Adventures in Success is one of Deeper Into Movies’ film discoveries of the year. The movie revolves around a sex cult masquerading as a wellness startup which settles in the Catskills to build community and practice a ritual called ‘Jilling Off’. Imagine The Manson Family via Ghost World and you’re close. When we met the film’s makers, duo Jay Buim and Susan Juvet, for our screening the first thing they asked was “Where can we find old, weird VHS tapes in London?”
As we hung out talking about movies over pizza, Buim told me about so many deeply strange movies... I kept wondering how the hell did these get made? and why haven’t I ever heard of them? Gay aliens, Anna Nicole Smith doing Die Hard, pornographic puppetry, illegal boxing, apocalyptic rollerbladers. It only made sense for him to compile a list for the column… A trove of amazing films from the VHS era that will never see a blu-ray release and which sure as hell won't be landing on Netflix, but which are available on YouTube in all their analog glory. - Deeper into MoviesWhen people see the way I get around VHS tapes, they always ask me “what's the big deal? I don’t get this shit at all!” I usually have a few stock answers that invariably lead to their eyes glazing over and rolling back into their heads. But, if I had to give the least douche chill inducing, bulletproof to film snobbery answer, it's the simple fact that there is so much GOLD that only exists in the VHS format. It was cheap to produce and the robust home video market allowed for so much incredible work to have a second, third and fourth life! Below is a list of my favourite VHS treasures that have found their way onto YouTube. - Jay Buim
A less-than-zero budget Turkish remake of E.T., except in this version he is gay. Hard to find a version with English subtitles, but I’m not even sure that would help. This will melt your brain.
‘Homoti’ (1987, dir. Müjdat Gezen)
Funded by the star Pia Zadora’s casino-owning husband, this was supposed to launch her to superstardom. It did not. But what we have instead is a bonkers musical that makes absolutely no sense and follows around a fake DEVO-style band. Jermaine Jackson is in this, the soundtrack is so killer, and Ruth Gordon (Maude from Harold and Maude) offers the comedic relief. It feels like five movies cut together into one and I love all of them.
‘Voyage of the Rock Aliens’ (1984, dir. James Fargo)
An 8mm, no-budget, Blood Feast knock off that’s set at a cool 80s bar and grill? Does it have one of the best disco grooves ever committed to film and do those grooves allow for some real sweet dance scenes? The answer is yes, one thousand times yes. Also this might be one of the greatest VHS tape covers ever.
‘Gore-met, Zombie Chef From Hell’ (1986, dir. Don Swan)
I have such a deep love for Anna Nicole Smith and in this Die Hard-style action movie she plays the lead, a helicopter pilot caught up in some terrorist shenanigans. The rhythm and timing of her acting puts her in a category all on her own. I consider her the Sun Ra of the acting world because whatever planet she is on, I wish I could join her.
‘Skyscraper’ (1996, dir. Raymond Martino)
Thank goodness this film is only about an hour long because it's an X-Rated twisted puppetry and claymation adaptation of Marquis De Sade’s writing. Most of the film is spent with the Marquis debating his way-too-weird talking penis, and all the characters are these crazy animal-human hybrids. Not for the faint of heart.
‘Marquis’ (1989, dir. Henri Xhonneux)
I think this might have started as a TV movie that made its way to VHS. It stars Kim Cattrall as a secret agent, who after being killed in the line of duty, is brought back to life with superhuman strength and artificial body parts. Also Billy Zane is in this and he’s just a delight as well. I wish Kim Cattrall would make a follow up to this because she is just perfect in this role. Maybe the next go round, she could add her scatting skills to the character to take this to the next level too!
‘Running Delilah’ (1993, dir. Richard Franklin)
I was lucky enough to witness a screening of this masterpiece at The Mahoning Drive-in Theater’s annual ‘VHS-fest’ this year. I didn’t realise it was a two part anthology style horror film, so when the clown was contemplating suicide in his dressing room I tried not to tilt my head for fear of my brain melting out. The editing on this one is working on a time signature that I’ve never experienced, and I doubt anyone could recreate on purpose – it is beautiful. Some might look at this and say it feels like a porno with all the sex cut out, but I implore you to look deeper into just how special and unique this truly is.
‘Satan’s Storybook’ (1989, dir. Michael Rider)
Along with classics like Memorial Day 2000, there are some found footage VHS tapes that exist on the same plane as the most powerful outsider folk art you’ve ever seen. This was never meant to be seen by anyone as it was found by someone who was moving out of a house. The same story has led to so many incredible discoveries of forgotten work and this is just another gem in that vein. I love things that are honest and sincere and this is just about as sincere and honest as it gets.
‘Girls at the Carnival’ (date and director unknown)
Corey Haim stars in this post-apocalyptic film where the coolest and most badass gang are the Rollerboys, a group of angelic drug dealers on rollerblades. Patricia Arquette is in this and she is just perfect. There are so many great things about this movie and you should just watch it. One thing that was weird after rewatching this recently was that the end times in the film are called “the day of the rope” which was the same slogan the Jan 6 failed coup rioters used. Its so funny how these Mickey Mouse clown shoes fuck heads all use such silly references for their organisations (see Proud Boys and “Aladdin”).
‘Prayer of the Rollerboys’ (1990, dir. Rick King)
An 80’s “privileged white kid has one last chance to make it work or else he's cut off from the family fortune.” The twist here is that he's screwed himself (literally) out of every other college and his only chance to succeed is to graduate from Buster Burger University and run his very own Buster Burger franchise. The big baddie is played by Dick Butkus and he really seems to channel that anger from being called Dick Butkus his entire life. My only beef with this movie is that they should have called it Cheeseburger the Motion Picture. What kind of monster orders a burger without cheese?