Videoman is stuck between the gaudy shlock that the film makes self-aware hints to and some larger more potent social issues it seems to want to address. Such tonal shifts can really make their mark on a film if the plot or characters are engaging enough. However, Videoman is pretty banal.
Filled with morose and miserable characters who are wedged between the tiny emotive crawlspace between dismissal or actual empathy, Videoman also makes the cardinal sin of never truly going for the jugular in its comedy or thriller. Because of this so much of the film feels put upon, despite holding a mystery which could have been more entertaining of its quirks were more in focus.
On paper, this tale of an embittered alcoholic; Ennio (Stefan Sauk) who stumbles into his quest to retrieve a valuable videotape, should be interesting to those enjoy looking back to the era of VHS. Where gruesome, grisly features of Giallo and Grindhouse litter the minds of avid collectors. The film sometimes drily sends up its image by having its lead character Ennio sit and discuss the pros and cons of the likes of Argento to a small gaggle of other collectors.
It’s amusing because the element of truth which lies in his character. This rebellious curator of grim tales pits himself against a world of conformity with little self-reflection. Ennio was previously the manager of one of the last great video stores, and he wishes to do so again, despite the world clearly moving on from this analog format that he sums up his worth towards.
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However, Videoman wants to have its cake and eat it, despite not holding all the elements which would make it more worthwhile. It wants to be an amusing homage to cheap thrillers of the past yet it lacks the style of the likes of Lucio Fulci. Choosing to capture its images in a flab, drab compositions, while toning the work in the now-popular Brandon Woelfel style neon palette which simply dates the film in the present rather than providing any interesting callbacks to the past.
The film looks to suggest that the rebellious nature of nostalgia junkies is somewhat problematic, with some of the film’s characters clinging on to elements of the past for their own self-worth yet embracing the vices of drink as a way to forget the past. Not an issue for an out and out social drama, but in Videoman, its darker social provocations feel tonally at odds with other parts of the work.
The main issue with Videoman though is that it’s only a marginally funny thriller which doesn’t do much to actually thrill. The self-referencing to the grindhouse VHS is one thing, but the film’s main mystery and its inability to deliver the type of delights which keep avid collectors similar to Ennio reaching for the VHS tapes in almost unforgivable. Videoman is not a hard pass, but a pass all the same.
Videoman is now available on DVD/Digital HD from FrightFest Presents.