Copycat/Stand By For Tape Back Up – EIFF 2015

A recurring theme at EIFF 2015 was nostalgia for the VHS era. No less than four films dealt with this period. Charlie Lyne’s short Copycat deals with a lost horror film which may have influenced Wes Craven’s hit Scream (96). Ross Sutherland’s inventive Stand By For Tape Back-Up uses an old video-tape as a memento-mori. Ilinca Calugareanu’s Chuck Norris vs Communism revisits the underground video screenings under Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime. Cem Kaya’s Remake, Remix, Rip-Off highlighted the Turkish film industry’s habit of reworking American blockbusters into home-grown box-office hits.

COPYCAT (Charlie Lynes) 

8 minute short focusing on horror fan Rolfe Kanefsky’s self-financed 1991 feature There’s Nothing Out There which plays with genre conventions five years before Wes Craven’s Scream. The film did well on the festival circuit but a poorly timed release on Superbowl weekend plus the LA riots meant audiences had other things on their mind. Kanefsky gave his script to a relative of Craven’s before making his film and Copycat makes a case for plagiarism particularly in relation to Randy, the film geek who explains the rules of the horror film to the other characters in Scream. Lyne tells the story using an interview with the filmmaker and his own voiceover, but instead of showing his subject he uses clips from the movies Kanefsky loved as a horror fan. How persuasive it’s argument is I can’t say having never seen There’s Nothing Out There and Kanefsky seems to be happy enough to move on.

STAND BY FOR TAPE BACK UP (Ross Sutherland) 

Lyne also produced this funny and moving gem. Ross Sutherland takes the only VHS tape his late grandfather owned and uses it to perform an act of communion. Clips from shows and movies recorded and partly recorded over inspire personal recollections about his relationship with his grandfather and his own struggles in life. The opening credits of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air become a metaphor for entering Heaven, a terrible 90s’ bank advert is rewound and replayed as Sutherland recounts his own wasted years working in a bank which reaches a crescendo of hilarious embittered fury. Any image has the power to move the viewer if there’s emotional attachment and for those in the 30+ age group who can remember seeing these shows back in the day the feeling of nostalgia will be particularly bittersweet. Originally a stage show at the Fringe copyright reasons mean Stand By For Tape Back Up is unlikely to be seen outside the film festival circuit. Sutherland did however indicate he may post it online in some form.

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