When one thinks of Shot on Video (SOV) horror, a definitive time period tends to pop into mind. That period from the 80s to the late 90s when SOV films took hold of the horror genre and video rental stores alike. Cheap to produce and filmed over a matter of weeks, this growing genre soon overtook most cinematic horrors in rental as they lacked the censorship their huge budget counterparts had to undergo, often being sold directly to the stores.
The plethora of these films flooding the home rental business exposed an entire generation of to-be filmmakers to this low grade art form, whetting their appetites for film making at an early age and providing the obtainable means to start to experiment in this style of low grade cinema. Although phased out by improving technology, the demand for SOV is still prevalent to this day. Companies such as Retro Video Pictures and their library of exclusive SOV films, such as Undercover Bike Cop (2019) and Forgotten Trash (2019), are prime examples of the genre being alive and well to this day.
Forgotten Trash is a 2019 Canadian Sci-fi horror film, written and directed by Brandon Espana. Known for his lo-fi explorations into cinema, Brandon takes on most roles when it comes to production, handling almost all the technical aspects of shooting such as editing and cinematography.
The story follows Daniel (played by Connor McDonald), a disillusioned film graduate struggling to find purpose in life. He runs into a strange man in the woods (played by Steve Kasan), who offers Daniel a job helping to film his show. Little does Daniel know, this stranger is an alien being whose show consists of him travelling from planet to planet, torturing and killing its inhabitants as a form of entertainment for his species. It’s up to Daniel to make the ultimate ethical choice of fame or morality.
As crazy as the story sounds, the pace rarely seems to match this. Such an alluring concept as an ‘alien snuff film company’ screams over-the-top splatter horror, though the film rarely elevates to this gruesome notion. On the contrary, a hard focus on the degradation of pop culture, as well as the difficulties of the competitive film market, take up a large portion of the film’s short run time. Consequently, Forgotten Trash would surely benefit from the inclusion of additional scenes of excessive violence predominantly associated with SOV horror.
However, the film does encapsulate the visuals of SOV horror perfectly, the gritty aesthetics of filming on magnetic tape blended with low quality audio hits that nostalgia spot in the best way. The visuals feature an oversaturated hue and bleeding out of light sources typical of home movie cameras of the past, a spitting image of an SOV film straight out of the 80s (even retaining the 4:3 aspect ratio).
Contrary to SOV from this period, the films lead actors give a quality performance in their respective roles. The unnatural stiffness delivered by Kasan, though awkward at first, skilfully reflects an alien impersonation of an unknown species’ mannerisms. Whilst McDonald’s portrayal of a creator willing to make it no matter the cost will resonate with many in this tough industry, often giving up personal creative dreams to put food on the table. Though not Oscar worthy, their performances are more than adequate for the style of film making. Additionally, the cinematography featured in Forgotten Trash has a wide range of styles. Ranging from standard shot framing to artistic camerawork, such as the use of the Dutch angle, exalting the film above most in the genre.
As a fan of SOV horror, I thoroughly enjoyed Forgotten Trash, which manages to intrinsically capture the essence of what made these style of films enjoyable to begin with: freedom of creativity. Although its flaws are apparent, director Brandon Espana’s artistry shines through to create an entertaining experience throughout. However, the general lo-fi quality might not resonate with modern horror fans, as such, Forgotten Trash may only be enticing to fans of the SOV genre. Despite this, the film is an excellent modern take on the Shot on Video horror of yesteryear and a worthy edition to the genre.
This review copy was provided by Retro Video Pictures
Hey there, I’m Jim and I’m located in London, UK. I am a Writer and Technical Director here at Grimoire of Horror. A life long love of horror and writing has led me down this rabbit hole, allowing me to meet many amazing people and experience some truly original artwork. I specialise in world cinema, manga/graphic novels and video games but will sometime traverse into the unknown in search of adventure.