VHS tribute documentary “ADJUST YOUR TRACKING” ready for screeningMovies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
VHS. Three letters that defined an entire generation of horror fans from the ’80s until the new millennium. It redefined the way people consumed cinema in general as it allowed for movies to be watched via home media. To some, VHS tapes were the key to a vault of obscure horror flicks and ingeniously wicked cover art, all of which could be gotten conveniently at a local video store. To others, VHS tapes were a cheap, inferior medium that served best as a stepping stone to the age of DVD and Blu-ray. Not surprisingly, VHS has accumulated a cult of its own and is being given a second life amongst hardcore cinephiles, much of which is chronicled in the new documentary ADJUST YOUR TRACKING: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE VHS COLLECTOR.
Directed by Dan Kinem and Levi “Dabeedo” Peretic, ADJUST YOUR TRACKING dives deep into the world of VHS collecting and explores those who are at the forefront of VHS’ resurrection. Featuring interviews with Troma chief Lloyd Kaufman, indie director Fred Vogel and FANGORIA’s own Tony Timpone, the film is a fascinating look into a burgeoning underground scene of cinephiles, a fact that Kinem attests to personally.
“I think, by definition, being a cinephile means you own a VCR and care about VHS,” he says. “There are still thousands of movies that have never made the jump to a digital format, so to be a true film fan, I feel you should want to see everything you possibly can. VHS is a treasure trove of obscure and, in some cases, lost gems waiting to be discovered.”
To many people, VHS collecting has become the final frontier of nostalgia, one that perfectly complements the fright field as so many bizarre and ultraviolent films rose to notoriety through their initial VHS runs. Kinem agrees. “I think the horror genre was the most interesting and memorable genre during the VHS boom,” he says. “The movies were perfect for over-the-top cover art and packaging, and because of that, there is a ton of nostalgia surrounding horror VHS [tapes].
“I also think VHS made it easier for horror directors to turn out product, so as more video stores popped up in the ’80s and ’90s, more product needed to be made,” Kinem continues. “There’s also an insane amount of forgotten horror films that have only been released on VHS.”
VHS collecting is also associated with an edgier, grittier time of cinema, which suits perfectly for the easily damaged, poor-quality tapes in focus. “I also think the VHS aesthetic plays a part, particularly for horror films,” says Kinem. “The VHS quality adds a whole new level of grit and grain to sleazy old horror movies that makes them even better. That aspect is lost when you watch them on a cleaned-up DVD or Blu-ray.”
To Kinem, the task of funding and completing ADJUST YOUR TRACKING was as arduous as the collection process itself. “We completed the film in about 14 months,” he says. “We tossed around the idea for half a year before the making of the movie. There were many obstacles, but the main two were the lack of a budget and both directors being full-time college students. We resorted to Kickstarter just to raise enough money to cover gas for driving across the country [for interviews]. We shot over 100 interviews and over 1,000 hours of footage. We got almost everything we wanted, but had to edit the film in between classes and put as much work into the movie whilst trying not to fail.”
However, ADJUST YOUR TRACKING was far more than a personal project for Kinem, as the act of VHS hording is one the co-director is embedded in as well. “Well, I am a huge VHS collector,” he reveals. “I have close to 8,000 tapes in my apartment alone. I could see that world growing and growing. This was the perfect opportunity to do a documentary on the modern day VHS resurgence, and the crazy people who still love and collect it. Once I started getting some support, it became a no-brainer that this film must be done, and I was the person to do it because I am actually a part of this culture.”
And as someone so passionate and engaged within this cult of VHS collecting, Kinem is fully committed to the cause, even so far as to claim that not only will the VHS resurgence continue, but will also provide a gateway to obscure titles that even digital cloud services cannot accumulate. “VHS will never die,” he says. “There are more and more collectors getting into the hobby daily; more and more websites popping up to document VHS. I can only see it becoming as important and collectible as vinyl. VHS is one of the most important things to happen in film history, and it’s finally being recognized. I never see VHS being forgotten. It is too important, and there’s not even the slightest chance that everything released on VHS will be transferred to the Internet. There is just too much material.”
ADJUST YOUR TRACKING will be playing this Friday, May 24, at the 92Y Tribeca Theater in New York City, and you can purchase tickets here. The film is still seeking distribution, but further screenings have already been arranged in Chicago on June 5, as well as the Day of the Dead in Indianapolis this July. For more information, visit the film’s official website.