Schlock & Awe:
The Forgotten Films of the ’90s Rental Realm
A new series of books by Matty Budrewicz & Dave Wain
The video store was born in our lifetime and, in most cases, it died too.
It’s a remarkably tiny lifespan for this mecca of inspiration; where passions were born, obsessions crafted, and scintillating, pulpy thrillers like Indecent Behavior (1993) could sit with total legitimacy alongside Indecent Proposal (1993).
The ’90s was boom time for the home entertainment business. Blockbuster Video were experiencing expeditious growth and would hit nine-thousand stores shortly after the millennium, while the indies — or the Mom & Pops if you will — were surfacing like a glorious rash across suburbia.
For Hollywood and the film industry in general, it was an outlet for a different type of movie. Low to mid-budget features could be produced with the specific intention of bypassing the cinema and heading direct to video store shelves. Horror. Science Fiction. Action. Erotica. Hell, even Westerns, Dramas, and Family Comedies. Creatively, it was a free-for-all.
Financially, it was a win-win situation too. The bulk of these direct-to-video (DTV) titles were pre-sold at various film markets so entire productions were often in profit before shooting. And if you were Andrew Stevens, Roger Corman, or Nu Image, some were even in profit before a script had been written.
All of the above sounds like a recipe for home entertainment heaven, doesn’t it? And for a spell it was. But in the years that followed — especially in the wake of DVD, Blu-ray and the subsequent decline of physical media — it has become increasingly apparent that the gluttonous deluge of blood, boobs, bullets, and blasts that landed during the ’90s has meant that a vast swathe of these films have been left behind, forgotten.
Forgotten is a flexible verb though, and it’s important we define it.
We have certainly forgotten about some of these films.
You may well have let some slip from your memory as well.
The film industry, meanwhile, has almost certainly excised the existence of the noteworthy nuggets you’ll find here from its hippocampus. Time moves on. Trends change and so do the demands of the money-men.
So to qualify for a place within the giddy, genre-soaked volumes of this impassioned ode to the orphaned, we’ve stipulated a number of conditions:
First, these films have clearly never graced Blu-ray. That said, there might be an exception or two. For example, there will be the occasional European release, while in the period between final draft and publication, there could well have been an ambitious exec at Arrow Video or Vinegar Syndrome keen to see Night Eyes I – IV in HD. Other than that, 1080p is a resolution that this smorgasbord of movies can only dream about.
Second, where a film has been released on DVD, it’s primarily had to be a first generation release circa ’99 – ’02 (and usually in the wrong aspect ratio with a transfer that offers little difference to the quality of VHS). In the majority of these cases, the DVD will now also be out of print, either having been issued by a distributor that has long since passed or due to the expiration of a licensing agreement.
For the most part, though, the pages of these publications will be bursting with an amazing spread of films — some brilliant, some bad, all interesting — that have only ever seen VHS; pictures that are becoming more and more obsolete with each passing year, tragically trapped on a format that failed to escape the last century. Well, if you discount occasional and always welcome appearances on streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime and Tubi…
In conclusion, we feel that we’ve assembled the ultimate collection of the wildest and rarest goodies and not-so-goodies from a unique decade in filmmaking, packed with essays and think-pieces, and swathes of interviews with the most important stars and filmmakers of this amazing era.