Vicious Videocassette Boxes, Volume VII!

I’ve been collecting VHS tapes in a pretty hardcore way as of late, spurred by my experiences at those still-running video stores.

So far, it’s been a terrific hobby. It’s as cheap as I need it to be, and it’s an excuse to turn every yard sale and thrift shop into a hunting ground. Hell, for the first time ever, I’ve even embraced Craigslist.

Some have asked how I can own so many tapes and still have room to walk, which always strikes me as an odd question. I’ve collected a hundred different things over the years, and few were more easily organizable than VHS tapes. If you stack ‘em right, even the shittiest Walmart bookcase can hold hundreds of them.

I’m mostly in this for old horror movies, because those tapes (more specifically the boxes) double as wonderful works of art. They’re like three-dimensional posters, with the tactile quality of inedible sandwiches. I can’t get enough of them.

Since my collection has bloomed over the past few months, I thought I’d dust off Dino Drac’s long-dormant Vicious Videocassette Boxes series. Below are five of my favorite recent pickups.

Spookies! (1986)

When I became a more serious collector, Spookies shot to the top of my must-get list. It’s just such a perfect example of a “video store horror movie,” what with its fetching box that promises a horde of monsters and all sorts of bloodcurdling mayhem.

What separates Spookies from other horror movies that came in similarly great boxes is that the film truly lives up to the art. Everything you see on that box is really in the movie. If anything, the art understates things!

Spookies is a hot mess and its slipshod production is now a matter of public record, but through another lens, it’s AMAZING. It’s exactly the sort of movie that I envisioned whenever I browsed the horror rentals as a kid. Just nonstop monsters of all different varieties, killing people in horrible ways under synthy nightmare music. Perfect.

(Big thanks to my buddy Craig, who traded me this tape and most definitely cut me a break.)

Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors! (1986)

This sixty minute doc about Fangoria’s annual horror convention is all over YouTube, and it’s so worth watching. The convention footage is great, but it’s also just a generalized look at the state of horror fandom in the mid ‘80s. Loads of nostalgia, but for late bloomers like me, it’s also a nice learning experience.

This tape was a rare splurge, meaning that I paid the going rate. I just couldn’t wait to own that awesome artwork. I love how they mixed top drawer icons like Freddy and Elvira with two decided lesser-knowns. (If you don’t recognize the bookending monsters, they’re from House and Troll, respectively.)

Ghost Town! (1988)

Ghost Town was a special “get” for me, as I distinctly remember ogling that box way back when in the old neighborhood video store.

It was impossible to ignore. Most of the boxes in that horror section were (literally) dark, but then here came this bright blue-and-white thing, practically glowing in the sea of black and red ink.

As was typically the case, the art wrote a check the movie wouldn’t cash. Ghost Town *did* feature undead cowboys, but to the best of my recollection, none of them were just straight-up skeletons wearing chaps.

(As a child, I imagined Boney the Kid as the star of the film. I hate that he never really existed.)

Demon of Paradise! (1987)

I may have been a late bloomer with horror, but I made exceptions for anything involving sea monsters. (Partially because those movies were just as often branded as sci-fi films, but mostly because I LOVED BIG DANGEROUS FISH.)

I never rented Demon of Paradise as a kid, but the point is that I totally would’ve. The art on that slipcase seems to blend Jaws with Creature from the Black Lagoon, though the actual film is only similar to them in rudimentary ways.

The monster in Demon of Paradise doesn’t quite look like the one on the box, but rather a scaled-down Godzilla rival mixed with Swamp Thing. (Akua was his name, and if you can deal with spoilers, his eventual fate was worth repeated rewinds.)

Screen Scaries! (1989)

This one pushes all of my favorite buttons. For starters, I’m a big sucker for two-tape sets, which almost always feature different artwork than the single-release boxes.

Screen Scaries and Horror Effects were two direct-to-video featurettes made on the cheap in the late ‘80s. I’m guessing they were produced by someone who knew Tom Savini, since he stars in both.

I haven’t watched Horror Effects yet, but Screen Scaries is amazing. Interview segments aside, the big draw is its endless parade of extremely gory horror movie trailers. I’m talking about the seriously twisted old shit that never came close to touching the mainstream.

(Since many of those movies pass my personal threshold, the trailers are about all I can take.)

Both documentaries were sold individually, but I much prefer the art on this two-tape set, which looks like it was collaged by an eighth grader with a pile of Fangoria back issues. Beautiful.

Thanks for reading about old videocassettes. I like my stupid hobby. Everybody should have a place to run to.