Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reliving The Glory Days of Horror VHS'

Is there any long time horror fan out there that doesn't have fond memories of venturing out to the video store and perusing all the glorious cover arts in the horror section, looking to discover the next great gem? It's something we all seem to have in common as it pertains to our childhoods and it's something we all hold very near and dear to our hearts. In fact, it was one day last year that I went into Blockbuster and took a good look at what the horror section had become (about 100 DVD's with shitty cover arts, shitty titles, and even shittier plots) that inspired me to start this blog in the first place. The horror genre will never be as good and exciting as it was for the youth of the 80's generation, plain and simple, and that's why I will always have a special chamber in my heart for horror VHS'. Just looking at them and holding them in my hands takes me right back to my childhood and while most fans are drooling over the new high definition transfers of their favorite classic horror films, i'm still out there searching the mom & pop video shops (of which there aren't many) high and dry for those same flicks on the sun faded (like the unluckiest of unlucky vampires, the horror section always seemed to be facing the sun, didn't it?) and beat up formal rental and anything but high def VHS tapes. Don't get me wrong, I love watching a movie like Texas Chainsaw Massacre on Blu-ray. But it's just not quite as special and enjoyable as watching it on VHS.

The reason i'm making this post is because a few months back, Jen and I discovered one of those mom & pop video shops, called Star Video, a few towns over from us. Stepping into this place felt like I had entered a time machine that had been punched in to take me back to my childhood ; the display units were the same and although there were new release DVD titles on the shelves, the majority of the selection consisted of those beat up sun damaged VHS tapes. The horror section was not chock full of remakes and shitty new titles but instead was filled with vintage movies like Last House on the Left, Faces of Death, and Creepshow, all on VHS. I really wish I had taken pictures of this place cause it's a true sight to behold and i'm pretty certain it won't be around much longer. Anyway, I did not pick up anything on that day because I wasn't going to rent something and have to return it to a town a half an hour away but Jen and I went back there the other day and I realized I had missed a whole section of the store ; a selection of former VHS rentals for sale, at $2 a piece (4 for $6). This section was chock full of horror titles and I was not able to resist. Even though i've had them all on DVD for years, I picked up Elm Street 2 & 3, Friday Part 6, and Fright Night on VHS.


I realize it seems kinda silly to buy beat up VHS tapes of movies I already own on pristine and pretty DVD but like I said, it takes me back to my childhood and on top of that, there's just something really cool to me about owning a tape that hundreds upon hundreds of people have rented and enjoyed dating all the way back to the 80's. It's a piece of history that too many of us throw away and forget about in favor of the high def versions of these films that probably shouldn't be watched in high def in the first place.

Also wanted to make this post because while I was in the city for Tokyo Gore Night a couple weeks back, a homeless looking dude was selling a bunch of VHS tapes and I picked one up from him for 2 bucks that i'd never heard of called 'Vampires & Other Stereotypes'.


There was a quote on the front that said the flick is "in the tradition of Evil Dead 2" and the back cover images looked badass, so I had to snatch it up. Still haven't watched it yet and I still don't know anything about it. The dude who writes Basement of Ghoulish Decadence (check it out) is a bit of an authority on horror VHS and even he had never heard of the movie. There's only one used copy of it selling on Amazon for $40, so it seems like I got a pretty good deal! Always nice to find one that's not out on DVD yet. If anyone knows anything about this movie, leave a comment and let me know.

While we're here and on this subject.....

- Check out my post on the horror VHS fanzine LUNCHMEAT if you haven't yet. It's something all connoisseurs of old school horror should look into picking up/subscribing to.

- I was gonna do a piece for that 'Handmade Horrors of Etsy' column I started a couple months back on this Etsy shop I discovered but I sent a couple e-mails to the shop owner with some questions and never got any answers so i'm just gonna mention it here. This chick takes VHS boxes and converts them into notebooks and they come out really awesome. Here's a little example of what she does :


You can check out her Etsy shop HERE, where you can browse her whole selection or even commission her to make one using a box of your choice. Very cool but you would've gotten more press from me if you bothered to answer my e-mails, lady!

- Last thing related to this topic that I want to mention is to check out Scab's Friday The 13th & Horror Blog. FOLLOW THIS BLOG! In addition to covering just about everything Friday the 13th related in this world, the titular Scab does some great video blogs where he talks about his memories with horror VHS and most recently he has done a series of videos talking about VHS flicks he wants to see come to DVD. You can check out some of his videos in the VLOGS section of his blog or you can see them all on his YouTube channel.

