I would never accuse Josh Johnson‘s documentary Rewind This! of being nostalgic as that would be doing his film a great disservice. There are plenty of homages to an era now passed but he never tilts the information to keep us indulged in ignorant bliss. Most people of a certain age can attest to receiving early film education from VHS rentals, compliments of their local family owned video shop and some of those very same people fell in love with movies so much that they embraced formats of higher standards to enhance their cinematic experiences. Some people on the other hand, could care less about the difference and wouldn’t admit otherwise if they knew any better. It is this divide that builds the foundation for this thought provoking examination, which shows us the important impact that this period has had on the movie industry for better or worse.

Rewind This screenshot 1

Most of the interview subjects on hand are filmmakers, critics and film-programmers that were directly influenced by the VHS boom and their opinions on the matter come unfiltered and cut directly to the chase. There is no manipulative forces pulling the strings here and every opinion is diverse and offer different sides of the equation. Johnson allows the viewer to make up their own mind by not interfering with biased propaganda but merely educating us on the relevance of the medium at hand. We see how the home video revolution helped people in small towns get exposed to cinema and the contemporary significance it holds in preserving films that haven’t found a new home. There’s a subtle reflection that gives us a glimpse at the extinction of physical media as history always dooms to repeat itself. The masses influenced how the VHS industry thrived, mainly because of their appetite for convenience and indifference to quality. Covering the entire spectrum would be more than a daunting task, but the moments that are utilized offer enough insight to allow the missing pieces to appear in retrospect. For example, Drew McWeeny evaluates the importance of adult entertainment keeping VHS afloat but at the same time helps debunk the myth of it being solely exclusive to that format. The exploitation clips that appear throughout, perfectly serve the enthusiasm of genre specific collectors and are mostly serve their entertainment value in such quantity.


There’s a contagious sincerity that translates through every analogy and the unpredictable pendulum keeps the momentum in full swing. Some are motivated by blissful moments passed to engage their treasure hunting escapades while others have no problem admitting the inferior capabilities that VHS possessed in comparison to superior technology. Flawed aspect ratios aside, this was without a doubt the floodgate to the streaming video age we live in now and it’s the same sense of entitlement that encourages people to behave in the same obsessive manner. One heart breaking segment explores the wonderful box art that used to grace video boxes before confusing the masses and much like the older movie posters that inspired them were eventually replaced by uninspired photo-shopped crap. In the grand scheme of things we are being shown the cause and effect that’s created by an immediate society, such as ironic hipsters that don’t extend their collecting habits past kitsch. We’ve eased past pan-and-scan mentality as the next step in evolution will forgo any film techniques that don’t serve a purpose when being evaluated on a smart-phone.

Josh Johnson has managed the daunting task of balancing the fondness of collector mentality and reasonably portraying the pros and cons. Rewind This! is a fascinating look at a period that offered wonder and directly influenced many figures that keep the industry afloat today. The disc extras include insightful commentary and deleted scenes that offer much more, including interview outtakes with established critics and directors as well as programmers for Alamo Drafthouse, The Cinefamily and Everything Is Terrible.

The Author

Sean McClannahan

Sean McClannahan

Sean McClannahan is a freelance film journalist and is the founder of Movie Time And Beyond. His passion for movies and pop culture knows no limits.

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