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, October 31, 2012

It Came From The Archives 17!

Happy Halloween everyone!  I have something for you today I’ve been meaning to post for a while now.

Around this time 22 years ago, a special program premiered on television called The Horror Hall of Fame.  Modelled after the Academy Awards, it was specifically designed to celebrate excellence within the horror genre.  It ran annually from 1990-1992 and was hosted by horror icon Robert Englund.


From several sources, including a few fellow YouTubers and my own old crusty SLP recording, I have extrapolated about eighty-five per cent of the original broadcast.  So, kick back and enjoy.

Here below, is the show’s opening courtesy of DIOTD2008.

video

The first film inducted into The Horror Hall of Fame was Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and its presentation can be seen below courtesy of Sally Feldman. Unfortunately, Janet Leigh’s acceptance speech gets cut off at the end.



Sadly, this is the section I could not locate. It included the announcement of the first two Horror Film of the Year nominees (Darkman and Nightbreed), as well as The Exorcist’s induction into the HHoF. The award was presumably presented by Elvira, and accepted by either Linda Blair or Bill Friedkin.

I do, however have Boris Karloff’s induction segment, again courtesy of Sally Feldman.



This is where I take over. I recall just discovering this was on TV while it was airing and threw in a tape. Pardon the quality, but you know how it is. Enjoy the rest of the show!

UPDATE: It appears that Part 3 has been removed from YouTube, so I'm happy to send you the file if you want to hit me up at thehorrorsection@gmail.com.




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shorts After Dark 2012.


As per usual, Toronto After Dark offered up a slew of both homegrown and international short films to compliment their lineup this year. Here below are some of the ones that stood out to me the most.

Many of my favourites from TAD this year, like Bobby Yeah, The Captured Bird and Adjust Tracking, were shorts I saw earlier this year at WWSFF, so I decided to just rank the ones I saw for the first time here. But, rest assured, I adore Bobby Yeah (but more on him in a later post).

1. Numbers – This Asian short was absolutely fantastic and instantly created a science fiction world that I would of happily watched a feature length version of. Grounded by a simple story of two strangers in a market, we are gradually let in on their unique ability to see numbers above other people's heads. Through well paced dialogue, it weaved a narrative that really captured my imagination.

2. Bio-CopAstron 6 alumni Steve Kostanski is back with his newest slice of eighties-inspired hilarity. With it being shot here in Toronto, it was so great to see so many familiar faces onscreen. I don't know anybody who captures the energy and aesthetic of the home video era better than he does. Much like his past work Lazer Ghosts 2 (which played TAD in 2008), Bio-Cop plays like a half-trailer/half-short film, with as much slimy goo and mayhem as he can pack into its five minute running time.

Bio-Cop.

3. HENRi – Originally funded on Kickstarter, director Eli Sasich has finally realized his story of a robot trapped aboard a derelict spaceship. The core of this story was so provokative it actually caught the attention of sci-fi icons Margot Kidder and Keir Dullea who, as a result, appear in the film. This is excellent straight-up science fiction in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Sunshine.


4. Malody – I really dug this strange little short. It is a technical marvel and its surrealist underpinnings naturally struck a cord with me. I believe I was most taken by its ending, which was one of those “wow, how did you come up with that?” moments.



5. Family Nightmare – I had heard about the disturbing weirdness of this short previously, and it did not disappoint. Using actual vintage home video footage, the short paints an off-kilter family gathering where babies play with knives, family members break out into impromptu wrestling matches and there are Christmas viewings of hardcore porn rather than Frosty the Snowman. It is delightfully bizarre and askew.

Some Honourable Mentions:

It seems like Nova Scotia may be having a little film renaissance, as Josh MacDonald (of last year's The Corridor) returns with Game. It takes a scenario we have seen a million times before and wonderfully subverts it. The last shot is one that will surely give you a chuckle.

Game.

Not Till We're Married is a funny little short about relationships by Shannon Hanmer. TAD alumni Chris Nash also served as writer and make-up effects artist on this one to continue his streak with the festival.

Annie & The Dog is a beautifully shot short about a priest calling on a local deputy to help him perform an exorcism on a young girl he has tied up in his barn. It mixed horror and humour quite well and the performances were all solid.



