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VHSHITFEST

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Dan M. Kinem and Levi Peretic
Cast:
Various
Writing Credits:
Dan M. Kinem and Levi Peretic

Synopsis:
Over 100 collectors, filmmakers, producers, and video store owners express how VHS changed their lives. Some see VHS as worthless plastic, but Adjust Your Tracking shows a vibrant world of collectors and movie fans who are keeping the format, and the movies, alive. Travel back to the days of video rental stores with those who still buy, sell, rent and trade the format that will not die - VHS.

MPAA:
Not Rated

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 80 min.
Price: $19.95
Release Date: 6/17/2014

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Directors Dan Kinem and Levi Peretic
• Audio Commentary with Producers Josh Schaefer and Matt Desiderio
• Three Short Films
• “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”
• Alamo Drafthouse Q&A
• Back Alley Film Series Q&A
• Extended Interviews
• Deleted Scenes
• Two Trailers


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Adjust Your Tracking (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 18, 2014)

For most viewers, VHS died as a viable video format somewhere around 2000 or so, as DVD came to dominate the market. However, a loyal cadre of fans remained loyal to the format, and we learn about them via a 2013 documentary called Adjust Your Tracking.

Largely anecdotal in nature, Tracking tells us a little about the history of VHS and video stores, the rise of DVD and the decline of VHS, modern-day VHS collectors and reflections on their hobby.

The film features a broad array of participants. We hear from Camp Motion pictures owner Mike Raso, Destroy All Movies!!! writer Zack Carlson, 8mm Madness’s “42nd Street Pete”, Mr. Skin head writer Mike McPadden, Bloody Ape director Keith Crocker, Troma Entertainment’s Lloyd Kaufman, former Fangoria Magazine editor Tony Timpone, Video Violence director Gary Cohen, Everything Is Terrible’s Dimitri Simakis, Katie Ride and Nick Moore, collectors Edward McHale, Nick Rohrbaugh, Jimmy Turri, Chi Orengo, Grant Cornelison, and Eric Fredrich, Cinema Arcana’s Bruce Holecheck, Vulcan Video manager Bryan Connolly, Plan Nine Video’s Dave Walter, “video fiend” Phil Blankenship, Spudic’s Movie Empire’s Eric Spudic, Dormarth’s Horror Review’s Paul “Dormarth” Malleck, HorrorHound writer Matt Moore, Massacre Video’s Louis Justin, Super Video owner Samuel M. Sherman, Cinema Wasteland’s Ken Kish, Movie Madness’s Perry Horton, artist/collector “Putrid”, Video Diary of a Lost Girl director Lindsay Denniberg, Spookies singer Mayhaw Hoons, K and J Horror’s Joe Clark, VHSCollector.com’s Paul Zamarelli, Bradco Video owner Bradley Creanzo, graphic designer Earl Kess, Spectacle Theater’s Mark Freado, Salamone’s Buy and Sell’s Tony Salamone, Briarwood Entertainment’s Justin Rice, and concept artist Devon Whitehead.

Perhaps it’s inappropriate for a guy who’s spent 15-plus years on a site that endorses the highest quality home video formats to review a movie that waxes enthusiastic about VHS. People who focus on picture/audio never liked VHS; they went from laserdisc to DVD to Blu-ray.

That said, I can be awfully nostalgic, so a movie that tends to trot down that path appeals to me. While I never felt fondness for VHS as a format in terms of quality, I do look back affectionately on what a revolution VHS was in the early 80s.

I was 15 when my family got our first VHS machine, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I could watch movies at home – whenever I felt like it! No longer would I have to wait for a theatrical revival or a TV screening. So many decades after the fact – with so much material available so easily – it can be tough to remember how liberating this was. Because of those memories, I can think back on my VHS days with a smile.

I also totally get the collector’s mindset. I’ve always been into collecting; from comic books to baseball cards to action figures to CDs, I’ve constantly pursued some form of collectible since my teen years. Even now, there’s not much I enjoy more than a day at a used CD store as I peruse the racks and look for rare titles. And since I’ve been known to spend $70 apiece on CDs I never want to play, I can’t criticize these people when they pay big bucks for terrible movies on VHS.

With all that as background, I should embrace the folks in Tracking, but unfortunately, I can’t. Part of the problem stems from the film’s semi-inability to explain why these fans feel so obsessed with VHS. A few give off the vibe that they collect certain labels/titles, and others relate that they mostly dig the nostalgia.

However, those moments don’t pop up often, so much of the time, the fans seem to embrace VHS more as a “screw you” to more modern formats. None of them appear to feel that VHS looks/sounds better than DVD or Blu-ray, though we do hear the belief that VHS is more durable. Given how easily VHS tape gets mangled and/or wears down, I disagree; it’s tougher to damage a DVD than the participants believe.

