What, you thought I’d let a whole Halloween Countdown slip by without a new edition of Vicious Videocassette Boxes? NOPE.
Down below: Another five horror videos from my personal collection, which I’ll admit are mostly used for decorative purposes these days. So what? They’re cheaper than paintings, and it’s more fun to decorate shelves than walls.
All five should help you remember a time when trips to video stores felt like trips to theme parks, filled with things you couldn’t wait to ride… and things you would’ve ridden if you weren’t such a fraidy cat.
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
This one performed well enough at the box office, but I’ll never understand how it hasn’t garnered a bigger following in the years since.
If the film came out today with not a single thing changed, it’d be a HUGE deal. The web has allied millions of horror fans who were previously doomed as strangers, and I have little doubt that a movie this beautifully bizarre would spend a solid month as a Twitter talking point.
If you’ve never seen the movie but were a fan of the TV series, the film was — tonally speaking — much different from the show. Actually, it felt much more in league with Tales from the Crypt. (Less cerebral, but loud, gory and in-your-face.)
Presented as an anthology, it’s really four short movies, featuring everything from killer cats to brutal gargoyles. Loaded with cult favorite actors (name another movie with William Hickey, Buster Poindexter and Blondie), the film’s highs spiked way harder than its lows, and I just can’t recommend it enough. If you’re looking for something to round out your Halloween movie marathon, please consider this one!
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)
As confessed in a recent edition of Classic Creepy Commercials, I’ve never seen Prom Night II. The result of that admission was many admonishments from many friends. Boy, this one has a following!
Just this week, my friend Chad of Horror Movie BBQ mailed off a Halloween care package. Seeking to right my wrongs, he tossed in the original Prom Night II videocassette. Yes!
I still haven’t seen the movie as of this writing, but I absolutely remember spotting this tape at video stores. How could I not? It’s perfectly emblematic of why the horror sections in old video stores used to fascinate me so much. The box art is simultaneously spooky, sexy, confusing and invigorating. I can just picture the me-of-1987 standing there, trying to piece together the plot from that one piece of art.
Image searches suggest that Prom Night II got pretty graphic, but believe me, whatever the me-of-1987 imagined was so much worse!
Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
I can’t in good conscience recommend or really even celebrate Kingdom of the Spiders, since the amount of real life tarantula deaths visible throughout the film shouldn’t be ignored. (The spiders weren’t even killed to achieve a certain shot, but rather because it was just easier not to worry about collateral damage while filming.)
At the same time, I absolutely loved this movie as a kid. Actually, it was one of the first straight-up horror movies that I ever rented, thanks to it being misplaced within our old rental haunt’s sci-fi section. (It was more of a Star Wars guy, and I distinctly recall renting this because it was right beside some ancient “Making of Star Wars” video. Yes, I rented that one, too.)
Starring William Shatner, Kingdom of the Spiders is about a town becoming overrun (absolutely overrun) by hordes of killer tarantulas. Since the budget didn’t allow for more than literally surrounding actors with live tarantulas, the film was way, way creepier than Arachnophobia or Eight Legged Freaks.
It even comes with the standard ‘70s disaster movie ending, where nothing is resolved and pretty much every remaining character is fucked. I sooo wanna tell you to watch this film. If only they’d treated those tarantulas better. 🙁
Revenge of the Creature! (1955)
The critically-panned sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon gets a pass from me, as everything tied to Gill-man does.
Though the movie is decades older, this cassette is from 1993. It was part of a fairly famous collection of Universal Monsters videos, where every film came in a similarly-styled box. Even if you never owned any from the set, you might remember this old trailer, which appeared on tons of unrelated videos from Universal.
Revenge of the Creature has serious camp value, but it’d be a stretch to call it “exciting.” Really, I love films like this purely as background noise. They’re quiet and “faded” enough to be undistracting, yet just having them on when I’m doing Joe Normal things makes my nights feel so much more… thematic. Basically, they spice the ambiance in my office much in the same way that scented candles do. Nothing’s really different, but everything sort of is.
Three Men and a Baby! (1987)
No, this isn’t the “comedy option.” As mentioned on a recent episode of The Purple Stuff Podcast, I have a very good reason for including Three Men and a Baby: It’s where I saw my first “real” ghost!
Okay, so the cat’s been out of the bag for decades. That little ghost boy seen in the film was actually just a cardboard standee of Ted Danson. Thing is, I was paying attention when the news first broke, and since those ghost rumors contributed to making Three Men and a Baby an ENORMOUS success on video, the studio held its tongue for a while. Meaning? When I saw that scene, I absolutely believed that I’d just gotten proof of legit ghosts.
To this day, the scene still creeps me out. Intellectually, I get that all I’m seeing is a cardboard version of the guy from Cheers, but somewhere within me still resides that prudish elementary school kid who spent a month sleeping with every light on, all because of goddamned Three Men and a Baby. The weight of certain scares can create something truly Pavlovian, I guess.
Do you like long stories about old videocassettes? Read the rest of this series!