Vicki was a colourful eighties homage that went over really well with the crowd. At first I was a little hesitant because it started out like a carbon copy of John Carpenter's Christine. I mean it's okay if want to use it as a reference, but don't actually copy it scene for scene. As the short progressed though, it found its own voice and I was also chuffed to hear a lot of Umberto in the score, as well.  You can watch it now, by going here.

Other strong shorts were Caterwaul, We Ate The Children Last and the tasty Garlic Bread Man vs Superbo Lasagna Man.

Again, another great bracket of shorts this year. When the final TAD awards are tallied and announced, I'll be sure to let you know. Oh, and Happy Devil's Night everyone!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Furry Fun.


The closing night gala of this year's Toronto After Dark was the Spanish horror comedy Game of Werewolves.


Tomas (Gorka Oxtoa) seeks solace by returning to the village of his childhood, but soon finds himself on the run from the townsfolk who think his sacrifice will free them from a hundred-year-old gypsy curse.

Going in, I wasn't sure what to make of this movie with its jokey title, but it turned out to be a pretty decent movie. I guess I shouldn't be shocked, as I thinking back I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a Spanish genre film. These guys are a talented bunch and just make great movies.

Gorka Oxtoa (front) & Carlos Areces in Game of Werewolves.

All the ingredients for a successful horror comedy are here. The head trio of the piece Tomas, Calisto and Mario (Oxtoa, Carlos Areces & Secun de la Rosa, respectively) are all great with impeccable comedic timing, but the scene stealer is Tomas' Jack Russell terrier, Vito. It really is true that this breed make the best actors. Director Juan Martinez Moreno wears his eighties film influences on his sleeve, but it never feels like he is merely aping. The comedic beats are handled really well and the result is a lot of laugh-out-loud moments.

As you can imagine, the real highlight of the movie are the werewolves. The makeup effects are top notch, and frankly some of the best I have seen in quite some time. And to top it all off, we not only get quality, but also quantity. My hat goes off to Moreno for insisting on going practical with his creatures, it made the movie ten times what it could've been.

Director Juan Martinez Moreno.

So, the curtain comes down on another Toronto After Dark Film Festival. The crowds were good and all the filmmakers that came out seemed to have a really good time. I think TAD is building momentum in terms of recognition from filmmakers. While it may not have the most pull in the “buying and selling” side of things – though the Soskas' American Mary did ink a deal with Anchor Bay the evening of their premiere – I get the sense that genre directors really like to play here.

Anyway, I'll be back in the next few days with a Shorts rundown and a post on the official TAD awards, so stay tuned.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Resolute Success.


Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead's film Resolution was yet another title I narrowly missed at Fantasia in July. It is a title that had some great buzz attached to it, so I made sure to steer clear of the specifics until I was able to see it as part of Toronto After Dark.


After finding his junkie best friend Chris (Vinny Curran) in a remote cabin in the woods, Michael (Peter Cilella) goes about trying to get him clean and sober by handcuffing him to a pipe. While waiting out the detox, Michael finds some old films nearby that tell a story that becomes increasingly strange and troubling with each one.

Resolution is one of those few films that even with the baggage of its hype still managed to exceed my expectations. There are several reasons why I think this film owns, but the main one is just how fresh and unique it is. Gradually adding layer upon layer, it uses a buddy comedy to creep in underlying elements of horror and mystery. It really is a breath of fresh air.

It has been a long time since I have watched a film and not been constantly reminded of something else. The modern horror genre is a beast of influences and mimicry, but writer Justin Benson sidesteps both effortlessly. Aside from that though, Resolution soars due to its brilliantly understated direction. Simply, Benson & Moorhead just let their actors do the work. This was a two character piece and both Curran and Cilella were absolutely fantastic. The exchanges between them felt natural and gave the appearance that they had a lot of history behind them. The fact that they kept mentioning events and people from their past really helped me envision a reality outside of that cabin.

Peter Cilella (left) & Vinny Curran in Resolution. 

I also think the introduction of the film footage element was also tactfully done. It is all too common for this subgenre to make the footage the main crux or format of the story, but here it was only there to add atmosphere and never overshadowed the situation built in the first act.

