And now...for something completely different.
As I sat at my chair wondering what the hell I was gonna do for the next Film Phobia, I started staring at my dusty VHS collection of films from the ancient 80's. I began to reminisce and think of all the experiences watching each and every one for the first time in my young life. If you've read my older reviews and articles then you'll know that I often cite films from this decade as often as I can. Hell...I'll make any excuse to work in a mention of Demons in anything I write. That fucking film just does it for me. There I go again.
But, yeah...the 80's were great. Or, at least...the horror films that came from that era. I spent so much time checking out the new releases at West Coast Video and, later, Hollywood Video. I pretty much watched every single title that they offered. Even dipped into the seedy stuff that some of the stores (the mom and pop stores, mostly) sectioned off into their very own area. Not quite rated X stuff...but, the unrated horror stuff like Silent Night, Deadly Night and the Gorgon Video stuff that made their way into this bastard section of the store. Sometimes, I would rent stuff twice...just because I couldn't afford to actually buy the films back then...especially considering the asking prices to some of those VHS tapes at the time. I mean...Jesus...they wanted big money for stuff like Faces of Death when that stuff first came out. So...I just rented my favorites time and time again. Until the format lost traction due to the rise of technology format upgrades...which allowed me to feverishly hoard as much of my memories as possible.
So, I sat here and instantly thought of including my favorites from some of the more obscure distribution companies from that decade. I kept looking at some of the tapes and some of the same old logos kept popping up. One of those logos happened to be Vestron Video. It just kept appearing on every VHS cassette I picked up.
Vestron Video was a pioneer in the home video market. They understood what the fans wanted and released genre film after genre film. Unfortunately, the company closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 in 1991...and their entire collection of titles were bought out by LIVE Entertainment who went on to re-release a lot of Vestron's film library in the 90's. Until, of course, the advent of the DVD. Today...most of the holdings of Vestron Video is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment. Bet'cha didn't know that, silly mortal.
Anway...here are my 13 Best Vestron Video Horror Films...because I seriously couldn't make up my mind and chop it down into a 10 Best List.
13. The Company of Wolves (1984)
I figured I'd mention this one due to the amazing werewolf transformation scene in the film that also adorns the video cover. It really was ahead of its time and still holds up visually, as Neil Jordan has an eye for capturing exceptional beauty onscreen. To this day...there's really only two werewolf transformation scenes that I remember vividly...this one and the other one is further up on the list. The film never really blew my hair back as a stand alone werewolf feature...but, then...I seriously haven't watched it in a very long time. I do remember it for being a completely original sort of anthology take on the werewolf folklore. It told different tales of Lycan uni-brow folklore...all culminating at the end. I've been meaning to revisit the film lately. Perhaps I'll pop in my cassette over the weekend.
12. Ghoulies (1985)
This film has a place in my heart. I remember purchasing this particular video tape for like $1.50 from a used bargain bin at a Hollywood Video when I still lived in Boston. Ghoulies just reminds me of a time when anything was game in the genre. It's as cheesy and low-rent as it comes...but, goddamn I love it! It's one of those films that I'll pop in the machine just to have it playing in the background of whatever I'm doing.
11. The Lair of the White Worm (1988)
As crazy as anything I have in my collection, this film seriously challenges you on every level possible. Admittedly, I only really bought it for the naked snake-worshipping chicks in the film. But, as I sat there watching The Lair of the White Worm...it actually grew on me (heh...no pun intended). It's a film that does require some suspension of belief...but, if you let it slither inside of you, it's an atmospheric sensual treat for the eyes. Plus it's got some really great FX bits in it. As a matter of fact...I'm watching this one after I'm done writing this piece!
10. The Incredible Melting Man (1977)
I honestly didn't remember having this little treasure in my Vestron collection. When I flipped over the cover to reveal the title I sort of laughed to myself because I recently purchased the Blu-ray from Scream Factory thinking that I owned it somewhere before and I had to watch it again. So, you can imagine my surprise as I piled up all of my Vestron releases to write this list. God, what a goofy fucking movie. There's another film on this list later on that matches the complete abandon of logical FX and embraces the whole "let's just fucking do some sick shit on film" sentiment. I mean...it's not a great film. But, it's one hell of a ride...if you can muster gooey gore. It's a simple science fiction premise that turns into an original slasher film with gorehound sensibilities. What a kickass VHS cover, too!
