Back in the VHS days, "direct to video" actually meant something. It meant something BAD, more often than not. The video marketplace allowed a lot of people to make and sell their own flicks, but uh, they were generally pretty terrible. So when someone says "Ugh, I don't wanna rent that. It went direct to video," they're probably dredging up memories of backyard horror flicks or Oliver Gruner action films. But in today's ultra-modern, mega-bandwidth, multi-distributive movie landscape, "direct to video" can mean a whole lot of things.

Take the recent French horror film Inside, which played at festivals all over the world, opened theatrically in several countries, and got a basic (but well-received) DVD release from The Weinstein Company here in the States. So as far as the U.S. is concerned, this is considered a "direct to video" title. Yet it's an awesome film. How can that be? Heard of a little flick called Special, starring Michael Rapaport? Probably not, but if it's a good flick, why does "DTV" even matter anymore?

When you think of DTV, you probably think of low-rent and generally atrocious sequels like American Pie 5: Down to the Crust, Bring It On 6, The Bringening, or Prom Night 2: Sudden Cat Noises. And that's because the video market is a great place to bring in a few bucks from the teenage weekend rentals -- but since when are rotten sequels the exclusive domain of the video stores? (I recall six different Police Academy releases before the seventh one was finally remanded to the video market.) A great example would be the pretty wretched Hills Have Eyes 2 (theatrical release) versus the unexpectedly entertaining Wrong Turn 2 (DVD premiere). I say we should be grateful to the video shelves for cataloging all the flicks we'd probably NEVER go see at the multiplexes -- even if they're movies that even I'd never bother to rent. (I'm lookin' at you, Lost Boys 2.)

And then there are the smaller films from Magnolia, IFC, and dozens of other distributors. (Not to mention the fine horror films that Lionsgate seems intent on burying.) These folks are working just to get their movies seen, and not necessarily from inside a jam-packed auditorium, either. Given the stunning amount of distribution streams that we have available -- from theatrical and cable to iPhone Streaming On Demand Insta-Flick Hulu dot com MOVIENOW services, there's more than enough room to accomodate all the movies out there. If only we could get past the "Meh, I don't recognize it from the local multiplexes, so it must be crap" mindset, we'd realize that a movie (Iron Man) is a movie (Splinter) is a movie (Dear Zachary) -- but only the movies with actual money behind them can get into "the theaters" these days. The leg-work is up to us.