I’m back with another edition of “hey here are some videos sitting around the house that are tangentially related to Halloween.”
#11: Halloween III: The Season of the Witch (1982)
Watch the trailer!
Halloween III spent most of its life as the franchise’s laughingstock. Slowly but surely, fans have warmed up to it. In truth, it was never a bad movie (don’t confuse “ridiculous” with “bad”), and much of its negative reputation stemmed from its earliest audiences – people who just couldn’t accept a Halloween movie without Michael Myers.
Many of us adopted the same opinion because that’s all we’d ever read, and it took me several viewings to realize that the movie had merit. A LOT of merit, actually.
It’s hard to put its story in a nutshell, but I’ll try: Some crazy novelty kingpin sells thousands of Halloween masks, which are supernaturally rigged to turn their wearers’ heads into big heaping piles of bugs and snakes. I don’t know how anyone could read that and not want to see this film. I haven’t researched, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the story was conceived in the ‘70s, because it fits right in with that decade’s lean on “global damnation” in horror movies.
The film was a failed attempt to turn the Halloween franchise into a series of disconnected films tied only by title, or so the legend goes. Had it been successful, it’s possible that Michael Myers would’ve never returned. In that way, we can be glad it tanked – but we should be thankful that we got such a wonderfully screwy movie in the process. See it!
#12: WCW Halloween Havoc (1992)
I’m a lifelong wrestling fan, but until the late ‘90s, I didn’t catch much from WCW. (I was a WWF kid.)
I’d infrequently see WCW’s Saturday night shows purely by happenstance, and while missing a WWF PPV would’ve ruined my year, I almost never had the impulse to beg my parents to let me order one of WCW’s.
The few times I did always seemed to be in October, for WCW’s yearly Halloween Havoc event. These were predominantly “normal” wrestling events, but on occasion, there would be completely bizarre “spooky” matches that remain infamous to this day. (In the most noteworthy example, a match involved a literal electric chair, and yup, someone got zapped.)
This video is for the 1992 version of the event, which I absolutely ordered back then. Jake “The Snake” Roberts had just migrated to WCW after a killer run as the WWF’s ultimate bad guy, and there was no way I was gonna miss his big moment.
Sadly, Jake’s moment turned out to be… well, not so big. See, Jake and the heroic Sting had a Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal match. A wheel was spun, with the various landing points indicating the type of “special attraction” match the two would face off in. Unfortunately, WCW didn’t rig the wheel to guarantee a match people would want to see.
And that’s how we ended up with a “Coal Miner’s Glove Match.”
In it, a coal miner’s glove – basically a glove with metal taped over it – is placed at the top of a pole inside the ring. The first wrestler to grab it gets to use it as a weapon. That may sound intriguing, but I assure you, it pretty much guarantees a slow and altogether clumsy match. Since Roberts was already past his prime by then, he and Sting needed a miracle to warrant their main event slot. A coal miner’s glove match was definitely not that miracle.
#13: Monkey Shines (1988)
Watch the trailer!
Monkey Shines came out in 1988, and though I was by then old enough to not be immediately terrified by the thought of horror movies, I still hadn’t embraced them. Seeing this box again and again in video stores, I spent years believing that the movie’s monkey really did look like that. Like a loony robot toy.
In truth, it was just a normal monkey – albeit a super smart and psychotically possessive one. I’m still shocked whenever I’m reminded that this was a George Romero production, even if studio interference twice-ruined whatever he had in mind for the ending.
Still, I’m not sure that the result would’ve been much different. Monkey Shines is interesting and at times pretty good, but it still feels like a protracted episode of Tales from the Darkside. That doesn’t matter for people like us, but did anyone really expect this movie to make a killing at the box office?
#14: Gremlins 2 (1990)
Watch the trailer!
What’s this, you ask? Why, it’s my Gremlins 2 video! The one I made back in 1990, by connecting two VCRs together and running a rental copy/blank tape combo, or however the hell you did it.
Taping shit off the television was easy. I’d just pop in a blank video, hit “record” on the VCR, and that was that. Duplicating another video was much tougher. It involved dragging my VCR into the living room, and risking Death By Father in my feeble attempts to connect it to the “family” system.
(Man, the things we take for granted when we get older. You’ve seen shows where people have to choose between cutting the red and blue wires? In my youth, that was me. Ten thousand wires connected to ten thousand devices, and if I messed things up badly enough, my father would have to pull everything out and reconnect them, one by one. This was a guy who considered popcorn outside of his scope of patience, so you could imagine the pressure.)
I only went through the trouble when it was a live-or-die situation, and seeing Gremlins 2 as often as possible definitely was. I’m never sure if I believe myself when I call it my favorite movie ever, but given how often I watched this video, it sure seems likely. (If I was off from school, it wasn’t uncommon for me to run it five times in a single day. There isn’t the tiniest fraction of Gremlins 2 that I haven’t memorized.)
Please note my insistence on using every single sticker that the blank tape came with. Didn’t everybody do that?
PS: Yeah, I guess this one falls outside the “videocassette BOXES” title, but until you read this, I know you didn’t notice.
#15: The Rescue of Pops Ghostly (1987)
Okay, this one. Action Max was a quirky video game system that used regular videocassettes in lieu of cartridges, and though I never owned one, I get the impression that it worked on the same principles as Captain Power toys. (You aimed, you shot, and you hoped the thing actually worked.)
I sincerely have no idea how The Rescue of Pops Ghostly came into my possession, but it’s pretty fitting for Halloween. Using a light gun, you had to zap your way through an absolutely insane haunted house, filled with all manner of ghosts and goblins. Though the ghosts were added later, most of the tape is in full live action, set against quirky/scary music. Because the internet is so often incredible, someone went and uploaded the whole tape to YouTube:
You don’t need an Action Max system to enjoy it. It’s great background noise for the season, so long as you keep the volume at a non-annoying level. The video is so moody and good that I’m surprised it was never bought-and-repurposed. It’s a Drew’s Famous CD in video form.
Think I’ll put a TV near one of our windows and blast this thing into the streets on Halloween night. Everyone will hate us!