VHS is coming back. Well, not commercially. Blu-ray is the next step in home video viewing, and it’s making VHS even further removed from its once-vaunted status. In 2005, Entertainment Weekly officially eulogized the format, calling it a “dead technology.” But it’s never too soon to remember.
Hipsters and collectors alike can appreciate the now antique art of VHS hunting, and everybody’s got their dad’s old record player and Beatles albums, but no one has a Quasar with a rare copy of Robin Williams’s “Toys.” It’s ripe for revival. Commercials shot on tape have amusingly crappy quality. YouTube is brimming with weirdo tapes. Hell, there’s even the love for puffy tape boxes old Disney movies were stored in. VHS can still give. Besides, we have to find something to do with all those tapes we bought up until 2005.
Here now are five reasons why VHS is worthy of nostalgia.
1. You can’t have it all on DVD.
Try as you might, you’re not going to find “Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Summer Vacation” and “Goosebumps” any time soon on DVD. The same goes for Ken Russell’s “The Devils,” Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” and even Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point.” Sure, esoteric and obscure as it all may seem, there’s still a demand for these films. Roberto Benigni in “Johnny Stecchano?” Only on tape, folks. Remember that awesome high school movie “Angus” that used to be on TBS? You know, the one about the portly kid who finally becomes popular? That’s only on VHS too.
Obscurity rules. It’s what makes variety within entertainment unique, and VHS sure as hell still caters to that. Want to see just how truly, genuinely awful 1986’s “Howard the Duck” really was? Well, you’re only going to be able to discover it on VHS, or pure dumb luck on OnDemand.
2. Snoop uses it. YouTube uses it.
Believe it or not, you can still record stuff on a tape. Conan’s on way too late, and if you don’t have a DVR, VHS still works. And now, with the noticeable difference in digital and HD quality, there is an aged quality to tape. It’s not quite wine, but it’s retro-cool. Much like the fading in your favorite T-shirt or the poster that uses a washed-out look, tapes have an undeniable exuberance about them.
Every time you watch some jackass blow himself up, or a rally crash or a pet doing something on YouTube, odds are that it was once shot on video. Snoop’s hilarious “Sensual Seduction?” The “Tim and Eric Awesome Show?” It’s a bevy of once-awful, now amazing in-video techniques. There’s an aesthetic to it, and people notice it.
3. The hum of a VCR.
Ah, the snap, crackle and pop of an old record. It’s that nonstop reminder that while you take in a certain piece of entertainment, it’s most certainly old-timey. You press play, and there it is, that sound of the days of old. You knew a video was working when you could hear your player running. And if something was wrong, it came in the form of a gentle white noise screen. Unlike DVD, the movie wouldn’t just stop; you’d know if your product was going stale on you, and a fast-forward was all it took to fix it.
4. Physical health.
Fact: You’ve lost your VCR remote. You forgot to rewind your tape. Better get up to do that. But now there are these previews for horror films you never saw. Well, fast-forward, or watch and see if that “Children of the Corn” sequel interests you, now that you’re all grown up. OK, the movie’s playing, and you feel compelled to talk about the good times, and memories surrounding what you’re watching. You talk about the noise, the fuzzy video and ponder over the failed existence of Betamax. A good time is had by all. But now, you should rewind, just so you don’t forget it later. Gotta get up for that too.
But guess what? Between the talking and the mild amount of physical activity of moving that heavy, old tape, you just burned off 237 calories! Go ahead and drink that can of regular Coke – you’ve earned it.
5. Worst case scenario.
Well, let’s just suppose for a moment that video has no chance whatsoever of coming back. You’ve converted all your old tapes and bought the new special editions of “Evil Dead” and “Blues Brothers” two times over. Maybe we have to give up and admit that tape will never have its day in the sun again. Don’t throw them out right away: Video tapes have at least one good use left in them: They’re damn clunky. Tapes are sturdier than discs. They stack more firmly. And with a glue gun, they are incredible building blocks. Think VHS coffee table.