Whereas the documentary VHS Massacre (2016) took a nostalgic look at the decline of VHS and other physical media, its new sequel VHS Massacre Too focuses on such current issues as the lack of interest and even refusal of large streaming platforms — currently the most popular mode of movie consumption — to feature low-budget exploitation films. The documentary takes a sound look at the problem and how it affects independent filmmakers, cast, and crew members.
Director Thomas Edward Seymour kicks the film off with film critic Joe Bob Briggs and others discussing exploitation films, censorship, and related topics from the Hays Code onward. It’s a brief but informative introduction and sets the table well for later censorship discussions, such as Blockbuster Video’s refusal to carry certain types of movies.
Briggs is just one of several talking heads in the documentary. He provides fine insight on how films can become obscure and even lost without physical media. Filmmaker and actor Debbie Rochon discusses her personal struggles trying to get one of her films distributed, and how working for an independent exploitation studio like Troma Entertainment can work against filmmakers trying to break into the Hollywood system. Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman weighs in on several topics, including the reality of how difficult it is to make any real money as an indie filmmaker. Director Jason Carvey is proof of this, as his telling sequence examines how any profits he might have seen from his 2006 film A New Wave disappeared.
Though a great deal of important and even jarring information is on display in VHS Massacre Too, the documentary occasionally wanders a bit, including a side story about returning an overdue rental to the nation’s last Blockbuster Video store.
Overall, VHS Massacre Too is a well-done documentary that works as both a cautionary fable for budding independent filmmakers and for those not taking heed about streaming platforms replacing physical media. The film has a big heart that overcomes its getting sidetracked at times.
VHS Massacre Too screened as part of Twisted Dreams Film Festival, which ran from October 1–4.