Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector (2013)


Dan M. Kinem and Levi Peretic really manage to pay amazing respect to VHS collectors with “Adjust Your Tracking,” an entertaining and raucous documentary that chronicles the joys and pitfalls of VHS collecting. Kinem and Peretic are the founders of one of my favorite websites “VHShitfest” and put their rabid love for the VHS format to use by profiling some of the most hardcore VHS collectors in America. The interviews and glimpses in to the collecting of the arguably defunct format never lull, and directors Kinem and Peretic manage to really give audiences a look at why this is such an appealing past time.

Speaking as a mild VHS collector, and genuine fan of the now defunct format, “Adjust Your Tracking” doesn’t just speak to nostalgia fans, but movie buffs in general. VHS collecting is not solely about nostalgia, or rebellion, but about genuine movie lovers very interested in preserving films that haven’t been transferred to modern formats. They’re the treasure hunters and art preservationists that almost never get any respect from their contemporaries. While it’d be easy for the film to view these young collectors as utterly insane, Kinem and Peretic’s own love for the format shines through with sheer enthusiasm. The directors paint these movie lovers as keepers of amazing oddities that most people can’t find.

There are some really great interviews, including sit downs with Grindhouse guru 42nd Street Pete, and Lloyd Kaufman (who sadly denounces the format). There’s also some great stand out interviews including one with a collector who almost broke in to an deserted video store after spotting abandoned boxes of packed VHS tapes, and a home owner whose literally built a video store in his basement with the counter and movie guide included. One of the many flourishes of “Adjust Your Tracking” that won me over were the added VHS flaws that are peppered throughout the interviews. From the VHS screen, the FBI Warning, right down to tracking lines at the top of the screen whenever mentioned by a fan, Kinem and Peretic really turn this in to a novel experience, and completely sidestep any element of monotony.

As with most collectors there are also the pitfalls, and Kinem and Peretic wisely spotlight those anecdotes which involve looking for VHS tapes in seedy stores and bad neighborhoods, getting hurt from an avalanche of tapes, and one collector’s near violent confrontation with an aggressively anal video store teller. One of my favorite segments include a fond look at classic and misleading video box art, and the tale of “Tales From the Quadead Zone,” the infamous and very rare anthology horror VHS that’s become worth almost two thousand dollars by most collectors. “Adjust Your Tracking” is an honest and brutally entertaining look at the VHS revival and how it’s helped fuel the film community. It’s obviously a work of love, and is highly suggested for any self respecting cineaste.

Among the excellent features packed with “Adjust your Tracking” is the very bittersweet short documentary “It Wasn’t in Vain, it Was in Staten Island,” centering on a very old video store going out of business, and its owner who remembers his days during the VHS boom, and how his loyal customers have honored him for helping their love for film. “Video Shelf” is another very bittersweet short documentary about a mom and pop video store that’s seen less and less business over the decades and now faces an inevitable closing.

The final scenes really hit home. The short “Everything is Terrible” is a funny short about two festival runners’ attempts to give away a gag prize of a hundred VHS copies of “Jerry Maguire” and how the winner refused the prize. “The Ballad of Chester Novell Turner” is a short documentary about a movie fan who sought out the director of “Tales from the Quadead Zone” for a copy of his film, and ended up showing him how both of his horror films have taken on new lives as cult favorites. There are also a slew of extended interviews where the directors look through many of the collectors prize VHS tapes. Finally the original theatrical trailer and the teaser trailer are included.

You can purchase “Adjust Your Tracking” here, or on a Special Edition VHS/DVD Bundle here. You can also pay to legally download it with or without features here.