The ending is decidedly ambiguous, but Benson did insist at the Q&A that there is a correct interpretation, and the answer is there from frame one. After much thought, I have a theory, but I'll let you come up with your own once you have watched it yourself. And you should.

Directors Justin Benson (left) & Aaron Moorhead, actors Vinny Curran & Peter Cilella and producer David Lawson.

Resolution is the definition of indie filmmaking, as Benson & Moorhead have created something of weight and substance for a fraction of the cost of Hollywood fluff. There isn't one thing about this film I would change and therefore it is the best thing I've seen at Toronto After Dark so far.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hooded Horrors.


I was really looking forward to seeing the Irish film Citadel at Toronto After Dark, for it looked like the title most likely to bring the scares this year.


After his wife is fatally beaten by a gang of hooded assailants, Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) holes up in his tower block apartment with his newborn daughter, afraid to venture outside. After making strides towards recovery, the same assailants return to take his child.

Citadel is a solid entry into the burgeoning horror sub-genre of  “hoodie horror”.  It sets a dark and gloomy tone early on, building a gripping sense of dread as the movie progresses.  Channelling the trauma of being attacked by a gang of hooligans in real life, director Ciaran Foy depicts fear as a tangible thing with an almost physical presence. It works well and, along with the stark visuals, really adds to the overall atmosphere of the piece.

The simple framework of Citadel is further helped by Barnard as Tommy.  He spends most of the film almost paralyzed by his agoraphobia and it is only when the last thing he has in the world is threatened that he finally takes action.  Foy is smart to let his protagonist anchor the film and never lets his story stray too far from him.  Sure, he has some help along the way from Marie (Wunmi Mosaku), a nurse at the hospital and a cantankerous priest (James Cosmo), but this is ultimately Tommy’s battle to win. 

Mainly, I think I was just happy to finally see some effective antagonists again. By effective, I, of course, mean corporeal and not generated by a computer.  Following After (and the atrocious Grave Encounters 2 which I viewed earlier that day) it just reinforced the fact that there is just no comparison between practical and digital.  Citadel only used visual effects when they absolutely had to and I, as a result, was never taken out of the story.  Hopefully someday all horror filmmakers will realize that CG is not scary and figure out how to use it a supplement and not a replacement.


Something I did find strange about Citadel was how few people were actually in it.  Apart from the main characters, the town was almost as deserted as the one in After. I get that there was a “regeneration” project going on in that neighbourhood, but the local hospital was still operating, with almost nary a patient in sight. I assume it was an aesthetic choice to further ramp up Tommy’s sense of helplessness, but to me it just made the universe seem a little less real.  I felt the movie wrapped up a little too quickly as well, but better too little than too much I suppose.

When it comes to this sub-genre, the French film Ils is still tops for me, but Citadel remains a well-made and effective thriller that preys on our most primal instincts.

Friday, October 26, 2012

After.


Moving on from the undead shenanigans of the day before, Sunday began a string of indie character pieces at Toronto After Dark, kicked off by Ryan Smith's After.


Two strangers wake up after a bus crash to find everyone in their small town has vanished. Even more troubling is the cloud of black smoke that has surrounded the area and is moving inward.

After is a good little movie with some great ideas behind it. I was almost immediately engaged, as there is  little setup before the weirdness creeps in. I would wager that director Ryan Smith is an avid fan of Stephen King, as After is reminiscent of several of his works, most prominently The Mist. I've heard Amblin comparisons thrown around, but I'd say the “childhood memories” sequences are also more in keeping with King tales like Stand By Me, Hearts In Atlantis and Dreamcatcher. Also mingling with those, is a greyish palette and shifting reality similar to that of Silent Hill. These were all elements that I, of course, accepted with open arms, for the underlying mystery kept me interested throughout.

After inevitably succeeds due to its pair of strong leads. Steven Strait & Karolina Wydra handle the tough task of reacting believably to their extraordinary circumstances well and I rarely found myself questioning their motives. I also appreciated that the movie was fairly upfront with its reveals. Unlike my recent experience with Sinister, After didn't make a big deal about its major plot points.  It gave you the information and moved on, almost aware that some viewers may already be ahead of the game.


