Shot-on-Video movies are an interesting bunch. It’s an interesting subgenre and counterculture that arose out of the media boom of the 1980s, and persisted well into the early parts of the 21st century. In fact, one could argue that the rise of several underground studios and filmmakers (a few immediately come to mind, personally) owe their existence to the ever growing need for content as well as affordability of equipment and technology to the early pioneers of sub-sub-sub-sub-indie filmmakers working with a super small, micro budget from the wild, early days of the Shot-on-Video, or the oft-used “Shot-on-Shitteo”, frontier.
Enter B-Movie Queen Tina Krause. Since the mid 90s, Krause had been pumping out movie after movie, amassing a stunning 118 credits – nearly all of them featuring titles that seem right at home on shelves in video stores in the 80s. Sure, most of them have some sort of silly monster-ish or slasher-y title, with even more having some sort of pun title that might be more at home in the back room of those video stores of old (I’m looking at you The Fappening) – but I think you get my point. Krause is a graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts and was working as a graphic designer before being discovered as an actress. The rest, basically, is history.
In 1999, she wrote and directed a short feature that didn’t really get too much of an official release. Now, at this year’s Fantastic Fest, thanks to Bleeding Skull! and the American Genre Film Archive, Krause’s hardly seen LIMBO is finally getting out to the masses after twenty, long years of almost the same twisting and winding road the movie’s narrative takes. Krause plays a waitress who encounters a strange woman the bar she works at. This woman is speaking to a man in her booth who only she can see and is cold to the touch. What follows for the mysterious woman is a series of nightmarish occurrences in what can only be called a hellish landscape full of gore, murder, and depravity.
It’s use of experimental editing and visuals makes this a standout when it comes to 90s Shot-on-Video. LIMBO’s journey to the public has been a very fascinating one. It is likely as fascinating as the tone and narrative itself, and probably even better if we take everything into consideration and look at it with 2019 sensibilities. Krause originally submitted this movie 20 years ago to a convention where it was flat rejected. She changed her name to Stephen Krause and resubmitted it. It was quickly accepted. When the film screened, “Stephen” was called to the stage to start a Q&A with those in attendance. She came out and went into a gigantic expletive-riddled tirade about the unfair treatment of a woman who had been part of dozens of productions who could not only act, but write and direct as well. She basically told the audience if they didn’t understand that, they could all go to hell. Her mic drop moment only added to the mystique of LIMBO over the years, and certainly made her somewhat of a feminist hero in underground indie film.
In truth, that legend is really the best thing about LIMBO.
For what it’s worth, LIMBO does conjure some nice memories of the late 90s. It is also a 55-minute reminder of what one could do with a camera, (maybe) some sound equipment, at least a little bit of an idea, and a way to edit VHS tapes. That said, some may find it charming, but, ultimately, it is a product of its time, and, sadly, probably little more to many. VHS is not an easy format to view in this day and age of higher definition and flat screen monitors or TVs. There’s no doubt Krause had something to work with in the story. It is clear she had a vision for a very trippy and scary, nearly non-linear, dreamy tale. It’s not without a touch of art at times too, particularly in some of the edits. It’s just not an easy movie to watch because of its original format. Yet, to truly understand the interesting elements of the movie itself, you have to see the movie. It’s unfortunate that there’s likely nothing that can be done about the formatting and visibility to make a more widespread release of this movie either conceivable or appreciable.
B-Movie aficionados, Tina Krause fans, and Shot-on-Video completists will be drawn to this movie. Hell, it’s why I’m watching this 20 year old movie, but each viewer’s mileage will most likely vary. Those unable to get past the format and resolution of the movie will be mostly disappointed. There’s enough curiosity here to at least make these 55 minutes worthwhile, though. Without a doubt, the legend of the movie and Krause raging at convention goers who did get to see the movie all those years ago will most definitely attract attention…
As Krause really deserves.