Fantastic Fest 2019: VHYes
VHYes is a unique, nostalgia-fueled comedy that kidnaps its audience and takes them back to December 1987. I actually felt as if I was in that specific moment when the Cold War was freezing, Ronald Reagan was Commander in Chief, and the average rent was under $300. What a time to be alive!
This new anthology film by Jack Henry Robbins, Nate Gold, and Nunzio Randazzo appears chaotic but is a success because of the fantastic attention to detail by all of its many talents involved in the project.
The main storyline is focused around a young boy named Ralph whose parents give him a video camera for Christmas. A bulk of the runtime is filled with comedy sketches, seen as if you’re flipping the channels of late 1980s television programming. There’s everything, from infomercials to newscasts, to a local girl’s own show that is purely dedicated to her love for punk music. Should I mention the late night censored pornos with horrible narratives? Plus, the recurring thread that Ralph is filming all of this random and unnecessary content over his parent’s wedding tape is a great cherry on top of the already outrageous writing.
The collaborative efforts of the crew has birthed an original and entertaining idea that truly feels vintage and leaves room for some meta-moments, like when a philosopher is being interviewed about the dangers of the VHS and video cameras. There are also some specific digs at current events and politics, such as a short comment about a popular figure becoming president *cough, cough*.
The mosaic-type editing complements the writing so that none of the recurring sketches get stale or boring. There is a stream-of-consciousness feeling that is realistic, since the story is basically whatever Ralph is experiencing, without it being impossible to follow. If the film had lasted too long the concept might have become tiresome but the runtime of just over an hour is perfect for the VHYes format.
The true artistry of VHYes is evident when one of the subplots from a late night crime show intersects with Ralph’s real life. The silly that seems just there just for pure entertainment comes into the sphere of reality, showing the talent of the writers, tying any loose ends in the final moments. It’s a personal favorite of mine when chaos feels conclusive and a full circle can be seen, making a film like a piece of classic literature but this time add a bad wannabe version of Antique Roadshow.
Of course, shooting on actual VHS and Beta allow VHYes a retro vibe that is completely authentic. It allows the audience to feel a bit like a spy, especially when Ralph turns the camera onto himself, his best friend Josh who accompanies him on most adventures, or the parents. Yes, the appearance of shooting on video can be duplicated in post-production nowadays but the dedication really pays off here.
The reason VHYes works all goes back to the details. From the writing to the editing and even to the very realistic costumes: it really feels like an hour long window into December 1987.