Back in the day before Netflix and the World Wide Web, we got our entertainment from limited sources. The local, non-chain video store was often the place to go for movies of all types and I remember getting some gems that weren’t even remotely considered a part of the “mainstream”.
In the early-to-mid 1980’s, the Video Cassette Recorder had become affordable to the point where every household had at least one (same deal as the early-to-mid 1990’s boom of the DVD player). Trouble is, with so many households having access to VCRs that there wasn’t enough content to satisfy demand. Movie studios of course released what they could as far as their catalog of films, but the public was video-crazy and needed more. That’s where the “direct-to-video” market started. If you had a little money, a basic script, a VHS camera & and an Amiga computer with the Video Toaster software, you were ready to release your own movie! And boy did they!
“Video Violence…When Renting Isn’t Enough” is one such film. I still have an original VHS copy with it’s glorious cover box, back then you needed to make the box attractive enough for people to pick it up off the shelf. It showed a chewed up arm grasping a video tape from an ancient VCR, the blood glistening off the arm. I had to watch it.
The story takes place in a small, isolated New York town, the kind of town that doesn’t take kindly to outsiders, the kind of town where everyone knows everyone. Enter Steve & Rachel, a pair from the Big Apple. Steve was the head manager of a huge movie theater & Rachel worked for a large law firm. Both were sick of the big city and decided to settle into small town life. Rachel got a job at the local court and Steve opened a video store:
Steve had one employee, Rick, home from college because his father passed away. The town had become cold to Rick because he left to go to college, something that he will regret. In the video returns was an unmarked tape that didn’t belong to the store. After repeated pleas, Steve allows Rick to watch the video:
They both can’t believe what they are seeing:
They are witnessing the death of the local postmaster at the hands of “Eli”. Rick says that the postmaster supposedly retired to Florida. Concerned that the tape was real, Steve tells Rick to stay at the store while he goes to the Sheriff’s office to report the murder. Steve brings the Sheriff back to the store and finds the door wide open, Rick missing, & the video tape gone. The Sheriff laughs it off as a prank, says that Rick probably left to go back to college:
Steve talks to his wife about the ordeal and she offers what comfort she can:
Steve calls Rick’s mother who tells him that Rick went back to college. The next day Rachel calls the number in Florida to contact the former postmaster and talks to someone that claims to be him. Cut to another video starring “Howard” & “Eli” and a hitchhiker they picked up:
Steve gets yet another tape that solves the mystery of what happened to Rick:
Steve takes the tape to the Sheriff who promptly bungles up and erases the tape instead of playing it. Oops! The whole town is into making their own “snuff” films as well, including the local proprietors of the deli. Unfortunate for these folks who were passing through town to go tubing:
Steve then receives as a more “polished” video entitled, “The Vampire Bride”:
Rachel prompts Steve to call the movie theater to talk to his projectionist friend to see if such a movie exists. Upon calling, “The Vampire Bride” is given as one of the titles showing at the theater. Dumbfounded, both are unsure of what to do next:
The next day, Steve & Rachel are working at the video store and meet a fellow “out-of-towner” and are a little more relaxed until they witness “Howard” & “Eli” kidnap her. Hopping into their Datsun, they follow the trio to an old house and enter the basement to find a group of townspeople headed by the kidnapped woman:
She explains that the town had originally begun swapping homemade sex tapes to pass the time but got bored with it. They moved on to “snuff” films and chose transients as the subject matter because if they used themselves, their viewership would dwindle. The postmaster & Rick knew their secrets and couldn’t let them leave town, so they ended up in their own films.
I won’t reveal the ending as it is pretty interesting to see.
The movie did spawn a sequel, “Video Violence 2”, in which Howard & Eli are now broadcasting their own “snuff film” variety show where they show “snuff” films created by their loyal fans as well as “take care” of some of their show guests…
If you’re into 80’s cheesy horror with lots of fake blood and cheap special effects, give it a whirl…