Bad Videos

An Excursion Into Home Cinema Hell

By Elmo (All Thumbs) Spludd


I was watching the news yesterday and the news guys were complaining about the godawful time they were having digging up any significant information on this abortion-clinic bombing suspect who apparently decided to take the advice of his favorite brewmeister and "head for the mountains."

So now the feds, the news media, the tabloids, and anyone else with access to sophisicated computers and snooping devices are chasing after this pathetic schmuck, and examining data from his past life for clues as to his present whereabouts.

All this ferocious digging has resulted in a grand total of three facts that warranted mention on the evening news. This guy is 31 years old and besides being the prime suspect in a cowardly act of terrorism, this is what we now know about him:

1. He did a brief stint in the Army.

2. He once wrote a term paper in the ninth grade denying the Holocaust.

3. He rented an average of 25 videotapes each month from a video rental store near his home.

Who says privacy is dead?

Much of the difficulty, according to a news report, is that he stopped using his Social Security card several years ago. That is, he refused to provide his Social Security number to everyone who asked him for it.

But it looks like he was willing to ante up at the video store, at least. Janet Reno knows what kinds of films he's been watching, if that's any help.

I'd be willing to bet, at 25 videos a month, that our suspect has seen some pretty bad movies. Maybe, if he's apprehended and brought to trial, he can argue that bad videos warped his mind and drove him over the edge.

It's not the we CHOOSE to watch bad videos. I speak here from experience, since I watch quite a few videos myself. I'm a home video fanatic. I'll grab an armload and spend an entire weekend vegetating and viewing and eating healthful snack foods. This is called "constructive use of leisure time" and is one of the cornerstones of a civilized society. But in that armload of flicks, somewhere, despite the enticing blurbs on the box ("Two thumbs up!"), there lurks at least one REALLY BAD VIDEO.

Oh, sure, there are warning signs that must be heeded. Any intelligent videophile should avoid flicks that:

1. Anyone has described as "the feel-good hit of the season."

2. Has a chimpanzee or other non-human primate, or Jim Carrey, as a lead character.

3. Has two cops as lead characters, one a "by the book" kinda guy, and the other a reckless renegade type (the one whose precinct captain is always yelling and cursing at him).

4. Are based on classic novels, but have the author's name as part of the title ( "Bram Stoker's Dracula," "Bob Moats's Give Me Back My Hat").

5. Describe themselves as "psychological thrillers."

But even if you are hip to the warning signs, inevitably you will find yourself at one time or another watching a REALLY BAD VIDEO.

The problem with Really Bad Video is that you can't tell if a video is bad until you're at least a half-hour into it. Even then, you may continue to watch it, hoping it will improve, and suddenly you realize that it isn't just bad-- it's REALLY BAD. By then, of course, it's too late.

You feel betrayed and violated.

You want to smack yourself up-side the head for allowing yourself to be snookered into watching something like "Spawn."

I'm just picking on "Spawn" because it's my most recent Really Bad Video experience. I took this weenie home with me because I thought it was a horror movie. I mean, it sounds like a horror flick-- "Spawn"--and it has eerie, scary-looking pictures on the box. I even thought it might have been an "evil alien" movie-- my favorite genre.

Instead, it was another lame comic-book movie, like "Batman," spruced up with special effects.

I watched it for about 30 minutes, thinking, "Hey, it's bad so far, but just maybe..." Then one of the characters took a big bite out of a slice of pizza crawling with maggots. I almost spewed. Then I realized, "This isn't bad-- it's REALLY BAD."

Maybe I should have gutted it out and seen it through to the end. I don't know. Apparently I missed the part where the funky clown farts green fire out of his backside. At least that's what my teenaged nephew, who thought the flick was the greatest thing since "Crow" (another Really Bad Video), told me.

So I'd just like to say to the mad abortion-clinic bomber, if he happens to see this on the net: "Hey, come on in, dude. We understand. It was BAD VIDEO."

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