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WEIRDO FLICKS: 'Night Vision'

by Eli Kroes

You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe...

'Night Vision' - 1987, Directed by Michael Krueger

Sometimes you run across a low-budget cult film that DOESN'T have bad acting, bad writing, bad editing, etc. A film where you actually have to look past the low-budget quality because everything else is so well-done. 'Night Vision' is...kind of one of those movies.

To be certain, it does have definite flaws, but they don't really detract from the overall experience. And, I'm still not exactly sure WHAT that experience is, but I would say it's like a cross between Scorsese's 'After Hours' and Cronenberg's 'Videodrome' done on an extremely small budget. It's obviously not as good as either, but c'mon, it's a student film, so what can you expect?

So, let's start with the packaging, because otherwise it might put you off this one. It is marketed as a b-horror film, and even includes several references to schlock horror throughout, but it's really not a horror film at all. It's more of a psychological drama, if anything. Strangely, even the film editor (whose review is on the IMDB page) seems to categorize it as a horror film, but once again, it's really not.

The story concerns a young small-town writer who has recently moved from Kansas to the big city to 'get material' for stories....cue an endless barrage of 'not in Kansas anymore' jokes. He moves into a roach motel after he can't find anything better, and tries to get a job at a video store. Somewhere in the process, he saves a greasy street hustler (named Vinny, of course) from being beaten to a pulp by some weirdo cult guys. Vinny, in turn, tries to give him a 'job' as a robbery driver, and gives him a possessed VCR.

The VCR, it turns out, was stolen from the cult guys, which is why they were beating on Vinny. It also produces a hallucinatory effect that magically makes the writer kid really good at horror stories. Or, are they more than just stories?!

Basically, it's a slow-moving but well-done piece of low-budget cinema that goes nowhere, explains nothing, and leaves you more confused than anything. Which, to me, isn't necessarily a bad thing. The cult guys and the seediness of 'the city' (never given a name, but it's Denver) makes for some uneasiness which doesn't materialize into anything else. The characters are well-developed, so it's more about mood than anything. I liked it, maybe you will, too.

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VHS photo by Toby Hudson.