My VHS Hell! (a personal trip caught on a deleted format)

About three or four years ago I was met with a huge personal tragedy.

It affected me so profoundly Broken-VCRthat I have never been the same and it still affects me in my day to day life. At the time I was inconsolable and fell into a state of mourning that almost bordered on the catatonic and I refused to leave the house for several weeks.

My VHS recorder chewed up a tape and was irreversibly damaged.

I can’t recall what tape it was as I have tried to remove that moment of despair from my mind. But in any case, it was destroyed along with everything I held dear… being able to watch my weighty VHS tape collection.

I was forced into buying DVD’s as there was nowhere to get hold of a functioning recorder and I found the experience sterile, dull and in some cases infuriating.

Everything was so clean and tidy in these stores. I was standing in shops where every light worked and there wasn’t a sticky spot on the carpet. The place didn’t smell of old mouldy stuff and Blue Stratos aftershave worn by the bottle load by the seedy looking man behind the counter.
If you ask him, he has porn under the counter; yeah, that sort of guy.

All the DVD’s were neat and in their original wrapping without partially ripped stickers on that you had to remove with lighter fluid while trying not to damage the precious art work under the misty, aged plastic. I was well out of my comfort zone.

I never had to queue up to buy videos at the car boot sales or the record exchanges of Soho. It was a whole new experience that I had to deal with and I don’t like change.

vhs car boot

Up until then I had been collecting for many years and scoured the land (and web) looking for video nasties, off the wall exploitation, hard to find gore and straight up video weirdness.

We were quite lucky in my town to have one of those second hand vinyl places that took in video as well as memorabilia. Over the years I managed to build a working friendship with the bloke that owned it. He would give me first refusal on all manner of collectable stuff and I would go in there every Friday morning with a fistful of cash and the anticipation of what was under the counter.

I was rarely disappointed.

The amount of times I would be dancing when I left that place because he would dump a stack of classics on the counter and say “what do you make of these then?” and there would always be at least one in the pile that would blow my mind.

A lot of the time he wanted to price them up because he was more into collecting and selling vinyl and wanted to gauge what stuff he had. Sometimes he knew how much they were worth and wanted to try and catch me out/rip me off. We had a good little thing going and I managed to bolster my collection for a reasonable price and he got himself a repeat customer with disposable income.

It was also in this shop where I found my ‘Great White Buffalo’ film; possibly the first real horror movie that I had ever seen called The Hand starring Michael Cane. I had spent nearly 15 years tracking that fucker down and had almost given up hope.

It had got to a point where I had forgotten it existed to be honest.

There seemed to be a strange light coming off of it when the guy pulled it from under the counter. I could swear I heard angels singing and trumpets sounding as my hands caressed the box.

VHS heaven

That shop was like my idea of heaven. I was gutted when the place shut down a few years back. Another one of those rare little gems that has sadly disappeared with the rise of the corporate ‘shopping mall’ mentality.

Funny how I didn’t shed a tear when Blockbuster shut down.

I heard that the owner had met some woman online and done a bunk out to Spain to open a bar or some kind of café. I believe he’s selling his left over stock through a friend on eBay to finance his Mediterranean lifestyle.

But enough of the local gossip, back to the videos.

So… a while ago a place opened up near me, one of those big charity shops that specialise in house clearances. The place is filled with refurbished sofas and sideboards but they also have an electrical section. I know a girl that refuses to buy stuff from them because, and I quote ‘she doesn’t want a haunted sofa in her house.’

I know some strange people.

For ages I had just walked past the place without giving it a second look until a mate of mine needed a second hand sofa on the cheap for his new place and took me in there.

My jaw nearly hit the floor when I saw they were selling a ‘good as new’ top loading VHS recorder. You know the ones, the silver and black beasts with the big clunky switches on the front that you have to push down for every function.

It was on sale for £20. I could not fucking believe it, I nearly wet myself.

vhs player

At the time I had no cash on me but went back a few days later to pick it up to find it had been sold.
I made a point of going in there every weekend waiting for another to come up but with no luck… until last week.

As soon as I saw the bastard I told the bloke behind the counter to put it aside for me so I could pick it up in a few days; I can’t fucking wait.

While I count down the days I decided to go through my tape collection and dust them off. I also took a few snaps of them and put them on my Facebook. Trust me when I say that there were so many titles in there that I had forgotten about.

Don’t Answer the Phone, Night After Night After Night, Tenebrae, The Beyond, AXE, Cannibal Holocaust, The Slayer, Motel Hell, Seed People, Creepers, Mutronics, Neon Maniacs, CHUD, Suspiria, Evil Dead, Steel Claw, Kindred, Contaminated, Slugs, Hellgate, Fiend and many, many more.

All original ex-rental big boxes and as good as mint condition.

Some are first prints like my copy Mad max vhsof Mad Max that I had totally disregarded. I wouldn’t mind finding out how much that is worth actually purely for bragging rights.

I took something like 50 odd photos with three tapes in each and I’m still nowhere near finished. I was like a pig in shit that afternoon.

And let’s not mention all my (extensive) Vipco and Palace tapes, oh my. It was like looking into the face of a god, and she had a VHS logo tattooed on her neck.

I truly can’t wait to collect that vintage old thing, set it up and give some of the old tapes a blast. My mate Little Dave is coming over one afternoon to get his video nasty on with what I’m guessing will be a heroic dose of alcohol and some form of take away trash, possibly followed by an evening at the pub to talk tapes… And continue drinking.

Seriously I can’t wait for the next week or two, rekindle my love for the VHS tape. Plot up for a few solid days with enough wine and snacks to outlast the zombie apocalypse and get all square-eyed with classic after classic.

And I really can’t wait to hit the car boot sales to continue my collection, that’s if they still sell videos.

It’s been so long I hope they haven’t updated formats.

To be continued…


Gravesend Gore

After crawling his way back to the surface of the earth from his putrid tomb, Gravesend Gore set up a home entertainment system and lazy boy a mausoleum in Highgate cemetery. On certain nights when the stars are right and the air warm and still he can be heard howling with laughter as he watches scene after scene of brutal killings in his crypt/play room. He only ever emerges to purchase tea bags and biscuits from the corner shop and waits for the arrival of the postman with his Amazon orders.

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