It was in 1980 that Ennio Midena moved from Italy to Sweden; within a year he was running the best video store in his new home city, but almost four decades later the world has become a colder and lonelier place. Streaming having killed the video star, the physical industry has been replaced almost entirely by digital, movie rental now online in the same way as modern dating, Ennio struggling to cope with the change in either.

His binge drinking and resultant hangovers having cost him his job as a bus driver and now unable to pay the bills with eviction looming, fate brings Ennio a chance to realise his dream of opening a connoisseur retro video shop when he obtains an original VHS rental copy of the hard-to-find Zombie in good condition and is offered 10,000 Euros for it by the mysterious online collector known as Faceless.

The feature debut of writer/director Kristian A Söderström, Videoman (Videomannen) is a curious choice for the FrightFest presents label, particularly so early in its range, though perhaps it is a conscious decision to establish the breadth of material they hope to encompass unlike arrogant purist Ennio’s unswerving devotion to grainy giallo only to be watched on degraded vintage videotape.

Söderström’s earlier shorts including the Alicia Vikander starring Darkness of Truth, he remains true to his roots, offering an examination of damaged, self-centred people numbing themselves in a perpetual haze of alcohol, Ennio never far from his thematically appropriate bottle of J&B while Simone Karlsson (Lena Nilsson) barely clings to her office administrator job, every day a haze of disappointment.

A bleak comedy of repressed manners shot in the style of a particularly grim, urban giallo, the warmth and glamour of the Mediterranean nightlife is supplanted by heavy jackets and concrete high-rise parking garages, the neon-lit Ennio pursued by masked figures as he is forced to renege on his deal with Faceless, the priceless tape having been removed from his library.

Modelled after a genre which is often abstract to the point of surreal and more concerned with style than narrative substance, Videoman is an arthouse film constructed to appeal to horror fans but which may not satisfy those expecting a more conventional or bloody thriller than these broken people leading disconnected lives and wallowing in a nostalgia whose false comfort will never give them the spur to break their toxic habits.

Videoman is available on DVD and Digital HD from 18th February as part of Signature’s FrightFest Presents range



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