Ask anyone over 30 (me) and they’ll likely lament the analog age, yearning for the days when physical media was king (also me). But times change. People change. Society changes. The world moves on, leaving you behind with the nostalgic comfort provided by your V/H/S player and Super Nintendo. Comfort’s fine. Comfort’s good. Except we don’t have much opportunity for growth if we tie ourselves up with out-of-date cables and refuse to break free from what’s comfortable, do we? This is the idea behind writer/director Michael Turney’s queer body horror throwback, Video Vision, the rare love letter to the analog era that also asks the audience to remove their rose-tinted glasses and embrace the present. However, the script is as wobbly as the images of a worn-out tape.

Kibby (Andrea Figliomeni) works at Video Vision, a relic of the V/H/S era that used to be a video store but became a repair shop to survive. While on the job, she meets trans man Gator (Chrystal Peterson) and discovers a spark lit between them. But after she’s cut by a mysterious V/H/S player, something begins to change in Kibby. She vomits sludge-encased film strips. Sees through the lens of hazy video. And has visions of gruesome killings. To save her mind and her relationship, she’ll have to uncover the mystery of the sinister specter that haunts her, Dr. Analog (Hunter Kohl).

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With all of the hallmarks of a techno terror tribute to a bygone era, Video Vision uses the sub-genre as a thematic skin laid over a queer romance. And an awkward one at that. Despite an instant attraction, Kibby admits to nervousness in dating Gator, unsure how to navigate their relationship and worried she’ll say or do the wrong thing. We watch as the two explore their feelings for one another through a series of sometimes sweet yet often cringe-inducing conversations that sound less like natural dialogue and more like cliff notes around the topic of transness.

As Dr. Analog’s presence becomes more aggressive, so does Kibby turn nasty, spouting transphobic comments at a more-than-patient Gator unwilling to believe this is the real her. It’s hard to watch at best, and problematic at worst. It’s deeply uncomfortable, to say the least, and is just barely rescued by Figliomeni’s charisma and a sincere performance from Peterson that moves.

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From the first reel to the last, Video Vision is a film about transition. A queer Videodrome that wears the influence of Cronenberg on its cassette sleeve, it implies parallels between video vs. digital and the ever-evolving concept of gender. The idea is that just as media formats have evolved, so too has the way we see gender on a wider scale. Your enjoyment of the film will largely depend on how apt you see that analogy. Turney uses Kibby’s queasy body horror to reflect how she is caught in the past, resistant to change in all its forms. Hence the nasty black goop she hacks up like slimy hairballs. Dr. Analog, meanwhile, with shades of Freddy Krueger and Brainscan’s Trickster, seemingly infects Kibby with his frustration, to a degree that could be equated to warping her into a boomer. Yes, that’s as off-putting as it sounds.

Though the filmmaker’s heart is in the right place with a message meant to be supportive of the trans community, it comes through like fuzzy static thanks to writing that fails to expand on these themes in a concrete way outside of vague hand gestures. It doesn’t help that who Kibby truly is and where she falls in all of the discourse at hand never feels all that established, making it difficult to chart her journey as a character.

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Between Kibby’s body horror, video nightmares of a killer on the prowl, an introduction to techno-metaphysics, and some wonky pacing, Turney’s vision often comes across as disconnected. A V/H/S player without a chord, if you will. The filmmaker throws a whole Blockbuster’s worth of ideas at the screen while not spending enough time with any of them. They might as well be undeveloped spools of film, tangled and messy. Some stunning techno-horror imagery, gruesome effects, and a banger score satiate some of the hunger that audiences will crave from a film like this, but they’re mere tastes of a meal denied without much cohesiveness in the havoc Dr. Analog wreaks.

Turney rushes us through who the “doctor” is and what he desires, disallowing the character the necessary presence to make an impact. Part of the reason is that Turney intends this to be a trilogy, a goal that leaves this first entry feeling unfinished in his effort to set up the next. Still, the director deserves a nod for what is an imaginative tribute to the films that influenced Video Vision, even if he, unfortunately, struggles to transfer those ideas from mind to tape.

Turney’s goal with Video Vision is admirable. But like a V/H/S cover that promises a terrifying nightmare only to have it turn out to be Troll II (not derogatory), it can’t quite reach the bar it sets for itself. Nor does it present a romance that comes across as genuine, despite performances doing their best with the material given. Well-crafted effects and some inspired moments make the stiff dialogue go down smoother, but they arrive too little and too late, allowing Turney’s film to mark itself on the mind like cigarette burns.

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