VIDEO VIOLENCE opens with a prologue in which a woman walks into a clothes shop and is shown to a changing room. As she removes her top the two leering clerks watch her on a hidden video camera. Suddenly one of them takes a baseball bat into the changing room and bashes the woman to death.
Welcome to Frenchtown!
Steve (Art Neill) has recently moved to Frenchtown with his wife Rachel (Jackie Neill, CAPTIVES). Steve owns a video store, with the help of Rick - a wayward teen who's recently returned to the town following his father's death.
One morning a tape is returned to the store, and Rick notices it is not one of the store's. Curious to see what type of home footage the weird town's inhabitants would shoot, he and Steve watch the tape. To their alarm, it shows the killing and dismemberment of the town postmaster.
Steve locks the store with Rick and the tape in it, and rushes to tell the police chief (William Toddie). The chief doesn't believe Steve's story - he says the postmaster moved away a couple of months earlier - and when they visit the video store both the tape and Rick are gone.
But we learn early on that a couple of unhinged locals called Howard (Bart Sumner, P.U.N.K.S.) and Eli (Uke) are recording their own home movies in their cellar, where they take victims up there and kill them on camera, all the while laughing like maniacs.
A few days later, still disturbed by what he's seen and Rick's subsequent disappearance, Steve receives another anonymous home cassette. This one shows Eli and Howard breaking into his shop, killing Rick and taking the previous tape with them.
Steve takes the new cassette to show the chief. But the chief accidentally records over it before watching it, leading Steve to think that perhaps the whole town may be in on this sick compulsion to record snuff movies ...
VIDEO VIOLENCE is slower and darker in tone than the cover and it's title suggest. Which is a good thing. If you're expecting comical violence and goofy characters, then don't. Performances are largely restrained and the script tries to keep things as plausible and lacking in sensation as possible.
The film feels quite laborious in pace, although it never detracts from its central plot and when the gore finally arrives it's handled with aplomb.
Indeed, the gory elements of the film are almost complete opposites to the rest of the movie. Suddenly characters are manic and overplayed, and the cheesy bargain-basement FX seem to be at loggerheads with the more serious outlook of the more plot-driven portions of the film.
Still, there's plenty of the red stuff on offer. We get a bloody decapitation, a nifty arm hacking, Eli carving his name into a woman's bare chest ... all filmed for the camera by leering goons, in a disturbing manner that foreshadows the AUGUST UNDERGROUND movies.
Compared to other shot-on-video efforts of the time, VIDEO VIOLENCE is one of the very best I've seen.
It's sequel, subtitled THE EXPLOITATION!, is nowhere near as good.
It too opens with a prologue, this time showing off it's improved production values with a stylish vampire movie set, wherein an irate director stakes his lead actress through the heart - for real.
A newscaster then appears on screen (director Gary Cohen in a cameo role) to advise us that Eli and Howard have scrambled cable TV signals, and now host their own talk show on cable TV on which they invariably slaughter innocents live on air. The FBI are trying to trace the origins of the show, we're told, but in the meantime we're invited to sit back and enjoy the latest episode ...
What we get for the next hour is pretty tiresome. Bad jokes from Eli, crappy mock infomercials, short films "submitted by viewers", gratuitous nudity, and a twist ending that was presumably written while shitfaced.
Gone is the sombre tone of VIDEO VIOLENCE. Its sequel boasts better FX but a complete lack of respect for anything resembling storyline or characterisation. Lazy, lazy.
Both films are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios, and are fully uncut. The images are very bright, colourful and sharp - newly mastered from the original source elements. Occasional flickers onscreen are not too distracting, and are a result of damage to the original video.
The English mono audio track on each film is as good as can be expected for SOV efforts from the late 80s. Dialogue is loud and audible, while there is a little hiss to be heard upon closer inspection.
Static menus allow you to select either film, or peruse the extra features. There are no scene selection menus, but the films can be navigated through your remote - Part 1 has 11 chapters, while the shorter Part 2 only has 8.
Of the extras, the audio commentaries on both features are by far the most substantial.
Cohen is joined by FX artist Mark Dolson, Mark Kwiatek, Art Neil, co-writer Paul Kaye, David Christopher and Uke for both talk-tracks. What we get are informative, frequently comical and occasionally sexist banter from the group. It's a little hard to hear at times, and there were moments where I couldn't fathom what they were actually laughing about, but these are decent tracks in the main.
A 14-minute onscreen interview with Cohen follows, and shows him as a likeable and enthusiastic individual. He basically repeats stuff from the commentary tracks though, regarding financing, the inspiration behind the original film (amusing) and so on.
There's also trailers on the disc for both VIOLENCE films, plus WOODCHIPPER MASSACRE, CANNIBAL CAMPOUT and GHOUL SCHOOL.
Finally, there's a colourful fold-out booklet with good liner notes from Bleedingskull webmaster Joseph A Ziemba.
All in all, one above-average SOV horror with it's lame sequel thrown in for good measure. Lashings of gore and nudity, with good extras and a cheap retail price. You can't say fairer than that.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Camp Motion Pictures|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|