Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape- which was more about the history of the events that took place and he interviews those involved in the unfolding panic and subsequent fallout, whereas Newton’s film is more concerned with the fandom that blew up around these titles.
Overall, VHS Nasty is an enjoyable romp through my teenage years in the company of some of the films that made me who I am today so naturally, I enjoyed it. I would have perhaps liked to see more interviews with those directly involved in the moral panic that ensued in this country. I know there are many UK filmmakers who cut their teeth on these films and have a lot to say about them, but I felt the project was cooked up between friends rather than as a definitive project, however, I recognize the good work that has been done on this doc and would recommend it to anyone who has fond memories of those times.Darren Charles