Way back at the start of 2011, I reviewed Chris Doherty’s Video Nasties, or at least the first 6 issues of this 7 issue series. Yes, it’s a dumb way to do it, yes, I did leave myself rather hanging.
Back in that review I found it a little flawed, a great teen drama that veered slightly off-course into darker territories in the second movement, but there was still more than enough there to make me want to know just how the hell Doherty resolved it all. It’s taken a while, but here we go…. just don’t expect any more spoilers – Doherty’s tale really does rather hinge on the switch he pulls in issue 4, a detail I still refuse to divulge, so anything after that is pretty much off limits unless completely couched in vagaries.
Likewise with the pictures I’m including here, I had to pick stuff that merely got over the tone, rather than any specifics. Read it your damn selves.
In fact, with this summary review, I’m going to simply point you at that original review for details of the storyline, go read that first, then come back.
Done? Okay, for those too lazy, here are the salient plot bits from that review….
“The main character, Evan, is a rather stereotyped slightly fat and nerdy kid – a little too short, a bit podgy, few friends, lacking in social graces and spending far too much time watching horror movies. In this he’s aided by his friendship with his 20 something friend Victor, who works at/owns the local video store. In the first few issues we’re introduced to Evan’s social circle, meet his friends and watch him get cajoled into helping out with the video for a big retrospective assembly about three local kids who disappeared 10 years ago.
Getting to work with the object of his teen desires – the glamorous and attractive (but only on the outside) Emily – has a lot to do with him saying yes. Little does he know where this is all going to end.
But halfway through this hugely enjoyable school detective story we’re propelled into something far, far darker and disturbing – something tied into the disappearances, to the video store and to the video nasties of the title, in particular one very local Video Nasty – the Mr Snuffs series.”
I felt that the big flaw with Video Nasties was all to do with the switch from perfect teen drama to something else, something darker and not as perfect, at least not on that first reading. Yet even as I wrote the review I pointed out that that switch’s disappointment is lessened with repeated reading:
“….. each time, possibly knowing the shift is going to happen, it’s mattered less and less to me. I’ve come to enjoy the series as it is. What I wanted initially – a continuation of the schoolground drama – is subsumed by my increasing enjoyment and appreciation of what Doherty is doing.”
That sentiment was with me all the way through this read of the collection. Even moreso.
In fact, so much so that there’s part of me that regrets publishing that first review.
Because Video Nasties, in collected form, is practically the most perfect bit of horror I’ve read in many, many years.
A perfect teen drama in the early episodes, it slowly, carefully, cleverly, introduces the darker moments, until we’re so mired in the horror that it’s all around us, we’re enveloped.
I’ve moaned about horror comics many times that didn’t have the chill factor. Well, Video Nasties has it. Has it in spades. Reading it this time, perhaps aware of the shift in tone that was going to happen, and that negated any vague disappointment I had before, I was here for the horror, the teen stuff merely a brilliant precursor to it all.
The way the story accelerated through the final thid is almost breathtaking. Doherty really manages to pull it all together, sure we may know the protagonists by issue 4, we may know the story, but it’s all about the way he makes us see it all through the eyes of the people involved that gets the heart racing.
Except…. and I’ll tread very, very carefully here, because I’m going to talk about the last couple of pages of a book I think you should read, just to get to those last few pages.
Except…. in that final moment, the final few pages, Doherty reaches too far, stretches credulity a little too much. What was tight, restricted, secretive, limited to the few, just worked, with just a little need for suspending the disbelief. At the end, it gets a little too open to all, and it just seems a little too unbelievable. And that spoils it, makes me question the reasoning and machinations a little too much.
No, it doesn’t spoil it enough to make me say it’s anything less than very, very good. But handle that ending a little better and this would have been magnificent.
Because for 95% of the book, maybe even 98%, it’s pitch perfect teen horror. I’d long ago given up on the regret that Doherty wasn’t giving me some Grange Hill style teen drama, and repeated reading made me come to really appreciate the intensely thrilling, intensely chilling, intensely horrifying read that is Video Nasties.
Yeah, me too.
Add in Doherty’s artwork; elements of Paul Grist, raw at times, but oh, so good at others, and Video Nasties has turned into something of a great little book. Well, right up until the end at least. But screw it, that I forgive, just for the fact that Doherty managed to genuinely put a shiver down my spine. That’s good stuff.
The Collected Video Nasties is available through Lulu for just £10 plus p&p. There’s also a version available from Chris direct, and a digital pack of issues 1-4 – all at Doherty’s webstore.
Issues 1-6 are still online and free to read. But hey, do the author a favour, part with the cash.