May 11--Horror movie nerds will descend on the Sherman Theater today for a VHS convention where dealers of rare and new exploitation and horror films will be on hand to swap stories of their favorite flicks.
The gorier, the bloodier (and the cheesier), the better.
The movies you'll find at the Severed Cinema VHS horror convention probably won't be the ones that you'd find on Netflix or HBO.
"It's a cool fun kind of homegrown project," said Sherman Theater President and CEO Richard Berkowitz.
The horror convention was the brainchild of a former theater volunteer, Earl Kessler of Bangor.
The shot-on-VHS horror fanatic started showing gory and cult horror movies at the Sherman back in 2009 to just a few dozen friends.
At first he tried to do so on his favorite format, VHS, but the technology couldn't match up to the Sherman's more modern projection system, so Kessler settled for DVD screenings.
The audience for the monthly horror showcase doubled and tripled over three years until there were around 100 people who would come to the Sherman to talk cult horror and watch double features of movies that included names like "Blood and Black Lace," by Italian horror master Mario Bava or the 80's cult movie "Demons."
Kessler bears a tattoo running down his arm. He looks younger than his 29 years and veers more toward the look of a heavy metal enthusiast than a horror video nerd.
The Kutztown University grad is an award-nominated advertising art director for Adams Outdoor Advertising.
You might have seen the ad for his horror showcase displayed on electronic billboards in the area.
Although VHS fans aren't always measured by the size of their collection, but rather the obscurity of the title, Kessler's stash is among the biggest of many of his peers with 2,500 lining shelves in his parents' home.
He also has a hand in releasing obscure VHS titles through a side project he runs with a fellow collector he met on eBay, called Massacre Video.
Kessler handles the marketing and artwork for the video titles.
So far they have released a handful of titles that come with revamped video box art, as well as DVDs and include: "Orozco the Embalmer," "555," "Demon Queen" and "Savage Vengeance."
Kessler got excited when talking about the work he was doing after the independent company acquired the rights to director Chester N. Turner's shot-on-video film "Black Devil Doll from Hell."
Louis Justin, Kessler's Massacre Video partner, started a distribution company when he got out of high school. He imported DVDs and stuff that's not in the U.S.
Every VHS release since has been funded by that online video business.
"There's a resurgence of VHS for younger people. Most of the videos I release are from the mid-to-late '80s. I have more older customers than younger ones."
Dan Kinem is one such VHS nerd who will be in attendance.
He's been traveling the country with a documentary. "Adjust Your Tracking" about VHS collecting that he helped make that will be screened today.
The Erie native co-directed the movie with fellow VHS aficionado, Levi Peretic.
"Since then it has turned into not only buying movies that aren't on DVD, but also VHS with cool artwork, cool trailers, uncut footage. Through collecting I started meeting other collectors and realized that this is a culture that deserves to be documented and embraced," Kinem said.
And it's not about the money for these fans who thrive on the camaraderie of a shared passion for gore, fake blood and grainy executions.
Most old VHS tapes are not worth the magnetic tape they're made of.
"A common misconception is that all old VHS or a lot of old VHS are worth money," said Kinem. "It is only a small percentage compared to how many were made that are worth big bucks. The harder and more obscure the movie or release, the more likely it is to be worth money."
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