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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

VHS Vednesday: Remote Control

REMOTE CONTROL (1988). Directed by Jeff Lieberman. Starring Kevin Dillon, Deborah Goodrich, and Christopher Wynne.

A bit of sad news: Versatile Video, the (literal) mom-and-pop video store that has provided so much material for my reviews, is closing its doors this month. I'll really miss that place...but it's not the end of VHS Vednesday. I managed to pick up quite a few of the tapes they were selling off, so I've got enough material to keep me going for a while. Of course, I'll always regret "the ones that got away," the tapes that were bought by somebody else before I could watch them--ranging from vintage classics (Anthony Adverse) to the cheesiest exploitation flicks (Hellhole, Mongrel, Pepper, etc.). But at least I got what I could, while I could.
To commemorate the end of this era, I'll take a look at a movie that rejoiced in the heyday of VHS rentals. The 1988 tongue-in-cheek science-fiction flick Remote Control is a now-poignant reminder of the days when video stores flourished across the nation, and viewers, thrilled by the novelty of viewing movies at home at their own convenience, would snatch up just about any picture they could find on the shelves.
The movie begins with a young couple (Jerold Pearson and Jennifer Buchanan) preparing for an evening's entertainment. Their selection: An obscure 1957 sci-fi picture titled Remote Control--which takes place in the far-flung future of the 1980s, and imagines an advanced technology which enables people to watch movies in their own homes. The recursiveness continues when the woman within the film falls under some kind of hypnotic spell, compelling her to kill her husband--an act which is then carried out by the woman watching the movie in the real world.
After this introductory scene setting up the premise, we meet our hero, a teenage video store clerk named Cosmo (Kevin Dillon). Cosmo notices the strange spike in demand for the little-known movie Remote Control, but chalks it up to the eye-catching display that the video distributor's representative had set up in his store. Little does he realize just how hypnotic that display is, until a dispute arises between two customers vying for the last rental copy--a dispute that culminates with the "lucky" customer who did get the last copy (Jennifer Tilly) being followed home and murdered by the disgruntled would-be renter (Frank Beddor).
Now suspected of the murder himself, Cosmo sets out to prove his innocence, and in the process discovers the secret of Remote Control. Accompanied by his friend and co-worker Georgie (Christopher Wynne) and his newfound romantic interest Belinda (Deborah Goodrich), Cosmo infiltrates the video company before they expand their influence from a "test market" to worldwide distribution.
Written and directed by Jeff Lieberman, known for his uniquely bizarre horror movies (Squirm, Blue Sunshine, Just Before Dawn), Remote Control is perhaps his most "mainstream" effort (though it still demonstrates a fair amound of off-kilter quirkiness). It's slight and inconsequential, but in the end, it's an enjoyable souvenir of a bygone medium...and that's good enough for me. And it name-drops Francois Truffaut, which is always a plus.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
In one of his earliest leading roles, Kevin Dillon proves to be an appealing, likeable performer--still rough around the edges, but showing the promise of better work to come (i.e., Entourage). The performer most likely to be embarrassed by this, though, is Jennifer Tilly. Not because of her performance (it's pretty much the same squeaky-voiced flirt that she's played in so many movies), but because of her hairstyle. Really. Words can't do it justice.



At 6:44 PM, Blogger Sea_of_Green said...

That's a shame about your video store closing. There's too much of that going around. :-(


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