As time marches forward, we as a society seem to fixate on and grow nostalgic for what has come before. Be it trends from our youth, or the technology we grew up with in an advanced society such as ours. For example, VHS tapes still have a significant hold in popular culture to the point that there is still numerous movies and shows made with that aesthetic, and collectives and found footage groups assemble and collect tapes en-mass. What was a cornerstone of the pst continues to shape the present and future. This is an underlying theme in the funny as hell and surprisingly deep sketch comedy movie, VHYES.
Much like sketch movies of yore such as The Kentucky Fried Movie or The Groove Tube, the film is a series of interconnected spoof commercials, satirical tv shows, and more. All framed around a young boy named Ralph (Mason McNulty) who has just received a camcorder for Christmas, 1987. Accidentally recording over his parents’ wedding tape in order to capture all matter of late night television, commercials, local access shows and so much more as reality itself seems to go off the rails…
I was fortunate enough to see VHYES for the first tie in theaters at The Alamo, and it truly was a crowd experience. The movie deftly crosses the line between absurdist comedy and nightmare fuel, much like late night programming that you watched and had to wonder: is this a real show, or did I dream it? Segments including Thomas Lennon as a bullying home shopping network host trying to sell things from Confederate pens to ‘bakery baggies’ and Keri Kenney as a cheery local access show host named Joan who isn’t quite what she seems. The film boasts a great ensemble cast of comedy actors for its numerous sketches and faux programs including Mark Proksch, Charlyne Yi, John Gemberling and more.
Oddly, VHYES feels like a more comical sibling to Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s magnetic tape horror anthology, VHS. I don’t want to give much away, but there are videos and segments as the story of Ralph’s late night recording progresses that dive head first into the realm of found footage horror. I even jumped out of my seat at a few scares! Most sketches were fairly entertaining, though a couple dragged a little bit due to the nature of the comedy and material they were lampooning such as the inexplicably edited soft-core porn parody, ‘Hot Winter’. The wraparound segment may feel out of place and out of pace at times, but the build up to its overall theme and conclusion made it all worth it and rather thought provoking about homemade media and the world today.
If you’re a fan of the VHS medium as a storytelling element or are just hankering for some fun, weird, sketch comedy with a sprinkling of surreal terror on top, VHYES is more than worth checking out.
VHYES will be released limited theatrically January 17th, 2020