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Kristian A. Soderstrom’s Swedish Giallo-influenced drama shows it’s not just Hollywood that has a love affair with the 1980s. However, rather than being a loving homage to that synth inflected era it’s more of a cautionary tale about the dangers of nostalgia and obsession.
Ennio (Stefan Sauk) used to the have the best VHS store in Sweden but now his extensive video collection is relegated to his basement home where he spends most of his time drinking and having tortured nightmares about an ex. When he meets Simone (Lena Nilsson), a fellow alcoholic and lover of the ’80s, he might have a chance at redemption. Unfortunately, he has put himself in the cross-hairs of a mysterious woman called Faceless (Carolin Stoltz) who wants to buy a rare VHS tape of Zombie from him, a tape that he has just lost.
On the surface Videoman would appear to be thriller in the Giallo mould especially as Ennio starts to believe his life might be in danger all because of a videotape. His love for the genre is apparent in almost every interaction he has with the other characters (mostly other VHS collectors) and how he perceives he is being pursued by a masked individual.
However, the film is really a tale of two deeply damaged individuals finding each other through the fog of alcohol and nostalgia for better days gone by. Ennio and Simone are both spiky characters and not particularly fun to be around. Ennio is often irritated by those around him, especially if they fall asleep during a movie marathon or think Argento is better than Fulci. He is the kind of guy who sits in the corner drinking and offends the host during a house party. Simone also has her issues; her drinking has made her an object of ridicule at work and an embarrassment to her daughter. She also spends most evenings desperately trying to get likes on Instagram and Facebook.
Ennio and Simone’s tentative relationship is the backbone of the film and it works best when the two are on screen together. The film also succeeds when playing as a homage to the Giallo films that Ennio loves, from the moody lighting and the tropes associated with the genre, such as a pool of blood and a cutthroat razor.
Fans of the genre will get more out of Videoman than those that don’t know all its conventions well, but the fractious love story between two damaged but compelling characters provides enough to engage the interest.