Someday i'll get around to posting about my entire horror on VHS collection but for now, I bid you farewell!


Melissa said...

There's a place like that in my hometown. You can rent 7 VHS movies for 7 nights for $7. They have a pretty awesome horror section.

Zacery Nova said...

You BOUGHT a series of VHS tapes willingly? You crazy completist.

HELLO?! It's "VHS"?! Jeez, betamax that sh1t why dont'cha?

Johnny said...

Melissa - Sounds like heaven! Do you ever rent from there?

Zac - I really can't see how any serious horror fan could not be into VHS, at least on some level, being that there's so many awesome flicks that are only available on that format. It used to be that I only collected those titles but lately i've slipped into collecting all vintage horror VHS. It's not even about being a completist. They just, like I said, bring me back to my childhood and hold a special place in my heart.

Zacery Nova said...

Well, I consider myself a horror fan & I have no interest in VHS..

It's a dead format. It's dead. Gone. Buried. I don't have much stock in formats or anything, it's the films that matter...

Mind you, if you scratch a DVD - it's finished, whereas if something on a VHS got scratched or ripped, you could usually save the rest of the movie & the TV would simply "frazzle" during the broken bit..

- Zac

Johnny said...

It might be a 'dead format' but like I said in my last comment, there's a wealth of titles not out on DVD yet that may in fact never come to DVD. So you can't really say it's totally dead just yet. It is indeed the films that matter and that's one of the main reasons I still collect VHS, to be able to watch those movies that I can only see on that format.

The Frog Queen said...

Waaaaa!!! This makes my cry! I used to have hundreds of VHS until evil-hi-tech-programer husband said I should get rid of them....why did I listen....why!!!

I remember that Army of Darkness cover!!!! I guess with me it is just giving up a part of my life....and YES the new cover art sucks....most of the time!!! Ahhhhh.....

Okay, with a little medication I will be fine.

GREAT blog post. I am going to forward it..especially to husband to make him feel bad :) Thanks, how can I ever repay you :D


the sneering (homo-phobic) snob said...

I remember renting about 200 horror movies on VHS from my local store in 1989 and 1990 but looking back (if i`m being honest) the only reason i did it was because i really fancied the chick behind the counter.

Sehnzeleid said...

Thanks for the BoGD mention!

Indeed, I agree with Johnny, there's plenty of horror/cult titles still MIA on DVD anywhere in the world. I used to be a DVD-only guy, until I began realizing VHS holds many great treasures. Not to mention at times VHS somehow elevating the experience of watching an old popular classic like a Freddy or a Jason.

Also damn man, those two Nightmares, Fright Night, and Friday are ultra sun-blasted!

BTW, find the old MEDIA VHS of Nightmare Part 5, it features a minute of extra gore being unrated unlike New Line's R-rated VHS and DVD releases.

Johnny said...

Ultra sun blasted, just how I like 'em!

Thanks for the tip of Elm Street 5. Did not know that. I'll be on the lookout for it next time I go to that shop!

Carl (ILHM) said...

NO DVD cover has ever had as profound an affect on me as the tramatizing trips I used to take down the video store aisles. VHS covers were so friggin awesome, I was always pissing my pants over Night of the Demons 2 and Demons, VHS = awesome

Johnny said...

Amen! VHS cover art was godly. The shit we get for cover art these days on DVD is just plain awful in comparison. That guy I linked to in this post, Scab, does some awesome videos where he compares horror DVD art to that of the original VHS art of the same movies. Definetly check out his YouTube channel to see those.

kaiyn said...

Yep, VHS cover art was awesome, gotta agree there. I have fond memories of looking through those covers trying to pick just the right movie.
I really don't like what they did to the Night of the Demons 2 cover.

Scandy Tangerine Man said...

Great post, Johnny. I don't come around nearly as often as I should. It's a fuzzy feeling when someone can get in on a great deal when it comes to our precious VHS.

Anonymous said...

Every REAL horror fans knows that there's nothing better that a good old ORIGINAL VHS. Fuck DVD!!! At least if there's good Xtras; like a special edition or something else. But i would never sell my VHS. It's gonna cost a lot of $$$ in few years...Keep your VHS!