I've talked countless times over the years about my love for old school horror VHS box art. But what I'm here to talk about tonight are the boxes themselves. Much like with DVDs & Blu-rays nowadays, some companies back in the day went the extra mile with their VHS releases, adding various gimmicks and bells & whistles to the tape boxes in an effort to spice up their releases and separate them from the pack. And, ya know, do whatever they could to make more money.
Since I love you guys and gals, I've collected together some of the coolest of the cool gimmicky VHS boxes for your enjoyment. So please, enjoy!
We begin out journey with what is perhaps the very coolest VHS box of all time. Yes, what you see above is indeed a clamshell box, which not only housed the House VHS tape but also came equipped with a battery operated lighting system. This bad boy is super rare, and from what I understand it was sent out to video shops back in the day to promote the release. I encountered one on eBay recently, where it sold for nearly $100. And I don't expect to ever find another!
MICROWAVE MASSACRE, 1983
Ah, who doesn't love Microwave Massacre, the film where Jackie Vernon plays a cannibal who cooks up whores in his wife's new microwave. And yes, that'd be the same Jackie Vernon that was the voice of Frosty The Snowman in the 1969 Rankin/Bass animated special. Anyway. When you pressed the ON button on this particular VHS release of the film, the microwave on the cover lit up with red lights and even buzzed. Cause, ya know, microwaves buzz and shit.
The Shapiro-Glickenhaus Home Video release of Frankenhooker also utilized the push button technique. Only with this one, a push of a little button on the cover of the box spouted the infamous "Wanna date?" dialogue from the film. Why yes, Frankenhooker, I do!
THE VISITORS, 1988
Couldn't find a picture of this one in action, so that's the box along with an embedded picture from Vidmark's print ad for the release. When you pulled a little tab on the box, the ghostly image of the film's monster would appear on it, essentially giving the fans two cover arts in one!
Ya know that awesome DVD release of Ichi The Killer that had a blood bag attached to the front, which you could move the 'blood' around in? Well Bleeders did it first, back in the 90's. Doesn't get much cooler than that!
KING KONG, 1933
The 60th Anniversary VHS re-release of the original Kong was another push button noise emitting affair. Push on Kong's chest and hear him roar!
FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2, 1988
This coffin shaped release of the elusive sequel is so rare that it wasn't until recently that I even knew of its existence. In fact, this is one of the ones that I fell so in love with that I knew I had to base a whole post around it. From what I gather this was an Australian release of the film, and I don't expect to ever have it in my collection. Hell, I'm not even sure at this point if I'll ever have a DVD or Blu-ray release of the film in my collection. Thank the good lord for horror convention bootlegs, is all I'm gonna say. Not that I'd support that kinda racket or anything.
And no, the tape itself isn't coffin shaped. That'd be far too awesome to ever be possible.
JACK FROST (1997), JACK FROST 2 (2000) & UNCLE SAM (1996)
I have many fond memories of gazing up at these three tapes at my local Blockbuster back in the 90's, which were put out by the same company and employed the same lenticular printing technique. The images on the covers appeared happy and friendly, until you picked up the box and moved it around a bit, bringing the horrific visages of Jack & Sam into focus. Still not as horrifying as the Michael Keaton Jack Frost though, that's for damn sure!
MIRROR MIRROR, 1990
Holograms were all over the place back in the 80's & 90's, long before Tupac made them super cool and revolutionary again. The original VHS release of this Karen Black/Yvonne De Carlo gem featured a holographic image embedded into the mirror on the front cover, making it appear as if a hideous monster was lunging his way out of it. Like that Kiefer Sutherland movie. Only much cooler.
DEAD PIT, 1989
Imperial Entertainment's original VHS release of the straight to video Dead Pit was a double whammy of gimmicky awesomeness. Not only was the image on front raised and in "3D", but a push of a button near the zombie's hand made his eyes light up a spooky green. Good luck finding one nowadays that still works!
If you know of any other gimmicky VHS boxes that are out there, please do leave a comment and let me know. And if you have any of the ones listed above, feel free to do the same!
On that note I do want to give a quick shout out to HBO Video's Stepfather 2 box, which I've got in my collection. It's not exceptionally cool or anything, but I always dug how Terry O'Quinn's knife was given that shiny look. Along with the shiny droplets of blood, it really makes the art pop, even when it's all sun faded like my copy is!