UK Release Date: 18th February 2019
Runtime: 94 minutes
Director: Kristian A Söderström
Writer: Kristian A Söderström
Starring: Stefan Sauk, Lena Nilsson, Morgan Alling, Carolin Stoltz, Victor von Schirach
Synopsis: An obsessive VHS dealer agrees to sell one of his rarest new tapes to a shadowy dealer for a massive price, only for the video to go missing.
In the 21st century, VHS collectors are an endangered species. As one character puts it in the new ‘FrightFest Presents’ production Videoman, being an expert in these tapes is “like knowing the phone book by heart”. It’s into the deeply unusual world of collecting that this movie, from Swedish writer-director Kristian A Söderström, transports the audience, while paying homage to the giallo works that are the subject of the protagonist’s enormous and valuable collection.
That protagonist is Ennio (Stefan Sauk) – “like Morricone”, he often says – who lives in a basement full of tapes, renting them out to other collectors. He flies into a rage when one tape is returned with water damage, and tells another he won’t give him a new film until he gets his player, which chewed up a previous tape, professionally cleaned. Soon after he is able to acquire a rare film called Zombie, he gets a call from mysterious collector Faceless (Carolin Stoltz) with an offer of big money that could instantly solve his mounting debt problems. When the tape goes missing, his mental state begins to fracture.
There are intriguing elements at play in Videoman, which benefits from a solid central performance by Sauk as a perfectionist, devoted to his niche interest. He begins a relationship with the Instagram-obsessed alcoholic Simone (Lena Nilsson) and they clash over his hatred towards social media (“the digital plague”), while also bonding over their status as outsiders – “normal people don’t have time to be passionate”, says Nilsson. Their union is intriguing and speaks to a world in which people are too scared to shoot for their interests and fail.
The problems come with the thriller elements of the narrative. Recurring nightmare sequences don’t really seem to amount to anything, and the dread the film seeks to create around the Faceless never pays off with anything significant. Söderström gets bogged down in paying tribute to the giallo world, with a lengthy argument comparing Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci that is enjoyable, but distracts from any tension. The lurid blues and pinks of Ennio’s basement are potentially evocative, but never add anything beyond empty homage to the colour palette of its genre influences.
Ultimately, Videoman is a rather unimaginative and sparse thriller that never manages to find the killer punch it needs. It could’ve done with a black-gloved psychopath picking off collectors one by one, or a genuine mystery around the missing videotape, to inject some energy into proceedings. In its place are only semi-intriguing characters and a plot that fizzles to nothing.
Pop or Poop?
Despite its ample potential as an affectionate genre homage, Videoman fails to deliver the thrills and spills of blood that have defined the giallo movie throughout its existence. The performances are decent and there are some nods towards interesting themes, but excitement is in short supply in the midst of this tangled nightmare.
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Videoman is available on VOD and DVD in the UK now, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.