My only major gripe with After is that I wish they'd had either the budget or the ingenuity to do the monster practically.  The CG isn't particularly bad, it is just that the antagonist is onscreen a lot, so it loses most of its power once the light is shined on it.

After is a dark and bewitching urban fantasy that is built on an exciting premise and grounded by well realized characters.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Two More Flesh Eating Imports.


Coinciding with last Saturday’s Toronto Zombie Walk was a pair of appropriate offerings at The Bloor, as part of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.






After the groaning crowds had shambled to their seats, first up was Paco Plaza’s [REC]3: Genesis.


Running parallel with the events of the first pair of [REC] movies, the nearby wedding reception of Koldo (Diego Martin) & Clara (Leticia Dolera) is suddenly overrun with the infected.

[REC]3: Genesis is a bit of a departure from the first two films. After the second film was released, it was announced that for the next two parts directing duties would be divided, with Plaza and Balaguero each helming their own installment separately. I can now see the impetus for this decision, as Plaza was clearly interested in having a little more fun with the series, while his cohort wanted [REC] to remain serious as a heart attack. Genesis is therefore designed as a one-off and [REC]4: Apocalypse will pick up right where [REC]2 left off.

Despite this little tweak, [REC]3 is still the tasty morsel of flesh-eating fun I’ve come to expect from these guys. Although it has a more comedic bent, it never became the full-on splatstick opera that I was expecting. It does get a little bit cheesy toward the end, but it is, after all, a love story, so I was okay with that indulgence, considering the wedding locale was a pretty original place to set a “zombie” massacre.


There are some delightfully clever beats in this movie, including references to the original two films, as well as how Plaza subverts the found footage format that the series is known for. [REC]3 also uses the same plot development revealed in the last film to further sync things up. But mostly, I just have to applaud Plaza for again managing to find another wonderful leading lady. Leticia Dolera as Clara is even more striking than Angela (Manuela Velasco), the newscaster protagonist from the previous movies. She has a look that screams, well... Scream Queen, and she's able to wield a chainsaw with the best of ‘em. It appears that fellow Spaniard J.A. Bayona was of the same mind, having used her in the music video he shot earlier this year.

Leticia Dolera as Clara in [REC]3: Genesis.

So, I can happily say that this series shows no signs of waning. If anything, it is gaining speed, as each installment seems to grow in budget and scope. I think there will likely be some backlash from fans over what [REC]3 isn't, but hopefully over time it will be re-evaluated, much like Halloween III has over the past few years. It may not share the same tone as it predecessors, but [REC]3 still retains the same energy and pizzazz to make a worthy entry in the series.

Following [REC]3, was Matthias Hoene’s Cockneys vs Zombies.


When London’s East End is overrun with zombies, a group of bumbling bank robbers and the occupants of a retirement home try to fight their way out of the city.

This was another enjoyable zombie yarn. During his intro, Hoene spoke of his childhood discovery of Braindead & Evil Dead 2 and they are both clearly on display here. I thought the fact that he and writers James Moran & Lucas Roche were able to incorporate their homeland (Hoene was born in Germany, but grew up in East London) was pretty cool.

Though most of the movie is par for the course zom-com stuff, there were a few things that stood out to me. While most zombie flicks have their heroes having the improvise weaponry due to a lack of ammo, these characters come out armed to the teeth with guns blazing. I have to say it was a nice change of pace to see some superior firepower.

Michelle Ryan as Katy in Cockneys vs Zombies.

Also, being that half the cast was made up of geriatrics, you can be sure the undead vs. the nearly dead jokes were aplenty. Within this group was the highlight of the film, Ray “Grandpa” McGuire played by Alan Ford, who I instantly recognized – on voice alone – from his turn as Brick Top in Snatch. It was nice to see Honor “Pussy Galore” Blackman show up during the proceedings, as well.

Director Matthias Hoene.

While Cockneys vs Zombies may be largely disposable, there were enough funny moments and gore gags to make it a fun watch.

It was a good double bill this year, and thus the zombie hordes of Toronto were satiated once more.


Photos courtesy of TADFF and NOW Magazine.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Inbred.


As with previous installments at Toronto After Dark, its run overlaps with Rue Morgue's monthly Cinemacabre movie night, so this year's co-presentation was the British backwoods horror flick Inbred.


