who says zombies have to abide by a strict code? After all, they’re fictional. Just like time travel in movies, zombies can follow different criteria depending on what the storyteller wants. 1987’s The Video Dead just so happens to be written and directed by someone who has some actual creative ideas regarding the walking dead. He’s invented a set of rules to be obeyed with parameters that are pretty wellthought-out.
There’s a television set that gets mysteriously (and incorrectly) delivered to a famous writer’s house. But the only program he seems to get is a plotless, blackand-white film where zombies walk around aimlessly. He turns off the TV, but it turns back on all by itself. So he unplugs it, and guess what happens? Yup, it turns on again. We see an electricity effect and watch as several zombies climb out of the screen. Actually, most of the climbing is implied, presumably due to the constraints of a supposedly $80,000 budget. This famous writer gets killed, but we don’t see it. In fact, we don’t see most of the killings in The Video Dead.
Several months later, a new family moves into the house. The teenage children, Zoe (Roxanna Augesen), who’s majoring in aerobics and minoring in music videos (seriously), and Jeff (Rocky Duvall), who apparently wears the same shirt for three days straight, arrive first as they await their parents, who are moving back to the United States after living abroad.
One day, an older gentleman from Texas, Joshua Daniels (Sam David McClelland), shows up at their doorstep telling Jeff that he mailed a haunted television to the Institute for Paranormal Research, but instead it accidentally got delivered to their house. He warns Jeff of the horrific evils inside the set, claiming zombie creatures killed his wife. Jeff immediately dismisses the man as crazy, but eventually he and his sister discover the TV and accompanying zombies, and request Mr. Daniels’ assistance after all. Writer-director Robert Scott may only be working with an $80,000 budget, but his film surprisingly looks a lot better than that. The zombie makeup is far more evocative than most microbudget ‘80s films and the haunting imagery of these creatures inside the TV set feels straight out of an actual nightmare.
What may seem like bizarre zombie logic to most people who are used to the George Romero world of the undead is actually quite inventive and unique. The zombies in The Video Dead don’t eat people for nourishment. In fact, they hardly eat people at all. Instead, they kill out of resentment—they’re angry that they can’t be human. As they murder their victims, they appropriate human culture: putting on glasses, wearing wigs and dresses, eating real food.
And these zombies can’t be killed in conventional ways either. They can only self-destruct out of boredom if left alone for too long. Most importantly, each zombie is given a unique personality.
Unfortunately Scott dilutes any intensity his film might have. He’s constantly panning away during killings, telegraphing the suspense, and playing down jump-scares. As a writer, he has a difficult time locking in his characters’ personalities, relying on stereotypes, but then quickly abandoning those stereotypes if they don’t fit into what needs to happen on screen. But who am I kidding? It probably wouldn’t matter anyway. It’s no surprise most of these actors (along with the director) have no other credits other than this film. The completely garbage performances create an absolutely hilarious viewing experience when paired with the equally abysmal dialogue. Buried beneath a low budget, sloppily edited, terribly acted, and poorly executed film is an intriguing concept. And part of what makes The Video Dead so enjoyably bad is that it does bring a semblance of creativity to the table at some level.
Certain notions are so ludicrous that we simply have no choice but to accept them as canon within this universe. And we can gladly bunch them together with all of the schlocky B-movie elements because somehow they fit together perfectly.
There are few people who understand the power of nostalgia like Bryce Shoemaker: “archeologist of forgotten media from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and early ‘00s.” He’s also the founder and curator of Forever Bogus, a nostalgia outlet that consists of a podcast, a YouTube channel, an Instagram page, and much more. On the podcast, Bryce and his co-host Jayme talk about everything from yesteryear’s mainstream pop culture zeitgeist to something as forgotten about as Tammy and the T-Rex. They also discuss in great lengths the simpler aspects of ‘80s and ‘90s childhood, such as sick days and their favorite Christmas toys. Bryce is also a collector of all things nostalgia, which of course includes VHS tapes. Here, he dives into his own collection and shares with us some of his favorites.
ETHAN: What are the origins of Forever Bogus?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: Forever Bogus is a nostalgia brand I created to remind people of our shared childhood experiences. Back in 2012 I lost my first real job out of college and was forced to move back in with my parents for a while.
I found myself slipping into a deep depression until I came across a box of old stuff from my childhood. It was filled to the rim with my old Nickelodeon Magazine collection, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures, PlayStation One games, and VHS tapes. I dusted off my parents’ VCR and popped in one of the blank tapes not knowing what I’d get. After some static, the tape held a TV recording of a SNICK lineup from the ‘90s. Watching it brought me so much joy that I could tell it was counteracting my depression. I loved the feeling of nostalgia so much that I wanted to share it with anyone who needed it. Now for the name Forever Bogus… that’s a story for another day.
ETHAN: Other than VHS, what are your favorite things to collect?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: Pretty much anything that remotely makes me feel nostalgic. My wife and I have an overabundance of board games, comic books, coloring books, video game consoles, and toys. Lots and lots of toys. Gluttony is our favorite sin!
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?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: No way, dude! There will always be a group ofpeople who collect physical media just like you and me.
ETHAN: What would you want noncollectors to know if anything?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: You’re missing out! It brings me and thousands of others so much joy.
ETHAN: Any tips for new collectors?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: Always check your tapes before buying them. There have been many times I found the wrong tape in the case or moldy tapes when I got home. Also, don’t let anyone decide what your collection should consist of. Horror movies are awesome and all, but not everyone loves them. Honestly, I think I have more cartoon tapes in my collection than horror movies!
ETHAN: Do you have any future plans at the moment in terms ofyour collection?
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: I’ve officially run out of room in the Bogus HQ, so I have been slowly thinning out the collection. Selling and giving away tapes that I either have duplicates of or just no interest in owning anymore.
ETHAN: You have such unique ideas for your brand and you do these hilarious eccentric characters like Kenny GG Allin. Have you ever thought about doing some sort of midnight movie host show? I think you’d be great!
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: [laughs] I will have to let Kenny GG Allin know that he has a fan! Eli and I host a monthly VHS screening at a local theater here in Kansas City called “Analog Sunday.” It spawned from our Sunday hangs, where we’d load up on junk food and watch a stack of recently found tapes. This is the closest we’ve gotten to hosting a midnight movie show. However, I’ve wanted my own public-access TV show since I was a kid.
ETHAN: What’s in the works forForever Bog
BRYCE SHOEMAKER: The Forever Bogus Podcast is coming back for our fifthseason! I’ve had a blast putting that together with my good friend Jayme Kilsby. We’ve got a lot of great ideas in the pipeline for the new season that I can’t wait to share with everyone. Also, our “Forever BOO!GUS” Halloween season is right around the corner and we have some spooky surprises lined up for our followers.
Check out Bryce’s collection on Instagram @forever_bogus and the Forever Bogus Podcast on your favorite platform!