One thing Vinegar Syndrome is really great at is separating genre fans from their hard-earned money. Case in point: their new imprint VSA, or Vinegar Syndrome Archive, that will only be available from the Vinegar Syndrome website proper or select brick and mortar retailers. The series looks to highlight direct to video releases with packaging aimed at the extremely finicky yet very lucrative slipcover enthusiast (fetishist) market. All the limited edition releases come housed in a very sturdy slip case that only has an opening at the bottom to further evoke that old school VHS feel. If that wasn’t cool enough, the films are also bundled with a poster and a reversible cover and are hand numbered. It’s these small flourishes that really make the presentation and these titles feel like something a bit different than their usual releases.
The first release is Evil Town (1985), which had a production marred with almost a decade of re-writes and re-edits, making it worth a watch for the fascinating backstory alone. The film had four directors, Edward Collins, Mardi Rustam, Larry Spiegel, and Peter S. Traynor, and began its life as the unfinished Dean Jagger film God Bless Dr. Shagetz (1974). The film was then re-written and re-edited and eventually cobbled together with footage of several other uncompleted films to make the film that was released on Blu-ray. Surprisingly coherent, the film, which is reminiscent of Get Out, is the story of a group of young people who come into a town populated by the elderly who are kidnapping any out-of-towners unfortunate enough to stop in their town. Their victims are then harvested to create a concoction that will elongate the lives of the town’s geriatric inhabitants. If this sounds just like Evils of the Night (1985), director Mardi Rustam liked the story so much he made his own version that beat Evil Town’s theatrical release by two years.
The film doesn’t feel nearly as disjointed as you would expect, which is a huge credit to any one of the three editors that worked on it. However, it does suffer from the obvious shoehorning in of some old-fashioned T&A and gore to up the sleaze factor. The T&A component comes in the form two perverts who work at the gas station that have nothing to do with the overall plot except being the guys who only find young scantily clad nubile young women, in particular Playboy Playmate Lynda Wiesmeier. But that aside, the film is actually a decently engaging watch as we find out the elderly have literally been sucking the life out of all the young people they come across; its point is still poignant and relevant.
Evil Town is presented restored in a crisp new 2K transfer scanned from the 35mm camera internegative. Watching this really made me appreciate the work that goes into this type of restoration; some smaller boutique labels fail to even color correct their films and remove the damage that may be distracting to the viewer. But Vinegar Syndrome is not simply releasing these films for consumption by collectors; they are restoring and preserving them for future generations. The film is presented with a featurette comparing this film with Evils of the Night and an audio commentary with one of the directors, Larry Spiegel. Overall this is an impressive package for a film that surprisingly is as fascinating as its much-maligned production. It’s also a great way to start off the new imprint with a title that really encapsulates the spirit of these unsung direct-to-video oddities, and makes you wonder what VS will unearth next.