Flashing back to Charles Band’s Gothic Black Comedy
I’m always a bit baffled when I see other members of my generation mist over with nostalgia when regarding the moribund video rental store experiences of our youth. Maybe my own corner video store was somehow that much shabbier than theirs, but I say confidently that modern streaming media are superior, an upgrade in every sense. What was really all that charming about dragging yourself down to the video store, only to be disappointed that all available copies of whatever new release you had your heart set on had already been snapped up? So there you were, stuck either settling on re-watching something or taking a chance on some suspect object with come-hither cover art—anyone else out there stare in the mirror with sour recrimination the morning after renting BARB WIRE? There was also the anxiety of knowing that you might be watching a cut or altered version of the movie you rented, as dictated by stodgy, stuffy store owners—no NC-17 BAD LIEUTENANT waiting for you at a certain blue-and-yellow family-values video chain, just keep on walking. There was also the issue of cost; adjusted for inflation, five bucks then is like ten bucks today. It hurt to know that being sucked in by a cleverly-marketed dud just burned up your entertainment investment. With subscription streaming, picking a stinker only costs you in terms of your time. All the other trappings of the video store—having to remember your membership card, being compelled to rewind VHS tapes that usually stunk of pizza grease and stale weed, dealing with snotty, judgmental film-school-dropout clerks looking down their pimply noses in disdain at the copy of SHOWGIRLS clutched in your grasp—streaming has efficiently sanded all those irritating edges off of the home movie viewing experience. Worst of all was having to arrange one’s day around returning that rented tape, lest the punitive anvil of late fees be dropped upon one’s head. This process might not have been such a hassle to city folks, but for rural people serviced by dirt roads pocked with more craters than the Ho Chi Minh trail after a USAF strafing run, the drive back to the video store could be a trek of Odyssean proportions.