A pair of social workers take a bunch of troubled youths on a field trip into the English countryside, only to be set upon by a bunch of inbred townsfolk.

I didn't much care for this one. I understand that it was supposed to be a dark comedy, but I just never got onboard. There is certainly some fun to be had, but as I've probably said before, I think I'm done with the whole “torturing people is fun” thing. There were certainly people in the crowd who seemed to be enjoying themselves, so maybe I've – for lack of a better term – outgrown this stuff. It sounds odd to say that, but a lot of this movie just washed over me with little or no enjoyment forthcoming. Inbred's tone reminded me of Steven Sheil's 2008 flick Mum & Dad, but less confined and contained, therefore less plausible.

Maybe I'm confused by the intent. Most of the protagonists in this movie are, to use the local colour, a “bunch of twats” so caring about them is relatively impossible. I did manage to latch onto the two female characters eventually, but director Alex Chandon didn't make it easy for me. As the movie goes on, the focus seems to shift towards the townsfolk, as if they are, in fact, supposed to be the heroes of the piece. I  suppose that's not totally outlandish, as virtually the entire American slasher genre was built on that principle, but here it seems broken somehow.

Just another day on the farm...

The only thing that Inbred really delivers on, in my opinion, is the gore. Though there is a bit too much CG for my tastes in parts, I also understand that some of the outrageous things that happen in this movie would be almost impossible to do practically. I was also glad to see Jake West muse Emily Booth show up here, albeit briefly.

For me I guess the final nail of dislike in the coffin, was the ending. I mean, sure it was a choice that fit the tone of the movie, but that doesn't mean I have to approve. In contrast to TAD's opener Grabbers, sometimes getting exactly what you expect, isn't a good thing. At the end of the day, I didn't get much out of Inbred, but if this seems like your cup of tea, the trailer is a pretty good representation of what you are in for.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dark Desires.


A film that I just narrowly missed at Fantasia was Charles de Lauzirika's character piece Crave, so I was glad to see it make it to the Big Smoke as part of Toronto After Dark.


Crime photographer Aiden (Josh Lawson) leads a very solitary existence and spends his time fantasizing to the point of hallucination. When he strikes up a relationship with neighbour Virginia (Emma Lung), his daydreams begins to interfere with him living the life he has been so desperately searching for.

I have mixed feeling about this film. On a technical level, Crave is a superb little indie with a look that fully represents Aiden's inner turmoil. However, the problems of the piece largely reside with said main character. I'd like to first point out that it has nothing to do with Lawson's performance as he is top-notch and conveys Aiden's neurotic awkwardness effortlessly. It has more to do with the fact that, as the movie progresses, Aiden becomes more and more unlikable to the point that it is hard to even root for him anymore. I don't think that was the intention, but that's how it came across to me. Although, it is possible I was just reacting to the off-putting realization that I related to a good chunk of what happens in this movie.

Josh Lawson (left) and Ron Perlman in Crave.

Fortunately, Aiden's AA sponsor Pete, played by genre vet Ron Perlman, shows up at several points to break things up a bit. It was really great to see him portray someone a little less animated and flamboyant, but he still, of course, brings the same Perlman grit to the role. The little anecdotes Pete imparts to Aiden over the course of the film are some of the best parts of the movie.

One thing I really appreciated was, how much Detroit was a part of this story. Rather than just a nameless metropolis, director de Lauzirika makes sure he plants somewhere recognizable and it heightens the realism of the piece, much like American indie icons Larry Cohen & Bill Lustig did with New York in, among others, God Told Me To & Maniac, respectively.

Conveying inner monologues for an entire movie is a tough job, but for the most part de Lauzirika succeeds, even if the abundant what-if scenarios do wear a little thin by the end. As he said during the Q&A, de Lauzirika was aware that he might only get one shot at making a film, so he wanted to put in as much as possible. This is likely why a lot of Crave feels that it comes from a very personal place. It is uncomfortable to watch at times, seeing someone unconsciously sabotage their own happiness, but it at least seems to come from a sincere place.

Director Charles de Lauzirika.

