In 1985, United Home Video gave us Blood Cult, which was billed as the first straight-to-video horror movie. Whether or not that claim is true is debatable, but I cherish the VHS copy I found in the clearance bin because it was shot in and around my hometown. (United’s follow-up, The Ripper, has scenes shot about two blocks from my current address.) Video Violence references Blood Cult twice and there’s something oddly pointed about it.
Here’s what you need to know: a New Yorker opens a video store in a small town. One day a homemade snuff film finds its way in the overnight return box. Naturally, the cops don’t believe his “crazy story” because otherwise the movie would be over as soon as they do their job. Or maybe they’re in on it… maybe. (I’m not just being flippant here. It really is kind of hard to tell.)
I began snickering almost as soon as Video Violence began. In the opening scene, a couple of store clerks wait for an unsuspecting shopper to go into the dressing room before bursting in and beating her to death with a baseball bat. That, of course, isn’t the funny part. What’s funny is these aren’t actors, just people who the director probably talked into being in his little horror movie. I imagine the writing process was like this: “Hey, I know a guy who owns a grocery store, so let’s set a scene there.”
According to Wikipedia, Video Violence is an angry response to the cheap horror films which were infiltrating the newly created video market at the time. The director, who worked in a video store, claims he was disheartened by the fact so many people were into these types of movies. So what did he do as a response? He created one of the sickest of the bunch. At least one section is as uncomfortably brutal as the scene in A Clockwork Orange, complete with the instigators using scissors to reveal the victim’s nipples.
So it’s remarkable that out of Blood Cult, The Ripper, and Redneck Zombies, Video Violence is easily the most watchable. The other movies were boring more often than not, but even though it’s longer, Video Violence has that certain undefinable trait found in Neil Breen films and The Room. The actors probably have no business being in a movie, but what they lack in talent they make up for with charm. And imagine driving through a small town and seeing this guy on the sidewalk:
I always loved the idea of everyday people picking up a camera and making a movie. Youtube has kind of ruined the novelty of it, but back then it was great to think an impromptu horror movie was the talk of a small town in a Waiting for Guffman kind of way. Video Violence drags a little towards the end, but atones for its slip-up soon enough.