It’s the 1980s. A young boy gets a video camera for Christmas, grabs the first tape he can find, which happens to be his parent’s wedding video, and starts recording. That’s the premise of the shot on video comedy VHYes. The result is a parody of the early years of cable TV, late-night infomercials and The Blair Witch Project. Well, that part’s actually scary, but that’s another story.
Director Jack Henry Robbins (Ghostmates) and co-writers Nunzio Randazzo and Nate Gold went about creating VHYes in the opposite manner to what we might expect. They created the film’s main segments as short films.
They were shown at SXSW in 2017 and then the film’s framework was built around them. There’s Painting With Joan, a parody of Bob Ross’s fondly remembered show. And Hot Winter: A Film by Dick Pierre, a softcore film about global warming. True crime shows and The Home Shopping Network also get plenty of attention as well.
This is all mixed with footage Ralph (Mason McNulty, Assimilate, Catch the Bullet) and his best friend Josh (Rahm Braslaw) shoot. This is mostly the kind of stuff a 12yr old would find funny. Until the film’s last act when they sneak into a burned-out and allegedly haunted house. This segment is scarier than a lot of actual found footage films.
And then VHYes switches gears yet again with a bizarre segment that breaks Ralph’s fourth wall, (though not the film’s) in a Videodrome inspired final segment. The result is bizarre and fascinating. Not quite a sketch comedy, but not quite a conventional film either.
There are cameos from the director’s parents, Tim Roberts and Susan Sarandon. Apart from that though, the cast is filled with talent whose faces will be familiar even if their names aren’t. Charlyne Yi (Always Be My Maybe, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich) hosts a parody of public access TV shows. Kerri Kenny (Reno 911!) in the aforementioned Painting With Joan. And Thomas Lennon (Night In The Museum, Critters: A New Binge) and Courtney Pauroso (Like And Subscribe) as shopping channel hosts with complicated history are among the standouts.
Although VHYes will have more of an appeal for those of us who remember the 80s there’s something for everyone here. There’s even a bit of sadness as we realize Ralph’s parent’s marriage is disappearing just like the footage of their wedding.
Oscilloscope will release VHYes in cinemas on January 17th. DVD, Blu Ray, and VOD releases will follow at a later date.