VHYes (rhymes with VHS) is a mostly nostalgic love letter to 80s late-night TV, a collage of skits filmed on VHS and edited together in a seemingly random way that’s designed to imitate channel surfing in the wee hours of the morning, but ultimately becomes a way to see how a young boy interprets his world.
Ralph (Mason McNulty) is a young boy in 1987 who is given a VHS camcorder for Christmas, and he immediately begins recording things on it, believing the tape is blank but is actually his parents’ wedding tape. He discovers he can plug the camcorder into the TV and record shows, so he begins to secretly record clips of his favourite late night programs. These clips cover everything a young boy might be interested in – from art shows to aerobics, antique critiques to amateur music shows. Interspersed with these clips are some self recordings, and some recordings of him with his best friend Josh (Rahm Braslaw). It’s through these personal recordings that we discover that his parents’ marriage isn’t great, and that there is a haunted sorority house in the his neighbourhood that the two boys want to explore. These two plot points converge when Ralph begins to appear in a mish-mash of all he has recorded, like his subconscious sorting out where he fits in with everything.
If like me your age is 40 something, then you will remember what it was like before The Internet and Pay TV, when you were at the mercy of the TV schedule and all the good stuff was on after you went to bed. VHYes faithfully recreates what this was like with extra comedic or social commentary elements thrown in. There is the banal painting show where the artist in residence has a thing for Dennis Rodman, the infomercial presenters whose past relationship turmoil is aired in public, the Wayne’s World-esque Public Access amateur music show broadcast from a basement, badly acted soft porn with a global warming message and a hyperactive aerobics show to name but a few. Just when one skit seems to be getting tedious the recording switches to something else, sometimes another channel, sometimes an excerpt of the taped over wedding, sometimes some self recordings done by Ralph. The film is also quite short, lasting just over an hour, so it’s hard to get bored. The plot does take a bit of time to get up and running, and visually it jumps, skips and has tracking errors just as VHS tapes did, which may be foreign to people used to viewing hi-def vision on their phones!
VHYes is an original, entertaining look back at a period of time, and a medium that was revered by so many – faults and all.
Director – Jack Henry Robbins
Writer – Jack Henry Robbins, Nunzio Randazzo
Stars – Mason McNulty, Rahm Braslaw, Kerri Kenny, Charlyne Yi, Courtney Pauroso, Thomas Lennon, Mark Proksch (cameos by Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon)
Rating – M
Running Time – 72 Mins
Genres – Arthouse, Comedy, Drama