In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Terrible Twos!

Has it been two years already?! On the afternoon of Dec 9th, 2007, I began this humble little blog to archive the cover art of the fading format of VHS. It's kind of fitting that the two-year anniversary falls on a Wednesday, because that's when my semi-weekly deluge of old coverboxes make their appearances. This week will be no different, but this time around I want to do something special. Due to the horror section at my old video store being so large, it was wrought with some pretty obscure titles. Obviously, a good deal of these were shite on a stick, but there were also ones that stood out. Whether they were underseen gems like Paperhouse, or tongue-in-cheek gorefests like Psychos In Love, they left an impression that stayed with me to this day. Here's fifteen titles that had some unique quality that makes me look back on them fondly.

No, this isn't a doc on the merits of Preperation H, it's actually an atmospheric 1973 yarn from the UK. Sure, it might be a little cheesy looking, which might be why it was on Elvira's Movie Macabre - where I first saw it - but I find the idea of Death being a tangible thing and a mad scientist trying to capture it fascinating. The visual effects and sound design used to represent The Asphyx were pretty awesome for the time, as well.

This is how I was introduced to the work of Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro, and thus became a life-long fan. In 1993, the vampire flick was stagnating, and Cronos came along and gave it a revitalizing shot in the neck. The majority of video store shoppers weren't as accepting of foreign films then as they are now (although there are still those that balk at subtitles *sigh*), so having a recognizable face like Ron Perlman in it, gave it crossover appeal.

The thing that struck me about this haunted house flick was how HIGH the body count was! Superstition made even the most bloody slashers at that time blush, with a death toll over twenty. I will never forget the scene where a priest gets eviscerated by a runaway circular saw. Ahhh, good times!

Technically the third movie in the House franchise, this slasher had a great showdown between genre vets Lance Henriksen and Brion James, who was fantastic as serial killer 'Meat Cleaver' Max Jenke. The movie coincidentally shares a lot of similarities with Wes Craven's Shocker that also came out in '89. It's fun stuff that a lot of people haven't seen because of the confusion around its release.

The Initiation is easy to dismiss as one of the many two-bit slashers that came out in the mid-eighties, but I think it deserves more credit. It's funny, its mall location is quite unique and the movie spends an unusual amount of time on character development, so I actually felt a little sad when some of the characters got offed. And it had Daphne Zuniga!

I actually saw this listed on another blog's WORST films list, but I do not agree sir! I remember being on the edge of my seat for the last thirty minutes of this film. I recommended this to MANY customers back in the day and don't recall one person coming back and demanding a refund. And it's one of George A. Romero's few non-undead films.

This one came out after I'd left Cockbuster, but a friend who still worked there let me know it had my name written all over it. This odd little German/British/American/Russian co-production has a great setup and prolonged sections of suspense. It does get a little ragged by the end, but is always anchored by a solid performance by Marina Zudina in the title role.

I've mentioned this one before and it was always a go-to film when recommending lesser-known movies to customers. My pitch would always start "Did you like Candyman? Well, how about one of that director's earlier films?" I'll talk more about this gem in a future post, but I had to include it here today.

This one is super cheesy, but I love it. Little Jamie dispatches people he doesn't like by feeding them to the creatures that live in a hole by his house. It's absurd, and yet completely awesome.

This ultra sleazy slasher is hardly a movie at all. It follows duelling serial killers, murdering their way through each scene, until they finally meet up at the end and throwdown with each other. What I'll always remember about this movie though, is that there is not one word of spoken dialogue in the whole thing, just voice-over narration by the two protagonists.

The Video Dead is a treasured favourite of mine. Shot on video (duh!), it looks like it was made for nine-ninety-five, but the amount of creativity on display here really won over me and my brother when we first saw it circa 1991. I love it.

Anyone whose been coming to this site for any period of time knows how much I adore this Canadian giant rat romp. Daschunds dressed as rats! What more do you need?!

This was the film that introduced me to Italian horror and has remained one of my faves since. Sure, Dario Argento's Suspiria & Deep Red get all the attention from horror film afficionados, but Bird will always have a special place in my heart. Anyone know where I can get a replica of the painting from the film?

This one's kind of like Hollywood Strangler, except it's a hell of a lot funnier and they fall in love, instead of trying to kill each other. I can still remember the protagonist's monologue about how much he hates grapes. Totally random, right? This is another instance where something that looks like it was made for NO money comes off as charming.

Razorback is a 1984 Aussie flick about a killer pig in the outback that has won over pretty much anyone who has ever seen it. I first saw this film, when I was beginning to appreciate cinematography, and you can't do much better than what's on display here. Like Hardware, this is another vintage title that deserves the Blu-ray treatment.

So, there you have it. Two years in the books. Thanks to all who've supported me and looked in over that time. I've got a lot of new features on tap for 2010, so hopefully you'll stay tuned. Talk soon.


Bryce Wilson said...

Congrats on reaching your second anniversary!

And thanks for the recommendations, Superstitious is now sitting pretty at the top of my Netflix Que.

Matt said...

Congrats on your anniversary! I've only seen a few of those movies (Cronos, Monkey Shines, Bird With The Crystal Plumage), so you've given me some great recommendations. Keep up the good work!

AllHallowSteve said...

Congrats on the big TWO!

Couple things:

1) I remember a different box cover for "The Horror Show" from when I worked in a video store, so many years ago. Never seen the one you have up.

2) There's a new book coming out in late Decemeber that seems like it was MADE for you. Called "Portable Grindhouse: The Art of the VHS Box Vol. 1."

Check it out here:

Jay Clarke said...

Yeah, I know the Horror Show cover you mean, maybe it was just here in Canada, that happens sometimes.

Ha, funny you mention Portable Grindhouse, I ordered it from Amazon just yesterday! It looks awesome.

Chief Brody said...

Some those covers take me back nostalgically to my now completely sold-off VHS collection. I doscovered Drew Struzan's website recently and that was great ( he designed so many of the great posters (including Star Wars) with that sort of refined cartoon style.

CineNiche said...

I'm looking for a replica of the bird with the crystal plumage painting as well. Do you know the name of it or the artist? I've been searching for about a year and feel there is just no information on it. Have you found anything out?

Jay Clarke said...

@CineNiche - I always assumed the painting was called The Screaming Mimi, as that was the story Bird was based on. Don't know the artist though.