In the gloriously campy opening scene of This Is Your VCR on Drugs, a man in a multicolored T-shirt declares he's "here to prepare you for the groovy trip you're about to take into Psychedelic Headcandy."
It's the kind of invitation that would usually be a prelude to either a hallucination or an overdose. But film editors Brian Alter and Spenser Hoyt have used it for another purpose: to welcome you into the twisty world of VCR, which combines footage from charmingly tacky drug-trip and drug-scare VHS tapes to create a compilation that is at once weird, witty, horrifying and never anything less than transfixing.
It's a world that was born at Scarecrow Video in Seattle, which Alter says has "a huge section that's basically drugs," like "old '80s drug-scare videos, earlier '60s freak-out stuff," which of course includes Psychedelic Headcandy. While Alter confesses that the VHS tapes in this part of the store are "maybe not something that you would want to sit and watch an hour or two hours of," he and Hoyt have successfully fused together bits of footage from the tapes to create a delightfully perverse rush of surreal imagery, including some sinister, sexually charged animation and hilariously solemn anti-drug videos, like one in which George H.W. Bush sternly reminds viewers that "drugs and alcohol can ruin your life."
This Is Your VCR on Drugs unfolds with remarkable clarity and momentum. By establishing a clear and consistent editorial rhythm, Alter and Hoyt keep the movie from becoming disjointed.
While Alter notes that some of the clips featured in VCR are from a "cheesier era of public information," he also says working on the film made him recall some of his own experiences—while he's "not a big stoner," he says he's had encounters with marijuana, mescaline, mushrooms and LSD. Yet he seems to view VCR largely as a celebration of Scarecrow, even if it is "appreciating maybe some of the worst stuff that they have."
SEE IT: This is Your VCR on Drugs screens at Hollywood Theatre on Saturday, June 17 at 9:30 pm.