Found footage cults of the Internet age remind us how much fun we can have with the reuse of old, obsolete media. The consistent mashing up of previously lost, obscure videos and their uploading on sites like YouTube or Vimeo isn’t too far removed from the VHS nostalgia craze we’re familiar with now. The difference between the two is that the former lovingly pokes fun at the vast amount of earnestly wholesome (but gaudy and cheaply produced) direct-to-video content that just didn’t age well with the times, yet nevertheless found its way to people’s living rooms (or basements, or whatever room the VCR occupied). The latter has more of an affinity for the aesthetics of the format: fading quality of synthesizer soundtracks, glitchy film grain and computer graphics. Even the tactile quality of VHS tapes are revered.
The latest case study in found footage delirium is Grimy Ghost! and their recent mashup masterpiece Ghost to the Future: The Grime Machine. Like fellow collective Everything Is Terrible! (to which Grimy Ghost! frequently contributes), the team collect abandoned videotapes from thrift stores or wherever old tapes are sold, pour through the hundreds of hours of content, then edit bits and pieces out of context into short videos, often putting their ’80s-’90s era cheesiness on display. Ghost to the Future, however, is a full length patchwork of videos, deliriously racing through a meticulous sequence of videos. Watching it feels something like having ADHD and furiously flipping through channels for 45minutes straight.
Despite there not being a script or storyline, there is kind of a narrative going on. The Grimy Ghost! crew carefully compiled the footage in themes and topics that bleed from one to the next, from Creation vs. the theory of Evolution, Jesus Christ, sexual health, nuclear war and time travel. Footage consists of Christian after school specials, daytime children’s programs, celebrity workout tapes, Evangelical sermons, old Siskel & Ebert episodes, sexual health tutorials, old WWE episodes, and what seems like an endless array of bizarre Z-grade movies and other uncategorizable programs. Some familiar faces show up, like Hulk Hogan, from the period of his lamentable acting career; Gary Coleman, Cher, Regis Philbin, Alice Cooper, Jennifer Aniston, Dolly Parton, and others, too.
Grimy Ghost! have visited Orange County a couple of times to screen their videos for some live comedy events, and I wish they’d visit some more. In the meantime, this un-Godly Frankenstein of a film is available to stream online, or if you really love it, you can buy it on DVD. No need to rewind!
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers film, arts, and Latino culture, and previously contributed to the OCW’s long-running fashion column, Trendzilla. Raised in Santa Ana, she loves weird movies, raising her plants, antiquing, and smoking weed on a rainy night. This bio might be copied/pasted from her Bumble bio.