Cast: Atom Egoyan, Charles Band, Cassandra Peterson, Jason Eisener
Using interviews, original and archived footage, documentarian Josh Johnston has constructed a retrospective look at the format that not only transformed a generation of movie watchers, but transformed the business of cinema itself – VHS.
For fans of film, of any age, Rewind This! is a fascinating look not only at the impact the VHS format had on the landscape of cinema, but also a deft rendering of the VHS era. An era when cheap horror films could be shot on video over a weekend and released directly to video stores for a quick buck. An era when porn moved away from seedy theaters into the homes of every household in America.
In the wild west of direct to video market in the ‘80s – the name of the game was sex, gore, or pure schlock. This is undoubtedly the most interesting and engaging part of Rewind This! for genre fanatics. The video boom produced a lost generation of sorts, with thousands of forgotten classics never making the jump to DVD – films like Sledgehammer, and Tales from the Quadead Zone. Rewind This! also features a heavy helping of footage lifted from these unknown wonders – which make up more than a few of the documentary’s most memorable moments.
While the film’s discussion of the aesthetic contributions to cinema are somewhat absurd – at one point and interviewee even espouses his love of the “pan and scan” technique VHS used to employ on films that demanded higher aspect ratios than what the format could afford – there is still something to be said for the aesthetic association VHS now holds for many movie watchers (myself included). Rewind This! even plays up these “flaws” in its open credit sequence.
Foremost, however, the film Is a thorough examination of the past, present, and future of the VHS format. Appropriately, much attention is given to tape’s golden age (roughly early ‘80s to early 00’s).The film also takes pains to document the rise of the format over Betamax, and the initial logistical technicalities of releasing films on video.
Not wont to constrain itself to merely the nostalgic recollections of contemporary VHS collectors, Rewind This! also features interviews with filmmakers and video store owners from back in video’s heyday. Without question, video changed the game for filmmaking, eventually leading to the on-demand-instant-download-gratification media world we now live in.
For those who remember or grew up with VHS, Rewind This! is nostalgia and a reminder of just how much of a game changer home video really was. For younger audiences Rewind This! is a lesson in physical media – a peek into an era that they missed but whose effects reverberate through to today.