Crave is a solid effort, but one that didn't really leap off the screen at me. It's a pretty morose little fable about the minutiae of modern life and getting so caught up in the unimportant that you neglect the stuff that is really relevant. It's a valid lesson, but I just wish that the message bearer hadn't been so detestable by the film's end.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Twisted Tale.


Following Grabbers, Toronto After Dark played host to the Twisted Twins Jen & Sylvia Soska and the Canadian premiere of their new film, American Mary.


Destitute medical student Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle) stumbles into the world of extreme body modification and learns to use her skills on those who have wronged her.

Even though I had been anxiously anticipating American Mary, I had purposefully avoided learning what it was all about, so I could go in completely fresh. In fact, I knew even less than the synopsis when I saw it.

Overall, I liked American Mary quite a bit. The concept of body modification is completely foreign to me, so it was fascinating to look through a window – no matter how (hopefully) fractured or exaggerated that window may have been – into that world. However, despite the extreme nature of the body horror, it is the characters that are the real meat of this movie. Katherine Isabelle plays her role perfectly. She has to be the “straight man” when entering this universe and after enduring trauma in the second act, must convey flashes of insanity without crossing the line into full-on camp. I really wish Isabelle was in more stuff because she has one of the best thousand-yard stares in show business.

Katherine Isabelle as Mary Mason in American Mary.

Tristan Risk as Beatress, a woman who has transformed herself into a real-life version of Betty Boop, was also another really strong element of this piece. The moments I was most into this film were when Beatress was onscreen, as I felt the exchanges between her and Mary really transported the film to a surreal place like that of the work of David Lynch. It is moments like these where American Mary is its most unique, and for that the Soskas should be applauded.

Unfortunately, once into the second half of the movie, I found it really started to meander, making the film feel a long longer than it actually was. There was a point in American Mary where it seemed to fragment into three threads and, as a result, the movie kind of collapses under its own weight. It would've been much more efficient to just pick one and go with it. I also didn't care for the ending either. It felt very abrupt, as if they weren't sure how to conclude their story.

Directors Jen (left) & Sylvia Soska.

However, it is clear that the Soska sisters are on their way up, as American Mary is miles above their debut Dead Hooker In A Trunk in every capacity. Their sophomore effort is gorgeous to look at and the gore work is solid, thanks to Brian Pearson and Masters FX, respectively.

As the Soska sisters continue to compliment their raw talent and uniquely twisted vision with other gifted individuals, their output will only get better. I think that with the right script, these two could produce something really special and I'll be right here waiting with open arms.


*Soskas Photo courtesy of TAD.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tying One On.


Toronto After Dark kicked off last Thursday with the Irish creature feature Grabbers.


When an alien species of bloodsuckers arrive in a small Irish village, an alcoholic constable (Richard Coyle) discovers that there is but one defense against them – drunkenness.

I’m actually surprised no one had previously come up with this idea – poisoning blood sucking parasites with high blood alcohol content – but I guess it makes sense that the Irish would finally stake a claim.

As for the movie, I think it would be hard not to have a good time with this. While it is true that Grabbers plays it pretty safe in regards to story and subject matter, the whimsical dialogue and truly original jumping-off point made this enjoyable for me. Drunken humour is fairly simple to do, but I felt that the characters and delivery was mined for all it's worth.

Ruth Bradley (left), Richard Coyle and Russell Tovey in Grabbers.

The movie is kept at a fairly even keel throughout, which is a skill in itself, as silly horror comedies can often putter out halfway – case in point Jake West’s 2009 effort Doghouse. Director Jon Wright and writer Kevin Lehane are clearly students of the eighties, as there are obvious nods to classic monster movies like Gremlins and Aliens, but they fortunately don't come off as gimmicky because I felt they happened organically.

I was actually quite impressed with the production values of this movie, as well. I was prepared for a one-location siege film set in a pub, but Grabbers largely takes place outside, giving way to wonderfully lush exteriors of Ireland’s seaside. I was also not bothered by the heavy doses of CG. Some shots were better than others, but it helped that the creature designs themselves were pretty solid.


Grabbers isn’t going to knock anybody’s socks off, but it’s a fun yarn with some laugh-out-loud moments and a cool monster. Sometimes getting exactly what you expect isn’t a bad thing.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Video Store Day II

Hello all.  For those who aren't aware, today is...



