No longer content to be the coolest, nerdiest indie movie poster label on the Interwebs, the dudes at Mondo are expanding into the world of video. And when I say video, I mean video. Today, Mondo announced the launch of Mondo Video, which will release films on VHS. Their first title is “Sledgehammer,” a 1983 horror film that was, appropriately, shot on videotape. Here is the trailer for the film, in all its analog glory.
First of all, I’m surprised these guys could even find someone that still manufactures VHS tapes at this point, but leave it to Mondo to do the borderline impossible (and borderline insane). I don’t know how many people still have VCRs around to play video tapes, but it can’t be many (my friends and I actually share one machine that we pass back and forth whenever someone needs to use it). Regardless, this new label still makes sense to me. Vinyl’s made a big comeback in recent years; I know people who collect records now who don’t even own a working record player. This works along the same basic principle.
To my mind, there are certain reasons why someone would buy a VHS tape of a film they could also buy on DVD (and you’ll be able to buy “Sledgehammer” on DVD, if you prefer, tomorrow). Collectibility, a big part of Mondo’s modus operandi, would be one. Nostalgia would be the other, particularly in the case of a quick and dirty little film like “Sledgehammer” which was both shot and intended to be viewed on VHS. And I could see other movies finding new appeal on VHS as well. I’ve long argued that films of a certain grimy atmosphere are best viewed in degraded copies, rather than on pristine, wet-from-the-lab prints. To me, the proper way to watch a “Friday the 13th” movie is on a beat-up tape your buddy’s uncle copied off HBO, with plenty of video roll and watery audio.
To a certain demented mind there’s actually something appealing about those VHS imperfections. Video ages and degrades in a way that’s kind of beautiful. There’s a certain validation in a crappy video copy of a film, since each blur and pop and skip represents all the times it’s been played. I literally watched my VHS copy of “Gymkata” to death; the first five minutes of the tape are so worn out they’re basically unviewable. But that video destruction is a sort of badge of honor; I loved this thing so much and here is the proof. And I know that there are filmmakers like Michel Gondry (whose “Be Kind Rewind” is about the beauty of old videotapes and special effects) and Harmony Korine (whose “Trash Humpers” was shot on videotape and edited on two VCRs) out there who agree with me.
Either of those films would make ideal future Mondo Video releases (and, of course, a “Gymkata” VHS would break my brain in half with joy). But for now, the “Sledgehammer” VHS will be available on MondoTees.com on Tuesday.