Whatever the case, much of the time it doesn’t seem especially clear why those involved love VHS so much – well, other than the pretentious woman who refers to VHS as organic and “closer to the body” than DVD, which she compares to a skin graft. For the others, some embrace VHS because it offers films not available on DVD, and others seem to simply enjoy the challenge of finding rare titles.

Fair enough – I can relate to those attitudes. Unfortunately, we don’t get a lot of those sorts of explanations, as much of the time the participants appear to dig VHS more out of a sense of hipster smugness. I get a definite vibe that they pursue VHS tapes because they’re out of the mainstream more than anything else.

Some involved here liken the so-called “VHS revival” – which I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist beyond a tiny cult – to the recent resurgence of vinyl records. I do see some similarities, mainly because both focus on the retro hipster side of things, but I comprehend the return of vinyl more easily because vinyl remains a quality form of reproduction. Even as a dedicated CD guy, I recognize that at its best, vinyl sounds better. Getting the format “at its best” is a much bigger challenge, and given the weaker user-friendliness of vinyl, I’ll stick with CDs, but I do feel that a great-sounding record surpasses the quality of a great-sounding CD.

No one appears to believe that about VHS. Well, I suppose someone out there might genuinely believe that a VHS tape looks as good or better than a DVD. Heck, some misbegotten soul – like the woman who prattles about the “organic” nature of VHS – might even prefer VHS visuals to Blu-ray presentations.

But if they exist at all, those people remain in a severe minority – such a tiny group that we don’t hear from them in Tracking. The documentary emphasizes many aspects of the “VHS revival”, but “it looks and sounds great” don’t turn into parts of the discussion.

To be fair, they don’t need to be a rationalization for the folks involved. Again, I get the collector mindset and understand that the hobby isn’t driven by what’s best – it’s about what’s rarest and completing your collection.

When Tracking focuses on that side of the hobby, it works pretty well. I like the stories from VHS hounds who discuss their attempts to find rare tapes – and their occasional victories. I can relate to those tales and find them interesting to hear.

It’s the rest of the self-justification on display that can make Tracking tedious. Perhaps beaten down by constant attacks on their video medium of choice, too many of the participants feel compelled to try to prove to us that they’ve chosen a worthwhile hobby. I’d like to hear less of that and more of the fun involved.

Also, Tracking gives short shrift to the historical side of things. Even though I lived through it, I’d like to learn more about how the home video market evolved. We get a little but those elements come from a fairly anecdotal point of view and don’t tell us a ton.

Most collectors tend to be a bit nuts – present company excepted, of course! – and Tracking follows that path. We get the expected mix of hipsters – the guy whose choice to be interviewed in a kids’ ball pit made me groan – as well as stereotypical “guys who live in their mothers’ basements”. One dope actually compares the way we ignore VHS tapes to the shunning of war veterans!

Would it’ve been hard to find at least a handful of participants who seemed a bit more quote-unquote normal? These guys – and I do mean “guys”, as only two women appear here – tend to come across as such social misfits that it becomes somewhat off-putting. I get the feeling the documentary wants us to embrace the VHS collecting hobby, but too many of the speakers come across as strange for that to happen. Like I said, I know that my own love of collecting makes some of this seem like “pot/kettle/pretty dark” territory, and I suspect a documentary about CD collectors probably wouldn’t provide a radically more socially adept crew, but I still see this as a concern.

All these issues aside, Tracking does have its moments. Unfortunately, it moves in such a ramshackle, unstructured manner that it threatens to alienate the viewer, and the quality of the discussion material doesn’t add as much as I’d like. This becomes a sporadically entertaining piece but that’s about it.


The DVD Grades: Picture D/ Audio C-/ Bonus B+

Adjust Your Tracking appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1; due to those dimensions, the image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Should one expect a movie about VHS – and shot on low-def cameras – to look good? No, one should not.

Should one complain about this? Probably not, and I won’t – my critique of the visuals will call it as I saw it, but I can’t claim that the ugly picture bothered me. An attractive image would’ve been contrary to the movie’s conceit.

Taken objectively, though, it became hard to rate this as anything other than an awful visual presentation. Sharpness was consistently poor, as the movie seemed soft, fuzzy and ill-defined from start to finish. I saw lots of shimmering and jagged edges, and haloes popped up around objects frequently. Taken from video, I didn’t see specks and marks that would affect a film transfer, but video artifacting was a presence.

Colors looked sub-mediocre. Not a hint of vivacity occurred here, as the tones seemed bland and brownish. Blacks were mushy and flat, while low-light shots appeared dull and dense. Again, the movie looked the way one would expect, but that didn’t make it any less ugly.

