Every once in a while a documentary is made about something very niche, something that will only appeal, perhaps, to a small number of people, with me being one of those people. Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector is one of those. A documentary which, basically, is about VHS collectors, people who go out of their way to hunt for, and buy rare VHS tapes of, usually, horror titles. Now, I’m not a VHS collector (though I once had my fair share), but I am a movie collector and know plenty of people who collect rare VHS tapes, so I was intrigued about this film, seeing this small corner of a small market/fandom being represented in a film.
It’s a variety of sit-down interviews with collectors as they talk about their passion for VHS, the reasons they put so much effort, time and money into collecting the tapes, and their opinions of other various things, such as the decline in video rental shops, the popularity of DVD and the expense of buying rare titles on E-bay. Interviews with industry experts and former-video store owners are also revealing, plus there’s even the odd “celebrity” in there, well… Lloyd Kaufman, owner of Troma, professing his preference for DVD. The stories, for me at least, as a collector and movie fan, were often interesting and reminiscent of things I do as a collector. Hearing one guy talk about how he bought a rare VHS for $2 before selling it for $660 on E-Bay, and another VHS-nerd whose mother bought him a label-maker, and so he went batshit-insane and created labels for various genres and sub-genres to each genre. We also meet a (possible single) guy who turned his basement into a video store, complete with a Blockbuster Video gumball machine, a 80’s computer with no mouse, shelves full of VHS tapes (obviously) and a few adult-only titles under his counter. It’s a lot of fun to see just how passionate about the product some people still are, though they would undoubtedly dislike me and my collection of Blu-rays.
There are some knowledgeable observations in-between the fanboy-cooing over the gory cover-art of low-budget films released by Wizard, or one guy who walks us through his shelves, focusing on titles such as “I Piss on Your Grave” before informing us that watching titles as extreme as those will “change you as a person”. We hear about the resurgence of VHS collecting and how it’s not dissimilar to Vinyl collecting, with the care taken in preserving the tapes and keeping them from growing mould, or smelling, like one fan put it at one point during the film, like “hobos pissed on it for seven years, rubbed it on their beards, and walked around with it in their sweaty asses”. Yeah, not sure how he knows that smell so well that he can pinpoint it in detail either, but whatever.
It’s full of that nostalgia that will appeal to those of us that collect, or have collected, anything in our lives. For horror fans, this will be even more interesting, listening to fans talking about unusual titles that they remember coming across decades ago. There’s a bunch of clips of old, and often terrible-looking, horror films which are enjoyable to watch (and also revealing in terms of why they never saw the light of day on DVD). The whole look of the documentary is neat too, with it being given the appearance of a VHS tape, flickering at times, and with title-sequences much-like those you could make yourselves on old 80’s camcorders. Even the opening menu looks like the front panel of a VHS player, complete with flickering timer. It’s this detail that really brings it together, and adds to that cool nostalgic feeling.
The 2-DVD set has seven hours of extra features to offer, including Q&A sessions, deleted scenes, short films and interviews. There’s also two commentaries. These are all really enjoyable, and extend the experience a lot, bringing more to the table, which is a great thing for those who want more footage and information than the initial documentary gives.
Adjust Your Tracking is available, on 2-Disc DVD, now.