Instituted last year, VSD is a celebration of independent video stores and their nostalgic wares.  So, if you still have a video store in your area, take some time to go on by and see if they have any special deals on. The Horror Section is celebrating by re-posting the timeline that Dan from Eyesore Cinema put up during last year's inaugural festivities. Enjoy the trip down media memory lane.

Fall 1975 – The Sony Betamax goes on sale in the U.S. The LV-1901 console, consisting of a SL-6200 video cassette recorder (VCR) and a 19” Sony Trinitron television set, retails for $2,495. A table-top recorder/player deck (the SL-7200) is marketed the following spring for $1,400.

The Sony Betamax SL-6200

October 1977 – RCA begins selling the first VCR in the U.S. based on JVC’s “video home system” (VHS). Manufactured by Matsushita and branded as “SelectaVision,” the VBT200 retails for $1,000.

November 1977 – Magnetic Video, operating as Video Club of America, is the first company to provide theatrical motion pictures on home video. Company founder Andre Blay convinced Twentieth Century-Fox to license him 50 titles for sale directly to consumers. The cost of the license was $300,000. Video Club of America marketed itself through a two-page ad in the November 26-December 2, 1977 edition of TV Guide. The titles, which were available in both the Betamax and VHS formats, included Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, Hello, Dolly!, M*A*S*H, Patton, The French Connection, The King And I, and The Sound Of Music. The videos are supposed to be for home use only, and not for rental. Membership in the club was $10.00 and the price of the videos was $49.95 each. Blay recoups his initial investment in just two months.


December 1977 – George Atkinson launches the first video rental store, a 600-square foot storefront at 12011 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Atkinson was the proprietor of Home Theater Systems, a company that rented Super 8 movies and projectors for parties. He bought one Betamax and one VHS copy of each of the Magnetic Video titles through a third-party for $3.00 over ...cost. Atkinson announced the availability of the Fox titles for rent in a one-column-inch ad in the December 7, 1977 Los Angeles Times. In order to raise capital, Atkinson charges $50 for an “annual membership,” $100 for a “lifetime membership,” which provides the opportunity to rent the videos for $10 a day. Atkinson is threatened with a lawsuit for renting the videos, but quickly discovers that U.S. copyright law gives him the right to rent and resell videos he owns.

September 1979 – George Atkinson announces that, after growing into 42 affiliated stores in less than 20 months, he would change the name of his business from Video Cassette Rentals to The Video Station and would begin franchising stores.


November 1979 – Columbia Pictures enters the home video market, releasing 20 films.

December 1979 – Fotomat began a nationwide roll out of videocassette rentals at its 3,700 outlets. Consumers could chose from 131 titles, which they could order over the phone for pick-up the following day.

December 1980 – Walt Disney Productions announces that it would enter the home video market. It proposes the first “authorized rental” plan to retailers, under which a retailer could pay a flat fee for a cassette and have the right to rent it as many times as possible for 13 weeks. Sell through units could be purchased separately.

1980 – Pioneer introduces the laserdisc for the home video market.


January 1981 – Columbia Pictures attempts to impose two-tier pricing for video, with red videocassettes for rental and black for sale and retailer contracts obligating them to abide by the rental and sale restrictions.

November 1981 – The Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) is formed as a trade association for video retailers. The major item on the new organization’s agenda is preserving the right under U.S. copyright law of video stores to rent movies.  Also that month, the Board of Directors of Magnetic Video Corp. removes Andre Blay as its president.

March 1982 – Magnetic Video Corp. changes its name to 20th Century Fox Video.

Summer 1982 – Paramount Home Entertainment announces that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan would be priced at $39.95, the first major theatrical title to be priced for sale directly to consumers.


March 1982 – Legislation is introduced in the United States Senate to give copyright holders the exclusive right to authorize the rental of prerecorded videos, essentially allowing the motion picture studios to prevent video stores from renting movies.

October 21, 1983 – Video stores around the country close down for several hours on this Friday to draw attention to threats to the public’s right to rent videos, including legislation before the Congress to exempt videos from the First Sale Doctrine.

1983 – George Atkinson resigns as president of The Video Station after it is revealed that the company had overstated its net worth by approximately $1 million the prior fiscal year.  At this time, VCRs are still in less than 10% of U.S. households.

