Growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents who were not only able to afford a VCR, but enjoyed renting movies as well. With great clarity, I recall the first few times that we, as a family, went to one of the many local video stores, and just how excited I was at the thought of being able to watch any movie whenever I wanted to. It was a revolution that even I, as a young child, could completely comprehend. The fact that I no longer had to wait for Star Wars to be shown on TV to actually watch it was all I needed to know that this was something very special. But that was only the tip of the iceberg...
Being incredibly formative in my development as a movie fan, specifically a genre film fan, the video store (along with the local comic book shop) would come to be my sanctuary. I would spend countless hours staring at each and every film – mostly in the horror section – with complete and utter adoration. Each film had a specific cover, and each cover told a different story, and I could not get enough. This love and devotion to video stores and the genre cinema contained within would last all the way up until, well, now. But while VHS may have been long laid to rest by the average consumer, there are those of us who still find ourselves drawn to the format for our own various reasons. This fondness, obsessive as it can sometimes be, is the springboard for Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector.
Directed by Dan Kinem and Levi Peretic, Adjust Your Tracking is a Kickstarter funded documentary that shines the spotlight on collectors who refuse to believe that VHS is, or ever was, dead. Throughout the documentary, the various interviewees are given an opportunity to state their case as to why they collect a format that most would smirkingly scoff at, and quite often their arguments are driven by a tangible passion that is both charming and honest. Some of these collectors are driven by nostalgia (even if some of them are far removed from the era), others simply love the aesthetic, and some are well aware that VHS is the only format in which they will be able to see so many of the films that were never given a DVD release.
The documentary has a visually pleasing VHS style aesthetic to it, utilizing the imperfections associated with the format – such as tracking issues, video quality and color problems – as a form of presentation. The documentary even goes as far as to supply each of the interviewees their own handwritten VHS label to indicate who they are and what they do. Something I always enjoy about watching a documentary along the lines of Adjust Your Tracking are the various clips. Throughout the film, the viewer is showered with a plethora of wonderful retro footage, such as television advertisements for VCRs and VHS as well as a slew of great horror and cult movie clips that are sure to bring a smile to many a genre film fan's face.
The history of VHS is quickly glossed over with little depth, but as the subtitle ‘The Untold Story of the VHS Collector’ indicates, Adjust Your Tracking focuses on those who have come to find solace in collecting video tapes. The numerous subjects discuss everything from their humble beginnings as a collector to the judgment they sometimes receive from people who simply do not understand their passion. There are plenty of humorous anecdotes about the creepy and often filthy places in which the subjects have searched for tapes as well as discussions about how VHS cover art was often far better than the actual films themselves.
The various interviewees also discuss the limits they have set for how much they will spend on a tape, which leads to one of the most entertaining segments in the documentary, the eBay sale of the hysterically inept Tales from the Quadead Zone. Considered by many collectors to be the holy grail of VHS tapes, Tales from the Quadead Zone is famous, and slightly infamous, for not only being quite rare, but for garnering $660 on an eBay auction in 2011. This sale went on to have a huge impact in the world of VHS collecting. So huge in fact, that the sale, and VHS collecting in general, would come to receive a fair amount of mainstream news coverage. On an interesting side note, an unofficial release of Tales from the Quadead Zone more recently took in over $1,000 on eBay, causing a whole new stir of its own (Click here to read more).
One of the highlights of Adjust Your Tracking comes from the Collector Spotlight segments. This is where the viewer is privy to the impressive collections of Joe Clark and Bradley Creanzo. Both collections will surely cause a tingle of excitement in the viewer’s lower region, especially Creanzo’s, who has gone as far as to completely convert his basement into a fully-stocked video store, complete with all the genres anyone could ask for. It’s truly a thing of beauty for anyone who has any sort of love for VHS.
As someone who grew up with the VHS boom and having it be such a huge part of influencing my love of horror and, eventually, film in general as well as still being a collector of VHS (though, not nearly to the extent of those featured in the film), Adjust Your Tracking is perfectly tailor-made for someone such as myself. However, even if you are not interested in VHS collecting, there is still much to be taken from the documentary. For anyone who is a true movie buff – especially one who loves horror and cult cinema – Adjust Your Tracking is a fascinating and genuine look at a part of movie history that lives on in the hearts of those who've allowed a seemingly dead format to envelop their lives and give them a veritable sense of happiness.
Set for a June 17th release, the Two-Disc Special Edition of Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story Of The VHS Collector is available for preorder on Amazon.