Found Footage Festival

Watch video of Arnold Schwarzenegger's first trip to Rio and discover the magic of VHS at the Black Box

'Shake hands with danger!' booms a drawling Texas voice as the screen in the Black Box, Belfast crackles to life. What follows is a short film warning of the perils of improper care and attention when working with machinery.

With ludicrously gory effects that could have come from the laboratory of Tom Savini himself (not to mention an absurdly inappropriate good ol’ boy country soundtrack), one would be forgiven for thinking that this slice of grainy VHS nonsense is a joke. The truth is that this (like all video clips at the Found Footage Festival) is the genuine article dug out of a bargain basement bin by curators, Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett.

Before the audience has time to gather their senses, the opening shot of the next clip begins. We are now faced with an impossibly graphic guide to roadside childbirth. The resulting squeals and belly-laughs from the audience are a mixture of delight and terror – not a bad reaction after just 30 seconds of the show.

Rounding off this hilariously mind-boggling introduction is a cringeworthy guide to sexual health to teenagers, featuring a mother walking in on her son at a particularly, er, personal time. 'Shake hands with danger!' booms that Texas cowpoke once again – editing at its least subtle but most chucklesome.

As Pickett and Prueher take to the stage, the American film buffs warn the audience (as if they hadn’t already guessed) that tonight’s show is going to be the most close to the bone instalment of the Found Footage Festival yet.

Luckily, after a jam-packed sell-out performance last year, most of this evening’s audience know just what they are getting themselves in for, even if there aren't that many of us. For the uninitiated, the affable presenters give a brief explanation as to what the Found Footage Festival is – in short, a celebration of the once great VHS format.

Having spent the guts of a decade trawling through car boot sales and thrift stores for the weirdest video recordings they could find, our curators have amassed literally thousands of tapes, the most unusual and unintentionally hilarious of which we are privy to this evening.

Prime examples include wacky workout videos, a painful guide to owning a ferret and a montage of possibly drug-addled home shopping presenters shifting their wares by the power of spectacularly nonsensical vocabulary. Who knew that a dress could make you look ‘desirish’, or that sunglasses could be ‘automatically outstanding’?

Elsewhere we have a slideshow of the most heinous video covers known to man and (my personal favourite) a mystifying and horribly made guide to various types of stomach-churning injuries in a misguided attempt to ‘put the fun into wounds’.

This footage proves too much for some audience members of delicate constitutions, but for my money you just haven’t lived until you’ve seen a badly green-screened chat-show-host-cum-doctor stepping out of a gangrenous foot.

New material allays any concerns that this year’s Found Footage Festival would be all too similar to the previous Black Box show. Prueher and Pickett try hard to keep the show fresh and surprising, with a pre-recorded appearance from special guest Bob Odenkirk from Breaking Bad.

This is followed by a photo-documentary about their adventures into the weird world of Japanese bathroom innovations, and even a special screening of Irish keep-fit video Jig, Don’t Jog to celebrate the duo’s return to the Emerald Isle.

Although the crowd tonight may be disappointingly small, there is barely a dry eye or an un-spilt side in the house by the time the show rounds off, and rightly so.

Prueher and Pickett not only manage to delve into an endlessly weird (and funny) world of the video tape, but do so with enough charm and affection that it never once feels cruel or mean. This truly is a celebration of a dead format. How could I sum up the evening? Automatically outstanding.

 

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