Trevor Block wanted to recreate an archetypal '80s shelf of VHS tapes. “You’d have Halloween, and RoboCop, and maybe Porky’s and the first Evil Dead,” he says, “but I’ve made it a point of honour to only buy these tapes in op shops. Despite the fact I could go on eBay and buy Basket Case tomorrow.”
He’s now sharing his collection at a casual, weekly VHS night at Fitzroy’s Old Bar. There’ll be cult classics like Mad Max, fan favourite sequels like Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and defiantly obscure movies like Syngenor. Block isn’t showing anything in the snarky spirit of so-bad-it’s-good, though.
“The grit it would’ve taken some chiselling third-level Hollywood producer just to get Syngenor made. Scrounging for film stock, using a leftover monster suit from another movie somebody else didn’t finish… you’ve got to admire that effort.” He’s most excited to show Michael Mann’s The Keep from 1983 – something that might surprise fans of Mann’s serious cinema like Heat and The Insider. “It’s not just a straight ‘Nazis getting killed by vampires’ movie, though there’s a fair bit of that too.”
While Block admits he has a contrary streak, he’s far from a purist. He might own hundreds of VHS tapes but he’s not adverse to DVDs. Still, he says, there is something special about VHS. “There’s that analogue glow. A bit of crackle. You don’t get commentaries, you don’t get extras – you just have to watch. That’s what I like about it. It’s a plastic box with the film inside. Nothing else.”