Interview with Christopher O’Neill of VIVA VHS!

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

first published in @The Evening Echo 2014-8-28

Viva VHS logo

As well as being the Head Of Cinema at the Triskel Christchurch, Christopher O’Neill also curates a strand under the name of Twisted Celluloid, “those nights are all about showcasing unusual oddball movies, many of them with a cult following. It’s been going for three years now; our second weekend-long mini-festival took place back in May this year. There will also be a special late-night selection of Twisted Celluloid films at this year’s Cork Film Festival, too.”

Twisted Celluloid’s latest project, VIVA VHS! is held this Saturday and promises to be a three-hour extravaganza saluting the king of 1980s home entertainment: the video cassette. Christopher explained the plan for the evening, “it’ll be split into three section: there will be two programmes of 45 minutes worth of obscure movie trailers sourced from tapes in the 1980s and 1990s. And in between, there is the quirky and rarely seen sci-fi-horror-comedy movie. VIVA VHS! will be a lot of fun and it’s the perfect opportunity to check out the new seating in the Triskel Christchurch auditorium!”

Christopher has put a lot of effort into making VIVA VHS! as good as possible; “I’ve been working on this project for several months now. I was rummaging through thousands of old cassettes I still have in storage, plus sourcing out tapes from the few remaining video stores and second-hand shops I could find. The trouble is, many of the tapes had eroded from age with rough picture and poor sound quality so sometimes I found a great line-up of trailers but couldn’t use them. I edited the trailers together with my computer. I wouldn’t rely on playing the old cassettes on the night, that would take a long, long time to switch from one to another!”

While the night won’t have a particular genre or theme, Christopher hasn’t just put together a hotchpotch collection, “lining up the order took awhile – it was like making a music mixtape! The trailers are from all kinds of movies – low-budget horror movies, senseless action thrillers, sex-mad comedies, underground musicals, and martial arts flicks. The order/pairing of trailers on videotapes back in the day could be pretty random in content, so I wanted to do the same with the two compilations.”

While the contents of the overall programme are being kept as a secret, Christopher did give The Evening Echo a little clue for film buffs to try and figure out with their friends, “there is a trailer for an American horror film with an unusual Irish slant to it…”

The old adage of ‘don’t just a book by it’s cover’ can be adapted in this case to ‘don’t judge a movie by it’s trailer’, Christopher uses one example as case in point, “there’s a ‘Dirty Harry’ knock-off called ‘Deadly Impact’ from 1984. A bunch of Italian filmmakers made it in America, the trailer makes no sense – it’s just car chases, shootouts, random dialogue taken out of context, more car chases, shootouts, it really is a lot of fun… but for the record, I saw the film years ago and it didn’t live up to the trailer!”

Christopher has pulled the full-length feature film being screened out of leftfield, “we’ve dug out a movie called ‘Remote Control’, it was released in 1988 and it’s a lot of fun. It was never played in cinemas here, and as far as I know, has never been on TV. Kevin Dillon (who recently appeared in the television series ‘Entourage’) has to stop an alien invasion when people watch a mind controlling videocassette. Squeaky-voiced Jennifer Tilly (who people might remember from a classic schlock horror film, ‘Bride Of Chucky’) is also in it; the film has its tongue firmly in cheek. Jeff Lieberman wrote and directed it; he also made films like ‘Squirm’ (with killer worms) and ‘Blue Sunshine’ (about people who become murderers since they dropped bad acid back when they were in college). His films are really quirky and imaginative.”

While the revival of analogue technology and culture has been relatively popular in recent years, Christopher was still surprised by the traction VIVA VHS! garnered with enthusiasts and on social media, “there is a lot of nostalgia for video cassettes now. It’s easy to forget just how much freedom video offered when it first appeared – movies that would never turn up in cinemas or on television were suddenly available. Rows and rows of weird, wonderful and downright dreadful films from around the world could be seen. As someone who grew up with VHS cassettes, I am astonished to discover that they are being collected now by some fans in much the same way as vinyl is.”

VIVA VHS! will take place at 8.15pm in The Triskel Arts Centre on Saturday 30 August.

For booking details or to see advance clips online go to http://www.triskelartscentre.ie

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