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Old 01-12-2020, 05:21 PM   #1
Splatterpunk Splatterpunk is offline
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Jan 2013
Past them treeeeeeeeees.
Default VHYes (2020) - directed by Jack Henry Robbins

VHYES, debuting this week in a limited release, takes the found footage genre and filters it through a quirky, off kilter, Adult Swim-esque approach. Director Jack Henry Robbins uses highly fractured narratives to create a sort of collage that trades on nostalgia but is decidedly postmodern and faintly satirical. It’s high concept stuff but the director, his cowriter Nunzio Randazzo, and co-creator Nate Gold weave together some bizarre threads into a satisfying conclusion.

The premise is that young Ralph (enthusiastic Mason McNulty) has received a VHS camcorder for Christmas in 1987. Eager to experiment with his new gadget, the 12-year-old snags a VHS tape from his house and begins recording, unaware that it is his parents’ wedding tape. All of what we see onscreen are Ralph’s recordings, including adventures with his best friend Josh (loyal Rahm Braslaw), strange late night TV programs, and newscasts. Interspersed amongst the truncated tidbits are also moments from the wedding (Christian Drerup and Jake Head are credited as “Ralph’s Mom” and “Ralph’s Dad,” respectively). On the surface, it plays as the type of tape that you could have probably found in many American households in the late ‘80s. However, the late night shows sections have a certain ironic surrealism to them that distinguishes them from the mostly realistic portrayal of Ralph’s circle and the serious newscasts. These kooky shows are also where the light satirical elements exist. Watch out for musicians Weyes Blood and Prettiest Eyes, Thomas Lennon and Charlyne Li in small supporting roles, and Robbins’ parents Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon in cameos.

It’s a testament to Avner Shiloah’s editing that the film doesn’t come off as disjointed. Even though the various storylines, such as they are, are chopped up and we’re asked to infer some plot points, the progression of events is never muddy. The scripting is strong, but not so tight that it strangles the free association of the distinctively fragmented structure. Performances are all fine, with McNulty believably presenting the joys and mischief of a typical preteen. Kerri Kenney is memorable as the disturbing Bob Ross analog, Joan. Production values aren’t extravagant but they don’t need to be. Sets, locations, costumes, and effects fit perfectly into the lo-fi aesthetic without drawing attention to themselves. Notably, the entire flick was appropriately shot on VHS and Betamax. All in all, it’s a deceptively complex affair, but Robbins and company handle the material with confidence.

I’ve seen Jack Henry Robbins’ VHYES marketed as a comedy, and it is funny, but there are some heavier themes bubbling beneath the surface. That’s not to say it’s heavy, though. In fact, at 72 minutes, it blows by. The mood borders on anarchic, but it maintains a subtle focus. Its unconventional presentation is more than just a gimmick, too, with a Lynchian flourish loosely pulling together the seemingly incongruent and gonzo strands for a decisive, if psychotic, finale. VHYES comes recommended for fans of awkward basement concerts, murderous sorority sisters, and the narrative sequences from ‘80s era pornos.
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Old 06-04-2021, 09:49 PM   #2
buchacho buchacho is offline
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May 2009

Fairly inexpensive on amazon now if someone was looking to pick this up.
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1980's, comedy, low budget, period, vhs

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