9. Slaughter High (1986)
I truly wish that Hollywood gave us a film like this every year. It's a fun 80's slasher that really had no business being as good as it is. Slaughter High doesn't necessarily boast any kind of ground-breaking filmmaking or anything. It's got your stereotypes and your predictable set-pieces. But, what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in all-out gory fun. Especially the kills. The film is as B as they come...but, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a great example of the spirit of Vestron Video releases at the time. Good 'ol fashioned bloody horror movies. And I still don't drink PBR's because of this film.
8. Waxwork (1988)
Waxwork is a film that deserved much more love when it initially came out. I feel like Wes Craven watched this film one night and got inspired to make Scream. It's pretty self aware with some of the things going on in the film...and even tho it does suffer from piss-poor acting and and terrible dialogue, it's a snapshot of horror from the 80's. Especially given the fact that it stars the guy from Gremlins. Whenever I think of Zach Galliganafikas...or something, I instantly think of the 80's. But, yeah...I wish this film got way more exposure. It isn't as scary as it is inventive and fun.
7. Blood Diner (1987)
It's hilarious...it's pretty gory...and it's got plenty of nudity. What else could you expect from a film straight out of 1987. I love me some Blood Diner. The film is loaded with some really iconic scenes that really take me back to the decade. Recently, I've seen quite a bit of love for this film on Tumblr. Gifs here and screenshots there. So, I'm glad that people are revisiting this movie and giving some newfound exposure. If ever there were a film that best symbolized Vestron Video at the time...this would be the one.
6. Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)
I totally forgot that Vestron Video re-distributed this little-known classic in the 80's. Why Bloodsucking Freaks isn't more widely embraced by fans of the Deviant than it is...is well beyond my understanding of the known. There's this one scene in the film that is stapled to my subconscious. Yup...the headless blow job scene. For those that haven't seen the film....yes, there is a dwarf blowing himself with a severed head. Sorry for the spoiler. Seriously...see this film!
5. The Monster Squad (1987)
I wanted to live in this movie. There was a whole period of my life where I was going around quoting this film every chance I got. So much so that most of my friends got pretty annoyed and stopped hanging out with me. Fuck those stupidfaces...for they know not what is awesome! The Monster Squad is nards-out AWESOME! I mean...yeah...it has it's issues, technically. But, if ever there was a film that best captures what every young gorehound/monster fan envisioned their world to be like...this is the one. I fucking love this film!
4. Street Trash (1987)
Is there something wrong with me for placing a film like Street Trash higher on a list than The Monster Squad? Probably. But, God...I love this film. It seriously blew me away the very first time I watched it because...I honestly didn't know what to expect. If you're anything like me...then, you remember the piece Fangoria did on the film all those years ago...and you were sold. So, when West Coast Video finally got their copy in...it was an automatic rental. What an amazing film. This is probably the one film on this list where I still break out my Steelbook Blu-ray and watch every other month and marvel at the stuff in it. Street Trash doesn't have a lick of good in it...but, that's why I LOVE it so much. Wish they made stuff like this today.
3. The Last House on the Left (1972)
Yup...Vestron Video re-released this Craven classic in the mid 80's. Imagine being a genre filmmaker and the very first film that you ever made was The Last House on the Left. I mean...holy goddamn sweet Jesus! Just the budgetary constraints and the sheer lack of experience alone makes this film a notable entry in the world of horror. Wes Craven is a proven master of horror...despite his recent shortcomings, of course...and this film debut proves that he is a visionary writer/director...as tLHotL introduces some elements that have become common place in the genre. I mean...you'll surely see these elements perfected in bigger films with huge budgets and big-name directors...and what have you. But, there can only be one pioneer...and The Last House on the Left proves that.
2. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
This film really scared me when I was little. There's such a perfect blend of relatable humor in the film that gets you all cozy and comfy...so, when the elements of horror hit you...you are completely blind-sided. Let's just say that, to this day, whenever I take a shower...I make sure the door and windows are locked tight enough so that no Nazi-Werewolves could ever bust in and slash my throat. I think of these things, man.
1. Re-Animator (1985)
Yup, yup. I mean...how can you not place this film on top of a Vestron Video Top 13 List?? It has it all! Barbara Crampton getting sodomized by a headless doctor. I mean...if that doesn't scream 80's horror...I honestly don't know what does. Plus Jeffrey Combs is amazing in this film. Herbert West is an all-timer. He's up there with the most iconic horror film characters that you can think of. Re-Animator my favorite Stuart Gordon film. Not that there's any serious competition. I mean...From Beyond is all kinds of awesome....but, it's no Re-Animator. My absolute favorite Vestron Video film release of infinity.
Thanks for reading,