Killer Tapes and Shattered Screens: Video Spectatorship from VHS to File Sharing

By Caetlin Benson-Allott | Go to book overview

Conclusion
Power Play

When Friday the 13th’s title card broke video monitors in 1980, it was difficult to predict how the technologies of home video exhibition would change the cinematic subject—although the shattered screen promised that they would. By 1983, Videodrome was suggesting that video penetration affected how the spectator understood not only her body but the body of national media cultures as well. Shortly thereafter, George Romero’s Day of the Dead demonstrated that filmic tropes as canonical and allegorical as the zombie attack were nonetheless platform specific. In 2002, The Ring thematized the perceived psychosexual difference between two prerecorded video formats in order to retire one and represent the other as impervious to piracy. Five years later, Grindhouse exposed how the cinema contributes qua simulacrum to the experience of video spectatorship, and a new subgenre of faux footage horror movies began to exploit the cultural cachet of underground distribution to interpellate and punish online pirates. Killer Tapes and Shattered Screens engages each of these case studies to explore the ways prerecorded video constructs new forms of motion picture spectatorship. To be sure, audiences watched motion pictures in a variety of nontheatrical settings before prerecorded video, but none of these platforms or venues redefined the industry and its object the way video has. Before the mid-1980s, when films appeared on airplanes and domestic 8 mm projectors or were adapted for television syndication, they were still films; that is, they were produced for and mostly exhibited on 35 mm celluloid in dedicated theatrical spaces. Since the mid-1980s, the average US viewer has watched more movies on video than in theaters, and the Hollywood studios have made more money from video than from box-office returns. Movie culture in the United States moved from film to video, and it took the spectator with it.

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