Exclusive: 'V/H/S' Directors on Their Real-Life VHS Memories



Found-footage anthology feature V/H/S returns audiences to the good ol’ days of VHS tapes. Before DVD, before iTunes, there were VHS tapes and video rental stores. While it is unlikely that anyone misses the technology, what most people are nostalgic for is the culture that sprung up around VHS. So we asked some of the brains behind V/H/S about their fondest VHS memories.

Director Joe Swanberg, “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” - When I was first getting into films, I remember going to the video store and, if there was a director you liked, you had to turn over all the boxes and look for that director’s name. Everything was a sense of discovery back then. Now it’s easy to find whatever you are looking for in like five seconds. So I kind of miss that feeling of wandering through a video store and discovering things.

Actress Helen Rogers, “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” - I liked the staff picks section.

Director David Bruckner, “Amateur Night” - I had Terminator on VHS, and a handful of other James Cameron movies. I only really had what my dad had recorded off the television, and I must have watched those a thousand times, until the tape was really worn down. My first movies were edited on VHS, between two VCRs, pressing “play” and “record.” So you would have those static speckles between edits. I made a whole end of the world story on Mario Paint, that early Nintendo game. Because you could do like three second animations and record them straight to VHS.

Writer Simon Barrett, “Tape 56” - One of the things that actually brought me and Adam [Wingard] together was our love of 1980s Hong Kong action films. I grew up in a small town in Missouri, and there was this one Chinese grocery, and they had all these video tapes, all labelled in Chinese. I actually taught myself a little bit of Cantonese so I could see films like A Better Tomorrow and The Killer. Sometimes I’d rent the wrong movie and end up watching some weird drama, but that is how I found some of my favorite films, like The Tigers. Sometimes watching 12th generation bootlegs, your mind would have to do some of the work for you. Like when I first saw Meet the Feebles, it was maybe a 12th generation VHS. Then I saw it on film, in a theater, and had no idea how low budget that film was.

Director Adam Wingard, “Tape 56” - That’s the funny thing about how Simon and I got together in the beginning. When we first met, we both had this infatuation with weird Hong Kong cinema specifically, or just trashy foreign cinema in general. A lot of those, the only way you could get them was through crappy VHS tapes. That whole thing is kind of lost now. You can rip off something and you don’t suffer the generational losses. Now you feel nostalgic for it!