Jun 14, 2014


My first ever VHS was the Blockbuster exclusive release of John Carpenter's Halloween. I was in sixth grade, and I had ridden my bike the equivalent of 25 city blocks to my nearest Blockbuster to buy it. It was a defining moment. On that day, I became a collector. And that mindset continued for years.

One of my biggest regrets in life was giving into the changing tide and, box by box, relinquishing my VHS collection, which I had spent over ten years collecting. I had well over a thousand before the VHS era came to a sad, unceremonious end. I held out for as long as I could. I held out until they stopped putting new releases on VHS and switched to DVD (and if I remember correctly, I believe the very unmemorable Mike Figgis film Cold Creek Manor was the very last new release to utilize the VHS format). 

In a way, what could I do? I was a movie collector, and I had a choice: refuse to buy that new release I so desired because it was on a format against which I was silently rebelling, or give in. So I gave in, and since I was going to give in, I might as well begin to upgrade my current collection, tape by tape. 

No one would argue that VHS offers better picture or sound quality over DVD, nor would they argue they enjoy a complete lack of special features over the sometimes-up-to-three extra discs of content. But as far as nostalgia goes? Oh yeah, VHS wins. Hands down. When the last DVD is pressed, the format will never be mentioned again. No one will ever look fondly back on it, because when that happens, everyone will have fully moved onto either blu-ray or digital downloads, which, as far as quality goes, is closer to DVD than DVD was to VHS.

And that's what Adjust Your Tracking, a documentary that presents a collection of sit-down interviews with low-budget film directors and independent video label owners discussing their love of the format and their own VHS collections, is all about: Nostalgia. If you ever were, or are, a collector of the format, nothing they say will surprise you, and everything they say will strike home.

Written and directed by Dan M. Kinem and Levi Peretic, Adjust Your Tracking is essentially sitting around with like-minded collectors and listening to everyone share their memories of visiting mom-and-pop video stories to hunt down the newest titles for their collection. And you can't help but get caught up in the memories of visiting your own mom-and-pop stores and remembering which particular VHS covers captured your attention (definitely I Spit on Your Grave and Deadmate for me).

In Adjust Your Tracking, you won't learn about the inventor of the VCR and the VHS format. You won't learn about its mechanics, and how it was created, and other such typical information. But that's okay, because honestly, I don't care. That's not why I'm here. I'm here to live vicariously through our talking heads as they discuss their undying love for VHS and proudly show off their immense collections. And once the one particular fellow who talks of his 22,000 tape collection ends up in the doc, suddenly my own once-collection seems like small time by comparison. Though I no longer own not a single VHS tape, I can still recall the fondness I had for them. I can still recall how (to sound lame) magical it felt to uncover that one particular VHS at that flea market or thrift store, gaze at its cover art, and get that unmistakable feeling that the movie in your hands has become completely forgotten - a strange relic lost in time. For that reason, VHS felt more special than DVD ever did, and ever could. 

Adjust Your Tracking, lovingly shot on VHS (natch) but available on a 2-disc DVD stacked with special features, is a testament to that.

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