VHS is making a comeback!
If you’re like me, you have an old, grimy VCR in your home that your significant other casts long-suffering glances at as if to say, “My partner is like if the bag lady from Labyrinth was one of the Goonies.” And like me, you’ve probably had the same two dozen VHS tapes since college, when you made friends with your local Goodwill’s bargain bin. But since this decade is shaping up to be a dark reprise of the 1980s, it’s inevitable that specialty old-school video stores would pop up. Here are the eight best nationwide.
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
Cinefile is a Los Angeles institution. Their secret weapon, oddly enough, is their categorization system – it’s divided into evocative sections such as “Swayze Persuasion” and “Animal Disasters,” so you know exactly what you’re getting into. And if you’re still in college, you can rent videos FOR FREE.
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
The owner, Joe, is apparently the nicest guy in the Chicagoland area, and Video Strip’s patrons swear by him as the Virgil to their Dante in the lower reaches of video selection. If you’re into video rental, specifically, Joe can sign you up for a variety of different payment plans, including only renting specific kinds of movies for a flat $4.99 per month. It’s got a fantastic horror selection, too, so make sure to hit it up before your Halloween party.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
Black Lodge Video
WHERE: Memphis, Tennessee
Like the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks, Black Lodge Video is open every single day of the year, including holidays, and is also crammed full of malevolent spirits. (Actually, the owner’s pretty cool and his name is Matt Martin, and as far as I’m aware, he’s not an otherworldly demon who wants to pull a switcheroo with his mirror self in the real world.) Every Sunday night at midnight, they hold their weekly Shitfests, which feature “the best worst movies you’ve never seen.”
Film Is Truth 24 Times A Second
WHERE: Bellingham, Washington
Great name, right? This video store in Bellingham, Washington has a mom-and-pop vibe and a selection of hundreds of VHS tapes in addition to the admittedly more practical Blu-Rays and DVDs. They don’t have things marked with categories because “Categories are artificial boundaries and should be disregarded,” which I’m into because there are so few mysteries left in the world, but the staff stresses that they’d love to help you find whatever you’re looking for.
Book a Hotel
Lost Weekend Video
WHERE: San Francisco, California
Not only does Lost Weekend have an excellent selection of weird tapes, they feature an event called TGIF’d, in which episodes of 90s sitcoms play on mute while Bay Area comedians improvise new dialogue and riff on standards like Full House. And the staff knows their stuff – check out their picks and find obscure movies you’ll be recommending to your friends for years.
Under One Roof
WHERE: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
They have free popcorn. Seriously, go in and ask for free popcorn and they’ll be like “Take this free popcorn.” Under One Roof has an eclectic selection of weird movies, and they have plenty of other nerdy attractions to satisfy your pop culture goblin impulses – when you stop by to rent or buy some obscure Giallo movie, you might as well hit up their weekly Magic: The Gathering tournaments.
Video Free Brooklyn
WHERE: New York City, New York
One of the biggest deterrents for people in going to a Serious Movie Place is the fear that the dude behind the counter is going to snarl at you for asking who in God’s name Bernardo Bertolucci is and revoke your Movie-Liker Card. That’s not gonna happen at Video Free Brooklyn, which is staffed by friendly folks who are also just super into movies. They even have a thing called Absolution Sunday, in which they’ll cut your outstanding late rental fees in half if you rent two movies on Sunday, with no maximum limit!
WHERE: Charlotte, North Carolina
Visart was allegedly founded after the founder was unable to find Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai at any of his local video stores, but was able to find a copy of Ernest Saves Christmas in every single one. VisArt (short for Visual Art) takes an enormous amount of pride in being a staple in the Charlotte film community, and their whole thing is helping customers find exactly the right movies based on their taste in film. Oh, and they do stock a copy of Ernest Saves Christmas, in case you got some unspeakable urge to watch it after reading this listicle.