Underrated Slasher of the Week: “Video Violence”

In the early 80’s, the drive in experience was the best way to see a brand new slasher. Invite a couple of friends (or a hot date) and cruise down to the local drive in to watch a B-movie splatter experience. However, with the onset of the invention of the VCR in the early 80’s, the horror market began to change dramatically. Anyone, and I do mean anyone, could make a cheap, shot on video slasher film. All you needed was a couple of friends, a camcorder, and a couple of gallons of fake blood. The majority of these were awful but there was a certain native charm to them. These were movies made by filmmakers who loved movies. Nobody expected to make a profit, they just wanted to make a fun, slasher flick.

Case in point, 1987’s shot on video cheapie “Video Violence”. “Video Violence” begins with an ingenious, and far ahead of its time, plot that screams for a remake. Unsuspecting couple Steve and Rachel become completely immersed in a town of blood-drunk crazies. Led by sickos Howard and Eli, these backwater psychopaths produce and watch their own snuff movies in which the victims are outsiders or citizens trying to leave the close-knit community of killers. One day an unmarked tape shows up in the return bin of Steve’s just-opened video store, and it’s the town postmaster being savagely mutilated. “Can it be real, or just a gag?” wonders Steve. He’ll soon discover the horrifying answer…

“Video Violence” is fun, light years ahead of the torture porn of the last decade. The effects are laughable and the acting is as wooden as a board but everyone just seems to be trying their very hardest to make a good horror movie. Writer/director Gary Cohen came up with the idea for the film while working as a video store clerk. A fan of the golden age of cinema, he was disheartened by the fact that horror films- particularly slashers- were the most popular films among his clientele. The genesis of the movie came one afternoon when a young mother with her children asked if the film “I Dismember Mama” contained any sex; Cohen informed her that he was unsure about the film’s sexual content but that he knew it contained graphic violence. The woman decided to rent the film, telling Cohen that as long as the film were devoid of sex, she considered it appropriate viewing for her children. The same exchange occurs in Video Violence, albeit under slightly different circumstances. The social satire is brilliant here and I would love to see what a strong filmmaker could do with a remake in the internet age. Not everything here works. It is 100 minutes long and at least 15 minutes could have been cut to make a stronger, more cohesive whole. Nonetheless, for those of you who don’t mind your slashers a little grainy and a little rough around the edges, you could do far, far worse.