Photo by Rob Pearce, courtesy Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Got VHS Tapes? Bring Them to FilmBar Tape Swap

Written by M.V. Moorhead Category: Visual Arts Issue: February 2017
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VHS tapes: If you were a serious movie geek during the ‘80s and ‘90s, there’s a good chance you collected them. I certainly was, and I certainly did. I spent many, many hours browsing in video stores like Suncoast or Virgin Megastore for new ones, and in thrift stores and junkshops and used bookstores and discard bins at video rental joints for used ones.

For many of us, at a certain point VHS tapes started to seem less like the wondrous medium by which one got to actually own a movie—something we'd longed for since childhood—and more like a dust-gathering, space-gobbling albatross. Significant others scowled when you came home with new cassettes to add to the stacks you already had crammed into bookshelves, or piled on the floor next to your desk. And gradually, we started to get sick of them ourselves, as we realized that we really didn’t need to have "Mandroid" or "Critters 2: The Main Course" in our personal archive.

Then, of course, came DVDs, with their manifestly superior (though admittedly less reliable, due to digital breakup) picture and sound quality, and their smaller, more space-efficient packaging. Most of us made the switch, and after a few years the same sense of hoarder’s futility began to settle in with them as well.

But of course, there are some collectors who didn’t make the switch. Just as with “vinylheads” in the world of recorded music, there are “tapeheads” who still cling to the VHS format over DVDs and online streaming.

They cite, among other advantages, easier manual navigation, the ability to borrow and lend, and packaging that’s more amenable to cool artwork, but I suspect that for the most part, VHS loyalty is largely about nostalgia – for the heady days of sitting up late, remote in hand, thumb on the rewind button. I confess I still have a few VHS tapes on my shelves, even though I no longer have a VCR, just for sentimental value.

If I was smart, I’d take them to FilmBar this Friday, February 10, for the Downtown repertory cinema’s first-ever VHS Swap, from 8 to 10 p.m. Tapeheads are invited to bring VHS tapes, VCRs, VHS board games and other VHS-related collectables to the venue’s lounge to hang out, haggle and swap.

It’s followed at 10 p.m. by a showing of "Beyond the Gates." This horror yarn in the ’80s vein concerns two brothers who reunite to clear out the video store owned by their father, who has gone missing months earlier. In his office they find a mysterious VHS board game – a genre of game the brief existence of which I was somehow blessedly unaware until now – decide to play it, and learn that it holds the keys to a creepy supernatural netherworld in which their father is trapped. Think "Stranger Things" meets "Jumanji" meets a Blockbuster store.

Directed by Tucson native Jackson Stewart, this fun low-budget effort impressively recreates the flavor of chillers like "The Gate" or the "Phantasm" flicks, right down to the electronic score, the font of the credits and the “practical” splatter effects. There’s even an appearance by hall of fame scream queen Barbara Crampton as the alluring/forbidding hostess of the game.

Director Stewart is slated to attend the showing, which is hosted by the BS Movies Podcast, and to participate in a live Q&A podcast after the show.

Tickets for the movie are $9, and advance purchase is advised (it plays again at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, February 11). There’s no charge to attend the swap, but participants should email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to reserve a table.

815 N. 2nd St., Phoenix