A love letter to 80s synth pop, the VHS generation and all things retro, Videoman is a real treat – by no means a horror film, but full of horror references and likely to delight fans of the genre.

Put together by writer/director Kristian Soderstrom, this Swedish offering is likely to have aficionados of a certain age scrambling through their attics to locate their video collections – I know it did that for me anyway.

As much kitchen sink drama as thriller, Soderstrom’s tale hones in on two folk struggling to come to terms with modern life – and their role in modern society.

We have Ennio (Stefan Sauk), who pines for the days of VHS rental stores, still operating a store of sorts of his own out of a basement, and Simone (Lena Nilsson), an alcoholic secretary who hates her job, searches for love and wishes to reconnect with her daughter.

These two people (different yet very much the same in their own way) cross paths when Simone offers to sell a box of old cassettes to Ennio. Rummaging through the collection, Ennio realises one of the tapes is the much-sought-after ‘classic’ Zombie, a video Ennio needed to complete his label collection.

No sooner has Ennio got his mitts on the VHS though than he receives a strange phone call from a mysterious ‘collector’, offering him a crazy amount of money for the video.

Naturally Ennio is keen to sell – he’s on the verge of eviction – but then the tape goes missing…

Sauk and Nilsson anchor the film tremendously well, with performances grounded in reality. Both try to keep their emotions in check, but the feelings are very much there if you look for them and, scratching away at the surface, Soderstrom’s film is as much a tale of frustration as anything else.

Things are kept neatly ticking over with plenty of healthy debates between Ennio and his film buddies on the merits of horror (a discussion on whether Argento or Fulci was the best director certainly had me thinking) which make it oh-so clear that Soderstrom has more than enough genre knowledge in his locker.

The mood of the film is also helped by a tremendous score, mainly consisting of 80s-esque synthwave and featuring, bizarrely, a new music video from none other than 80s Brit icon Sam Fox.

The tone of the film is definitely one of the film’s strengths and, while the central characters are certainly keen to look back at better times, there is an underlying feeling of hope running throughout that stops the film from ever becoming too much of a downer.

While not a horror film by any means, there are elements of horror here, with a few moments of memorable imagery that work in upping the jolt factor.

This is a character study first and foremost though, and the publicity blurb hailing the film as ‘Mike Leigh meets Dario Argento’ is right on the money.

It is not perfect – the sections discussing and debating the merits of porn films and stars is not really my bag – but Videoman is just the right sort of film you want at Frightfest, a film that catches you off guard, thoroughly entertains and marks out the director as someone to watch.

 

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: Videoman
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About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle