Scott Miller and Josh Schafer publish my favorite zines that excavate the VHS underground in search of bizarre movies and freaked-out footage that’s as charming as it is faulty. In addition to publishing Strange Tapes (Miller) and Lunchmeat VHS (Schafer), both have branched out into releasing movies on VHS—Schafer in particular has done terrific work obtaining the rights and blessings to reissue outre movies with sizeable cults, including Derek Erdman’s found-footage short Girls at the Carnival and the 35th anniversary edition of crucial verite rock doc Heavy Metal Parking Lot. All of which is to say that when the Music Box brought their pandemic-born monthlong block of horror programming back to Pilsen’s ChiTown Movies Drive-in in October, the night that piqued my interest the most was a block of video shorts presented by Lunchmeat and Strange Tapes. Most of “Video Brain Blender” concerned Massachusetts lo-fi filmmakers Mark Veau and Mike Savino; they eked out a couple shot-on-video scary shorts in the 1990s (Attack of the Killer Refrigerator and The Hook of Woodland Heights) and failed to launch an ambitious full-length film about a killer turtle, a saga that made for a lighthearted documentary (Snapper) that closed the night’s programming. Miller opened the night with Halloween Heck House, a 20-minute hallucinogenic blend of supernatural-related clips ripped from his deep VHS archives. “Video Brain Blender” gave me an experience I couldn’t have replicated at home, and that’s exactly what I missed about going to the movies throughout the pandemic.
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