One of the more bonkers films out of Fantastic Fest was Jack Henry Robbins’ celebration of VHS culture, VHYes.
Shot entirely on VHS and Beta, the film takes place over a week in the life of 12-year-old Ralph (Mason McNulty) when his family gets a brand new camcorder for Christmas. Ralph is fascinated by their new acquisition, particularly when he learns that the camera can be connected to the TV to record television programming. He grabs the first tape he can find (which happens to be his parents’ wedding video) and sets to work documenting his crazy misadventures, as well as the wonders of 1980s cable TV.
The television portions are presented as a late-night channel surf, cutting back and forth between shows and grabbing the occasional commercial. It’s here that the film’s talented comedic cast really shines. From Thomas Lennon as an overenthusiastic QVC host to Kerri Kenney as the crazy host of a Bob Ross-style painting show to Mark Proksch in an Antiques Roadshow spoof, the film benefits from a wide range of comedic talent just doing their thing as these strange, off-kilter characters.
Meanwhile, in Ralph’s world, his parents’ arguing has increased and he is left to try to make sense of their failing relationship. He records several interactions between his parents, as well as the aftermath, and we get a window into the life of a child trying to cope with things that he is not fully equipped to understand.
It’s not all sad, though—we also get plenty of footage of Ralph playing around with his best friend, Josh (Rahm Braslaw). They make a pretty incredible pair. One of their adventures leads them to a local sorority house that is rumored to be haunted. We get the full story in a hilarious sendup of Unsolved Mysteries and other reenactment-style shows. The pair sneak inside the abandoned building and what they find leads the film to take on a found footage bend that contains some legitimately creepy moments.
Much like WNUF Halloween Special, the thing that really sells this film is the way it leans into nostalgia and uses it to celebrate (and amplify) the weirdness of our childhoods. This film feels like Robbins found an old tape in your parents’ basement and brought it over for everyone to watch. The film has an Adult Swim-style insanity to it, which is fun, but it also has a bit of heart. VHYes was an audience favorite, and one that you will definitely want to watch for.
Movie Score: 4/5
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