ETHAN: Have you been collecting VHS since you were young or did it resurge after a hiatus?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: Growing up I always had a small VHS collection that I could call my own. I put them all to the wayside when DVDs hit the market. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college in 2008 when I really started collecting VHS again. I went to the thrift store near campus and found a stack of Nickelodeon VHS tapes that I really wanted as a kid but my parents didn’t want to spend the money on. It felt like I was finally able to scratch the decade-long itch I couldn’t reach.
ETHAN: What’s your favorite genre to collect?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: Horror and cartoons have always been my go-to, but in recent years I’ve been searching for the strangest-looking tapes. Some people call them special interest tapes, but my buddy Eli and I like to call them “bizarro tapes.” These are the ones you pick up and say, “What the hell is this?!” These could be odd motivational speeches, wild stage performances, lame instructional videos, or even late-night public access shows. The stranger the better!
ETHAN: Do you have a favorite tape?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: That’s a hard one to answer. It’s like asking a parent of 1000+ children to pick their favorite. So, let’s go with the tape I frequent the most, which is Dave Roever’s High School Experience. Simply put, Dave Roever is a badly injured Vietnam vet-turnedmotivational speaker. In the late ‘80s Dave would go from school to school with his comedy bit intertwined with old views on drugs, sex, alcohol, and AIDs. Needless to say, it’s an hour and a half of pure strangeness. I love it so much that I’ve probably watched it 20 times over the last two years.
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: My rarest tape is either Street Trash or this odd screener tape used to sell the first season of The Adventures of Pete and Pete and Clarissa Explains It All to retailers. It blows my mind that Nickelodeon/Viacom used a VHS tape to promote their DVD boxsets. I’ve done a lot of research on the screener tape and have yet to find anything about it.
ETHAN: Any recent discoveries?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: Satan Place. It’s a shot-on-video (SOV) anthology horror movie that is bats**t crazy. Big shout out to Eli, owner and operator of Magnetic Magic Rentals, for introducing this one to me. I highly recommend it if you love bad SOV flicks. I believe it’s on YouTube!
ETHAN: What’s your favorite box art?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: My favorite will forever be the box art for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tapes. Majority of them were hand-painted by the late, great Greg Martin and they were magnificent! However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the box art for Street Trash and The Video Dead. They’re so iconic!
ETHAN: Favorite movie about VHS?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: Adjust Your Tracking!
ETHAN: Weirdest find or the most so-bad-it’s-good?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? starring a coked-out Tim Allen. It’s probably the most awkward tape I have ever watched!
ETHAN: Do you have any movies with an absurd amount of duplicates?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: Kiki’s Delivery Service, but it was never intentional. For whatever reason I kept finding them out in the wild and I’m always like, “Why not? I bet there is someone who’d like this.”
ETHAN: Which tape are you still onthe lookout for—your holy grail?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: Not necessarily a holy grail but I’ve been looking for Alex Winter’s Freaked for a LONG time now. Why is it so dang-darn hard to find in the wild?!
ETHAN: If you could have a VHS version of a modern movie, which one would it be?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: Brigsby Bear deserves a proper VHS release. Kyle Mooney is brilliant in that one and he is also a big VHS collector!
ETHAN: You do so much for the nostalgia community and in perpetuating the culture. What keeps you wanting to collect and continue to build this awareness?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: It sounds silly and a little cliché, but it’s the nostalgia ride. It’s magical to witness someone getting hit with nostalgia when they see something that reminds them of the good parts of their childhood.
ETHAN: Why do you like physical media? What’s the biggest benefit over streaming, if any?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: I love tangible things that bring me nostalgia, and you can’t find that in any replica. There is so much content that’s only available on VHS. However, that’s the only real benefit over streaming.
ETHAN: Do you think VHS will make a comeback in the way vinyl has?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: VHS made many comebacks in the last decade. Recently there is a company starting to grade VHS tapes. I don’t find this to be a good thing for the community. I understand wanting to preserve your tapes, but I don’t like seeing people grading a sealed Karate Kid tape just to sell it on eBay for thousands of dollars. It takes the fun out of the hunt and puts a ridiculous value on something [many of us are] so passionate about.
ETHAN: Do you think physical media will ever truly die?