While not memorable, at least the film’s Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack came across as more competent. Despite the 2.0 designation, the mix remained monaural and didn’t appear to branch out from the center.

Audio quality was fine. Speech varied due to the variety of recording locations, but the material seemed intelligible and reasonably natural. Effects remained a background component and didn’t have much to do; those elements appeared acceptably accurate but not better than that. Music showed decent pop and punch. Nothing here excelled but the mix was adequate for this sort of retro documentary.

In this two-disc special edition, we get plenty of extras, and we launch with two separate audio commentaries. The first features writers/directors Dan Kinem and Levi Peretic, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss the origins and development of the film, aspects of the interviews and thoughts about the subject matter, editing and music, and related topics.

On the positive side, Kinem and Peretic offer an extremely enthusiastic commentary, as they're animated and eager to chat. On the negative side, they tell us little that seems likely to interest anyone who doesn't know them. They tell us so many anecdotes about what they did while they traveled for the movie that the result sounds more like a teenager's discussion of "what I did on summer vacation" than a look at the film's creation. They have a blast as they reminisce, but they relate to few movie-making notes that this becomes a waste of time.

For the second commentary, we hear from producers Josh Schaefer and Matt Desiderio. They also give us a running, screen-specific chat, as they examine various documentary participants, aspects of the VHS collecting culture and related areas.

Like the directors, Desiderio and Schafer tend toward anecdotes, but they come across as less chatty. Occasionally they tell us a little about the different interview subjects, but mostly they offer inside jokes and very basic notes about the on-screen material. They never even bother to tell us what they did as producers. This commentary seems even less useful than its predecessor, as neither one gives us much information about the movie's creation.

On DVD One, we find two trailers for Tracking as well as three short films. These include “Video Shelf” (11:22), “It Wasn’t In Vain, It Was In Staten Island” (6:34) and “The Ballad of Chester Novell Turner” (7:16). The first two look at the decline of the video rental store, while “Turner” tells us a bit more about Tales of the Quadead Zone, the valuable VHS tape discussed in Tracking. “Turner” feels more promotional than anything else, as it doesn't tell us much, but the other two offer bittersweet glimpses of what happened to the owners of small stores.

When we shift to DVD Two, where we start with three components under “Behind the Scenes”. Foggy Mountain Breakdown runs nine minutes, 10 seconds and shows the film’s creators as they seek Bigfoot. Like the commentaries, this turns into nothing more than annoying self-gratification.

Next we locate two Q&A sessions. One comes from the Alamo Drafthouse (18:34), while the other relates to the Back Alley Film Series (22:35). Peretic and Kinem appear in both as they discuss the film’s origins and how they know each other, aspects of making the movie and thoughts about the VHS collecting hobby. Though occasionally redundant, the two Q&As mostly compliment each other – and they render the commentary virtually moot, as they give us a pretty tight recap of filmmaking issues.

Ample amounts of footage appears within Extended Interviews. With a total running time of two hours, 13 minutes, 56 seconds, we get clips with 16 interview subjects, and we also find “Uncut Tours” from Bradley Creanzo, Joe Clark and Zack Carlson. The participants discuss collecting, video stores and related subjects.

To my surprise, the comments work better here than they do in the main documentary. As a collector, I like the stories about finding “hidden treasure”, and some interesting tales emerge. Some of the participants fare better than others – and someone should tell “42nd Street Pete” that old black and white movies benefit immensely from Blu-ray – but the compilation proves to be mostly interesting.

Six Deleted Scenes occupy a total of 26 minutes, 33 seconds. We find “Cutboxes” (2:20), “Everything Is Terrible” (4:17), “Faces of Death” (6:45), “Redbox” (2:52), “Scarecrow Video” (6:08) and “Shot on Video” (4:11). These discuss more aspects of the VHS collecting domain as well as additional thoughts about the video format. Most of these add some decent details, though “Cutboxes” loses points when it cuts to Nazi concentration camp footage to illustrate a participant’s point; that choice couldn’t be much more distasteful.

The “Redbox” discussion makes the speakers look even more smug and absurd as they condemn that video rental format. In particular, Zack Carlson – the dope in the ball pit - paints himself as a massive douche when he a) thinks people shouldn’t rent from Redbox if they can get to a “real” video store within a two-day drive and b) claims he truly wants to kill people who use it. He makes sure we know he means it, which makes him even creepier.

In concept, Adjust Your Tracking could offer a satisfying look at the world of VHS collectors. Unfortunately, it suffers from so many awkward, clumsy elements that it frustrates much more than it entertains. The DVD provides weak visuals and mediocre audio but it comes with lots of bonus materials, though one should steer clear of the terrible commentaries. Tracking had promise but it ends up as an erratic experience.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main