Dinosaur Dracula!

Vicious Videocassette Boxes, Volume IV!

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Oh goodie, it’s finally time to dust off one of my favorite recurring features from last year’s Halloween Countdown! Vicious Videocassette Boxes!

As y’all know by now, I have a pretty immense VHS collection, with an especially strong lean on horror movies. There are eight hundred reasons for that, but here are the most important three:

1) Horror movies remind me of old video stores more than any other genre. As a kid, I’d look at those videos with a mix of fascination and revulsion, never renting but always being so damn curious. Just knowing that those “evil” movies were in the same store as me made trips to Bill’s Video Realm so strangely exhilarating.

2) A lot of horror movies feel more effective when you watch them on VHS, and that’s not just the nostalgia talking. The tinny audio and bleached colors are mimicked by so many of today’s moviemakers for a reason: They add to the effect. Horror is the one genre where distortion is typically a plus. (So long as it’s an “accoutrement” and not a “mask,” anyway.)

3) THE BOX ART RULES.

#3 is, of course, the reason for this series. As the title suggests, “Vicious Videocassette Boxes” is less a celebration of good movies, and more a celebration of fabulously spooky box art. (Hell, my VCR isn’t even connected right now. My primary reason for collecting horror videos is that I simply enjoy looking at them.)

Here’s the next batch of five. (Scroll to the bottom for links to the previous volumes!) (more…)

The Unsolved Mysteries Halloween Special!

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This one means a lot to me.

Weeks after it became a regular series, Unsolved Mysteries aired a special Halloween episode. They’d only cop to it being an “all ghosts” special, but given its debut date — October 26th, 1988 — I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider it a Halloween stunt.

I loved Unsolved Mysteries from the very start of the “Stack era” (previously aired specials had other hosts), and so at the impressionable of 9, I watched this terrible parade of ghastly ghouls and reacted accordingly.

Unsolved Mysteries ranks among my favorite TV shows ever, but entertainment value aside, I can hardly think of another show that affected me so much. With spooky segments covering everything from UFOs to satanic rituals, it fascinated me to pieces and frightened me to death.

If you’re only familiar with Unsolved Mysteries from the “Farina era,” the Stack episodes were far creepier, with an added emphasis on haunting music, bleak sets, and of course, Robert Stack himself. A guy who could read Peanuts comics and make them sound like Lovecraft.

The ghost-related segments were of particular interest. They’re the ones that “got me” the most. Today I take them with ten pounds of salt, but as a kid, I accepted every Unsolved Mysteries ghost story at face value. And boy, did that mess me up.

There’s a certain type of paralyzing fear that’s exclusive to childhood. To “achieve” it, you need a total lack of cynicism and a special naiveté. Most of us forget what that fear feels like as we grow older, but when I watch these old segments again, I remember. (more…)

CHIA PET ZOMBIES. HOLY MARY.

I never expected 2014 to top last year’s incredible Halloween season, but man… I think we’re coming close. I already feel like I’m drowning in awesome Halloween shit, and we’re not even halfway through September.

…and if I was on the fence about this possibly becoming an even more impressive season, tonight’s subject blasted me over that fence with blood-soaked fucking grapeshot.

Brothers, sisters, everyone in-between! It has HAPPENED. There are HALLOWEEN CHIA PETS.

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Well, Chia Zombies, to be precise. Gooood loooord.

Longtime readers know that I’ve owned seven thousand Chia Pets, with planters shaped like everything from Garfield to Christmas trees. This series tops them all, with ease. From the highly thematic boxes to the idea that I’ll soon grow hair on a terracotta zombie head, they’re just 100% great. There should be a sticker on each box that says exactly that. 100% GREAT. (more…)

Classic Creepy Commercials – Volume 4!

I’m very glad to revive one of last year’s recurring features: CLASSIC CREEPY COMMERCIALS!

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In this series, I blather on about ancient TV commercials, each with some loose tie to the Halloween season.

For the third year in a row, I have my friend Larry P. to thank for the ads, which were culled from his concerningly large VHS collection. Thanks so much, Larry. It wouldn’t be Halloween without a 900 gigabyte zip file from you.

Nothing can throw you back into Halloweens past quite like spooky old television commercials. Below is the first batch for this year, starring everyone from Elvira to a former Olympic hopeful. And Beetlejuice!

Right Guard “Monsters” Commercial! (1985)

After you watch this commercial, watch it again. Really process what you’re seeing, because what you’re seeing is so goddamned odd.

Here, a lovely barfly sings about how she doesn’t want Mr. Wrong, and if I’m following things correctly, “Mr. Wrong” is every guy at the bar who forgot to wear deodorant. Since it’s hard to convey how bad someone smells through visuals alone, all of the non-deodorant guys are represented as literal monsters.