January 1984 - The United States Supreme Court issues its groundbreaking decision in the Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, Inc. case, which affirms the rights of consumers to videotape television programs for “time-shifting” purposes. By ruling that Sony was not guilty of “contributory copyright infringement” for enabling consumers to record programs, the court legitimizes the VCR and set the stage for the widespread adoption of the device.


February 1984 – After being reintroduced in Congress in 1983, the legislation to give copyright holders the exclusive right to authorize the rental of prerecorded videos dies in the face of fierce objections from VSDA-member video retailers and their customers. The right of consumers to rent prerecorded videos from a video store is never seriously questioned again

July 1984 – The Video Station has 500 stores.

1984 – The Sony Betamax hits its peak, with 2.3 million units manufactured worldwide.

June 1985 – The Cotton Club is the first video released with Macrovision anti-copying technology.


1985 – The first Blockbuster Video store opens, in Dallas, Texas. Also that year, Movie Gallery is formed in Dothan, Alabama, operating video stores in southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

1985 – 11 million VCRs are sold in the U.S., bringing its penetration to almost 30% of American TV households.  In the first year for which statistics are available, video rental spending totals $2.55 billion and the number of turns is 1.1 billion (a “turn” is the rental of one video). The average rental price is $2.38.

October 1988 – Mark Wattles opens the first Hollywood Video store, in Portland, Oregon. Hollywood Video would eventually become the number two chain in America, with 2006 stores in 47 states, before being acquired by Movie Gallery in 2005.


November 5, 1988 – The Video Privacy Protection Act is signed into law. This federal law protects renters and purchasers of videos from having information about which videos they rented or purchased disclosed to third parties except in limited circumstances.

December 1988 – Blockbuster becomes the top video retailer in the U.S., with $200 million in revenue. It has more than 500 stores by the end of the year. Blockbuster replaces Erol’s in the top spot.

1989 – Blockbuster expands outside the U.S. and passes the 1,000-store mark.

August 1993 – Hollywood Video, which had 17 stores, goes public.

1993 – Sony releases the last Betamax VCR (the SL-HF2000) to be offered in the U.S.

August 1994 – Movie Gallery completes an initial public offering, which gives it capital to develop and acquire additional stores, primarily in smaller towns and cities in the Southeast. From the beginning to 1994 to mid-1996, Movie Gallery would grow from 73 to more than 850 stores.


1994 – Blockbuster is acquired by Viacom.

March 3, 1995 – The Lion King is released on home video. It sells 32 million copies on VHS and DVD over the years, making it the best-selling video of all time.

July 1995 – Amazon.com goes online from the garage of founder Jeff Bezo. Initially, it limits its merchandise to books.

March 1997 – DVD is introduced in the U.S., and the DVD player soon becomes the most rapidly adopted consumer electronics product in history.


April 1998 – Netflix launches the world’s first online DVD rental service, offering more than 900 titles.

November 1998 – Amazon.com opens its virtual video store, with more than 60,000 theatrical and general-interest videos and more than 2,000 DVDs.

2000 – Movie Gallery reaches 1,000 stores.

2000 – Video sell-through revenue totals $8.3 billion, surpassing theatrical box office ($7.7 billion) for the first time.

August 28, 2002 – Sony announces that by the end of the year it would cease manufacturing the Betamax, which had only been available in Japan since 1998. A total of 18 million units were manufactured worldwide during its 27-year span.

November 2002 – MovieLink launches its Internet video-on-demand service.

February 2003 – Netflix surpasses 1 million subscribers.


March 16, 2003 – DVD rentals generate more revenue than VHS rentals for the first time. The milestone occurs six years to the month after the launch of the DVD format in the U.S.

2003 – Wal-Mart/San’s Club tops Blockbuster in U.S. video revenues, marking the first time that a sell through retailer was the market leader.  Also that year, Movie Gallery expands to all 50 states and reaches 2,000 stores, making it the second-largest video specialty retailer in the U.S. in terms of store count

2003 – Annual DVD rental revenue exceeds VHS rental revenue for the first time. Consumers spend $4.38 billion renting DVDs and $3.82 billion renting VHS.

Happy Video Store Day!