Physical media is far from dead, and that includes VHS (see Cult Corner, May 2021, at inland360.com), which is kept alive by a fervent community of collectors. Though mass production of VHS tapes ended in 2011, the ubiquity of the format for more than two decades means a plentiful supply of tapes can be had at thrift stores and the like. VHS is particularly popular with the horror and cult movie crowd. A quick social media search quickly garners images of VHS-loving horror fans and their collections.
With 11 years of new movies since the death of VHS, small boutique labels have stepped in to fill the gap. One of the most prolific is Witter Entertainment which, in partnership with Broke Horror Fan, has produced and released official VHS versions of modern cult and horror films.
Like many modern collaborations, this one began on the internet. James Cilano, of Witter Entertainment, and Alex DiVincenzo, the brains behind Broke Horror Fan, connected through music. DiVincenzo wrote about and ultimately directed a documentary and music video for Cilano’s band, Scholar.
DiVincenzo then began tossing around merchandise ideas for his Broke Horror Fan label with Cilano. The Broke Horror Fan site currently “showcases horror movie merchandise new and old, serving as the ultimate gift guide for any genre fan,” and features film reviews by DiVincenzo.
Wanting to produce items that stood out from other horror brands, the duo reached out to Adam Green, known best for the “Hatchet” series, and inquired about obtaining the rights to Green’s film “Victor Crowley” for release on tape. They were successful in their quest, and a director-approved, officially licensed VHS edition of “Victory Crowley” was released in July 2018. The packaging featured original artwork and came in a plastic clamshell case, the same cases most will associate with Disney movies and other children’s entertainment from the VHS era.
In the 3½ years since, Witter Entertainment and Broke Horror Fan have released more than 40 officially licensed horror VHS titles, including “Black Friday” starring the “Evil Dead” series’ Bruce Campbell and “Yoga Hosers,” directed by Kevin Smith of “Clerks” and “Jay and Silent Bob” fame. They’ve also produced the only officially licensed big-box edition of the 1968 zombie classic “Night of the Living Dead.”
Their most popular releases have been recent films starring Nicolas Cage: “Color Out of Space,” “Willy’s Wonderland” and “Mandy,” as well as the 2020 horror comedy “Psycho Goreman.” “Mandy” and “Psycho Goreman” sold out in fewer than 20 minutes (for more on “Goreman,” see Cult Corner, March 2021, at inland360.com).
In keeping with VHS tradition, the most limited and often sought-after variant is the big box. Big box releases hark back to the early days of VHS, when the tapes came in oversized cardboard boxes and horror titles were decked out in salacious artwork. Witter also produces a limited-edition clamshell for most releases that features alternate artwork to the standard edition. For example, the limited clamshell variant for “Psycho Goreman” featured a painting by Adam Brooks, who also starred in the film. The standard edition then rounds out the run. Big boxes and clamshell variants will almost assuredly never be produced a second time, though the standard editions may pop up for sale again after an initial run. Many of their titles include a letter from the film’s director, similar to liner notes in an album.
Cilano and DeVincenzo handle the digital-to-analog transfer and production duties themselves. “We source (the movies) from massive ProRes files the distributor supplies, and Alex is a professional editor, so he crops the films to 4:3 with director approval. Occasionally a director opts to handle the crop themselves, which is really cool,” Cilano said. “I utilize JVC, Sony, Panasonic pro-series VCRs for duplication. We endeavor to ensure quality on every aspect of every tape.”
A recent addition to their lineup is “Werewolves Within,” a horror comedy whodunit starring Milana Vayntrub, who most will recognize as Lily from recent AT&T ads, and Sam Richardson from HBO’s “Veep” and Comedy Central’s “Detroiters.”
“Our next several releases are locked in. Nothing we can mention yet, but it’s an exciting mix of popular titles and lesser-known gems,” DiVincenzo said. “We’ll also be restocking some of our most popular sold-out standard editions in 2022.”
“We’ll keep curating titles we’d like to see on official VHS,” Cilano said. “As long as we’re able to do so — keep those slabs flowing into tape fans’ VCRs.”
Thompson enjoys putting somewhat carefully chosen words in relatively meaningful order. He has been to college. He lives in Lewiston and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Instagram at @theswap_quadcities.