For a 1985 spray-on deodorant commercial, I’m impressed with the creature effects. My favorite has gotta be the one-eyed bald alien, but that mummy is a close second. Between the ghouls and the bar, I’m reminded of the Mos Eisley Cantina. Maybe the singing woman is a younger Ackmena?

As Ackmena tosses Right Guard to the stinky creatures, they all morph into respectable gentlemen, with clean scents and fashionable suits. I hope everyone who was involved with this commercial has ten trophies to show for it. (more…)

Five Random SPOOKY Action Figures!

Continuing with my “Five Random Action Figures” series, I thought I’d make this edition a little more appropriate for the Halloween Countdown. This time, our five random action figures are all TERRIBLE MONSTERS!

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Camouflage Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing, 1990

This toy series found root (heyoooo) in the Swamp Thing animated series. Good lord, what fantastic figures! Most notably, the villains came with what were essentially finger puppets, which they could (loosely) wear over their heads to become “monsters.”

There were several different Swamp Thing figures available, of course, and Kenner did a great job in differentiating them. One Swamp Thing glowed in the dark. Another had his left hand attached by a string, to serve as an organic snare. A third could actually fall apart, into what was supposed to look like a pile of harmless branches, even if it really just looked like a dismembered Swamp Thing.

The guy pictured here is Camouflage Swamp Thing. With a little cold water, all of his green parts will turn brown. (I guess to assist him with sneak attacks from the mud?) It was the same gimmick that those old Matchbox cars had, but it was a hell of a lot cooler to do it to Swamp Thing. (more…)

A Halloween photo from 1992.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

This one was good for 1174.

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No, it’s not mine. I do not know these people.

I bought the photo from someone on eBay of all places. It spoke to me in ways even my own photos rarely do.

It’s from 1992, and it perfectly encapsulates the Halloweens of my childhood.

It reminds me of Halloweens from just a few years before then, when I would’ve been around the same age as these mysterious boys. (I’m guessing they were 10 or 11? For the sake of this piece, let’s assume they were.)

Everything about it is so on-target. Especially the spirited yet incomplete costumes, which were clearly the result of a quick trip to their local pharmacy’s Halloween section.

When I was that age, that’s what Halloween was like for me. My friends and I were still young enough to go trick-or-treating, but too old to act like we really cared about it. We all did the “cheap Jason Voorhees” thing. For some reason, those hockey masks felt more like cool hats than “childish” Halloween costumes. We felt safe in them. We’d found a loophole.

Preteen social stigmas aside, those were some of my favorite Halloweens. We were finally old enough to go out alone! We were finally old enough to venture beyond the same boring five blocks we’d grown up trick-or-treating around! And we were finally old enough to do it all at night. It was like we were masquerading as adults and kids at the same time.

The photo sparks more memories than that. Look at that house! Is that my house? I’m pretty sure I used to live in that house. We had the same wood paneling. The same free wall calendar. The same crappy fan!

Let’s zoom in a little closer… (more…)

NECA’s Mego-style 8-bit Jason Voorhees.

Remember last year’s SDCC exclusive Jason Voorhees figure? You know, the “8-bit” one? Of course you do.

…but unless you’re a serious Friday the 13th fan, here’s something you probably don’t know: That figure started a minor revolution. I touched on this in my last Monster-Mania report, but my friend John has the story in much greater detail. “8-bit Jason” has taken the horror world by storm, and as if from nowhere, seeing Jason Voorhees with a blue mask and purple skin has become nearly as common as seeing him the “right” way.

For years, Jason’s screwy look in the old Nintendo game was something people made fun of. How couldn’t they? Why did they make Jason blue and purple, anyway?

But these days? Forget it. As strange as it sounds, that look has become a beloved part of his lore.

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So of course I was going to be all over this new figure, again from NECA. Everyone went berserk when the news broke a short while back. With nary a peep, NECA and Toys “R” Us teamed for another 8-Bit Jason figure, this time in a larger “Mego” style. (If you’re unfamiliar with Mego’s ancient exploits, the toys they made were essentially blends of “dolls” and “action figures.”)

This new Jason is a TRU exclusive, and after checking multiple stores multiple times on multiple days, I found zip. I’m not sure exactly how many of the figures were produced, but early on, they were obviously being gobbled up by dealers. Who could blame them? For the first week or so, the toys were selling for triple their retail price on eBay.

Eventually, TRU put the figures online. Never before had my fingers typed a credit card number so fast. (It’s sold out as of this writing, but since New Purple Jason doesn’t seem to be as rare as was initially feared, I’d advise against paying eBay rates. Just keep looking!) (more…)