It’s amazing how things change. Having spent my final years at university locked away in a cold and dingy flat, I’d decided that 2006 was a year for moving on. I’d packed up most of my things and was leaving for a lovely new apartment – one with clean magnolia walls and Ikea shelving so new you could still smell the meatballs. My beloved CDs and DVDs had been carefully boxed and were piled up in the back of my dad’s car, along with the rest of my other meagre belongings. Yet there, in the corner of my living room, remained one dusty and hastily packed box that had yet to find a space in our third and final car load.
You see, during my time at that flat, I’d been writing my final year dissertation, a work of pretentious genius with the excruciating title of ‘Final girl and the killer: The sinister and the symbiotic’. It was, however, work that allowed me to indulge in slasher movies to a degree where friends started to worry about my mental health. During a walk through then local market, I’d happened upon a DVD trader who also had about eight or nine bread crates filled with big box, ex-rental VHS tapes. They were absolutely immaculate and he was selling them for 50p a go, so I decided to fill my boots. After all, it was all in the name of ‘research’, right?
I cherry picked the genre stuff I wanted and bought as much as I could carry home. Aerobicide, Chopping Mall, Slaughter High, Cutting Class, Curtains and loads of others I can’t even remember were among the tapes I rescued that day and while most were post-cert (videos released after the Video Recordings Act of 1984 and carrying a BBFC certification), I know for a fact there were a good few that fell into the pre-cert category too. At this point though, I wasn’t buying them as a collector – I just wanted something to watch.
Unfortunately, having already limped through the final furlong of my slasher-focused dissertation, it’s fair to say I’d made myself a little sick of genre movies. So as I stood staring at this sad and lonely box, I had to ask myself some questions. Firstly, what the hell was I going to do with all these old VHS tapes anyway? If I didn’t want them, could I really be bothered putting each one on eBay and paying more for postage than I’d getting for the actual tape? Not really. Was I ever going to have a massive urge to rewatch Cutting Class in all its 4:3 aspect glory? Unlikely. And most pressingly, how would these dusty old VHS tapes look sitting on my new Ikea shelving? I couldn’t really be sure, but I wasn’t convinced.
Suddenly, my deliberations were interrupted by the beeping horn of an impatient dad waiting for me out front of the building. I quickly snapped myself out of my dilemma, gave the signal from the window that I was locking up and stumbled downstairs carrying the weighty brown cube. Stepping out into the driveway, I looked to dad’s car on the left hand side and realised squeezing this particularly cumbersome Tetris piece into the back would require a fair amount of puzzle solving. To my right, however, was a nice big, empty skip.
I cringe when I think of the hasty decision I made that day. And all I can do is remind myself that I had no idea that I’d once more fall hopelessly in love with the format that shaped my love of film just six years later. It’s a lesson I was forced to learn the hard way, but it’s one I can now share with you all – VHS tapes look fucking great on an Ikea shelf.