I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

All the Best about VHS: The Video Dead


by Johnathon Davis
Oct. 14, 2015
When The Video Dead was released (straight to video in fact) in 1987, the home movie viewing experience was a very different thing compared to what it is today. There weren’t any free streaming devices or any of the other services many of us take for granted. Instead we had the once mighty neighborhood video rental store. It was often a very Mum and Pop kind of affair, a symbol of simpler times where hometown charm had not been beaten to the ground by pop culture. The selection of these stores was always eclectic, and varied based upon each respective owners individual tastes. There was a “we’ve got a little bit of everything” air about these places which later corporate contenders decidedly lacked a great deal of. Sure Hollywood video was great and all when they first came to my town in North Dakota, but given the choice between them and old time local favorite Video Magic not much further away I don’t have to tell you which one I frequented the most.

The Video Dead was one of those movies the local stores (which one I can never recall) had that the big corporate ones would never touch -- and that is precisely why I love the small places so dearly. They weren’t concerned with what would make a profit half the time- instead, they focused on what kinds of movies people might actually want to watch for the fun of it. I always wanted to rent The Video Dead but being under 16 made the movie pretty well off limits to my rental account. Thankfully now I’m a grown up and can watch what I like, but for anyone lacking a VCR The Video Dead has sadly never seen an official DVD release.

VHS, unlike many DVDs we have today, are (depending upon the film) widely renowned for their box art if nothing else. The actual art of painting a cover is far removed from the often uninspiring cut and paste photoshop jobs that litter store shelves today. And believe you me, The Video Dead had some really cool cover art. I could talk on and on all day about “how things used to be” but that really isn’t why you are reading this are you? Well anyways times were good but times change so let’s get on with the movie yeah? I lie, I’m still going to yammer on about the past a little bit too because VHS tapes are near and dear to my heart.

The Video Dead fits into the weird wide world of direct-to-video films. These types of yearns wouldn’t have made so much as a quarter if they were released theatrically, but with the advent of home video, a low and/or no budget feature could be released to a reasonably sized audience (or so the filmmakers hoped) while recouping any related cost in sales of the VHS itself. VHS were SUPER expensive back in the day (it cost upwards of 3o USD to rent ONE cassette in 1982 for example) so the tapes were priced accordingly. Lucky for us low budget fiends there are plenty of tapes of movies like this still around for the occasional weirdo like you or me to pick up and enjoy.

These movies are often bottom of the barrel and full of unintentional hilarity. The Video Dead happens to have both of those things and an almost nude cameo by Jennifer Miro (lead singer of the San Fran punk/goth group The Nuns, who sadly passed away in mid December of 2011) to boot! Yes there is a LOT of questionable acting and wooden characters you want to shake violently when moments of obvious decision making occur, but that is part of the fun of movies of this ilk. The cast list is rife with actors responsible for being in only this one movie. It makes you wonder where they are at and how they feel about having been in this. Maybe the more track down oriented among us know where to find at least a couple of these people and can let us all know the 4-1-1.

You DO like having FUN watching a movie right? I can’t recommend this movie any higher than chocolate or baby animals, so I really suggest sitting down and watching it. Go ahead, you aren’t afraid of dead things coming out of your TV to slowly take over the world......are you? Direct to vid movies today unfortunately don’t share the same spirit that early endeavours like this one excelled at. I know that is a bit of a sweeping statement, as low budget movies made by folks who love them are making a slow comeback as I type this. So is VHS for that matter, and I couldn’t be happier to be waiting around today to see what comes up around the bend.
Johnathon lives in Portland, Oregon. He makes collages. He also writes things for Network Awesome, as well as his weekly movie review blog which can be found at http://fshomevideo.blogspot.com. You should read it, it's really terrific.