Category_Collecting, Category_Comics, Category_Groovy Stuff, Category_Horror, Category_VHS -

VHS is ALIVE at Suspect Video and Culture! Clickity-click the link, fellow Videovores, and experience the Analog Affirmation!

When it comes to supplying the Canadian masses with their fix of the weird and wonderful via analog escapes, SUSPECT VIDEO AND CULTURE is arguably one of the grooviest places in the Great White North. Opened way back on August, 3 1991 by Luis Ceriz and company, the store has survived and thrived through a wicked store fire and, of course, the ever-changing face of the physical media market. Luis Ceriz talks about SUSPECT’s beginning: “It was a pretty great time to open as the new American Independent scene was about to explode and video stores were super popular.”

Suspect Video and Culture's storefront. Dig that groovy collage in the window, man. And the innocent bystander.

Video stores were indeed burgeoning everywhere, and videos were popping up left and right, flooding store shelves and creating a veritable smorgasbord of visual vittles. In 1991, I was just a young Videovore, drifting away from my Mom’s hand as she inspected the newest comedies and tear-jerkers; I set up camp in the horror section and drilled my eyes into those now-seminal video covers that warped me into a whole new world of amazement. When asked what SUSPECT VIDEO is all about, Louis gave me a bit of a surprise with his answer: “It's funny that I never really liked going into video stores. I always thought they were pretty boring places. Metal racks, a “quiet” drama playing on the TV & speakers… Ugh…” Not exactly the answer you would expect from one of the proprietors of an independent video store, right? However, it seems Louis has used this sentiment as inspiration to make SUSPECT VIDEO much more than your average video store. He wants to create a small yet expansive world where there are a plethora of escapes available to those who choose to step inside. Louis explains, “I was always a big comic book fan (and, in fact, my first job was in Toronto's best comic store) and they didn't just carry comics; they carried all kinds of things. So, when set up shop my opinion was the same: Why should a video store just carry videos? They shouldn't. So from day one we carried books, magazines, toys, posters, etc.; and as I’ve always had a pretty broad range of interests, we wanted a place to reflect that broad taste, getting anything and everything weird or good that we could get our hands on. We'd also send away for catalogues and methodically go through magazines like Film Threat Video Guide and order EVERYTHING they had.

Just a small sampling of the other groovy goodies bumping around in Suspect!

Aside from stocking some of the grooviest things on the planet and feeding the needs of Videovores, Cinephiles, and every other media-crazed aficionado you can conjure up, SUSPECT VIDEO also wrangle up some of the coolest fringe film luminaries around to do in-store appearances and signings including Dario Argento (twice!), Jorg Buttgereit, Peter Jackson, Lloyd Kaufman, Mary Woronov, John Cryer and one of my all-time personal favorite personalities: Karen Black.

Suspect is also looking to up your wardrobe with some video-era classics and some SUPER-GROOVY video label threads! Vestron, Media, Magnum, Cannon, Paragon: you want 'em all! ALL OF THEM!

So, the question burns: just how many tapes are on the menu over at SUSPECT? Luis spills the proverbial beans on the stock and reveals some of his favorite selections: “We still have TONS of VHS… I'd estimate between 10,000 - 15,000 and of all genres-from documentaries to exploitation to music. I'm still pretty partial to the early acquisitions like the first releases of Nekromantik I & II, Bad Taste & a cult classic that my very good friend made: Apocalypse Pooh. And I LOVE the novelty covers for Frankenhooker ("Wanna date?!"), or the glowing eye cover for Dead Pit as well as titles that were incredibly hard to get back in the day like Withnail & I, Santa Sangre, Eraserhead & Trilogy of Terror. signed VHS boxes we've got are pretty cool, too.

A peek at how Suspect catalogs their VHS rentals. They've got so many, it's impossible to keep 'em all on racks! Dig that space-saving intent!

Sounds like SUSPECT has quite a selection of video so over there, huh? 10 to 15 thousand is an absolutely staggering number of tapes, and one can only imagine how many flicks in that immense pool are still VHS only. Luis elaborates: “Stores that got rid of their VHS as soon as DVDs were available were FOOLS. So much stuff is STILL unavailable on DVD. To me it's also about holding onto some aspects of our beginnings, not to mention that some of the boxes were so kick ass!”

What's the best kind of back room? That's right: one FILLED with VHS tapes. Suspect's got it!

It’s undeniable that there’s an avalanche of nostalgia rushing through SUSPECT’s racks and stacks, as well as a whole lot of integrity. But what about the people that shop there? Is there still a viable market for these analog adventures? Ceriz says there is: “Yup! Believe it or not, there are still some folks that only have VCRs! Not a lot of them, but some. And quite a few people have hung onto their VCRs (although we keep hearing that they've got to dig them out of storage) or have those cool VHS/DVD machines (like I do). In fact, part of me is toying with trying to find some of those rentable VHS machines in the big plastic carrying cases to rent out at the store.” Now THAT is a great idea, Luis. Give the people what they want!

MISSING: The best home entertainment machine of all-time. AKA The VCR. Last seen in your basement. RESCUE MISSION GO!

Ceriz’s love for times past and his affection for the VHS format is readily abundant when taking a cruise through the land of SUSPECT VIDEO. His connection with the video era has been instrumental when constructing the guts of the store, and his appreciation for the VHS format (and the often-amazing accompanying box art) is something that he intends on sharing with his patrons so that they have the opportunity to find these beautiful, obscure gems much the same way he did. He explains his love: “It's the format that I actively explored and searched for. I still look at the artwork and applaud, especially the smaller labels for the inventiveness of the artwork and the equal amounts of love and hucksterism that went into them.” Indeed, the optical adventure that is the multitudes of spectacular box artwork lined in endless rows paired with the chance to see films which are only able to be viewed via the VHS format is something that every film fan should have access to. It's places like SUSPECT VIDEO that are keeping that distinct dream alive. I’ll let Luis close it out with his words of ardent analog appreciation: “Support any and all of your local video stores! I know that so many have closed down in the last while but the ones that are still around need support. Remember: for film fans these places are more than just retail environments they're meccas and clubhouses for something we all love and once they're gone… they're gone.”

Be sure to groove on over to for more info on all of their bitchin' wares and events. And, for those of you in Suspect's area, be on the lookout for a in-store Lunchmeat VHS Viewing Booth where you can plunk on down and experience the all the wonders of analog glory! Coming in the not-so-distant future! Dig it! Groove on, and keep your VCR analog-fed! It'll never be satiated!

Josh Schafer

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published