This week I'm hearkening back to those halcyon days when I was just discovered this crazy, mixed-up genre we all know and love so much. Back in the days when there was a mom-and-pop video store on every block (damn yoouu Blockbuster!! oh wait...damn yoouu Netflix!!), and watching a movie on tape in the privacy of your own home was still a big deal, my dad would take me out almost every night to pick something new out. As he invariably pored through the new releases, I would wander over to the horror section.
There was something about the illicitness of it that drew me in, those shocking box covers sitting there on the shelves, plastered with images I instinctively knew I was too young to see. I guess there was a certain element of the pornographic to the thrill of it all (and perhaps it was no coincidence that that was the exact section which lined the other side of the shelf).
And so culled from my childhood memories of countless visits to Video Reflections, Caso II and Video 66 in my beloved Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, here's my look at the ten VHS box covers most indelibly burned into my brain...
10. APRIL FOOL'S DAY
The knife hidden behind the back. The infamous noose-braid. This one always stopped me in my tracks.
9. THE COMPANY OF WOLVES
God, that image of the wolf literally emerging from the mouth of its human host is something I'll never forget. Neil Jordan's twisted fairytale definitely took lycanthropy to its furthest extreme...
8. THE SPECTRE OF EDGAR ALLAN POE
Great Scott, what a brutal cover. Definitely falls under the category of "imagery an 11-year-old never would have imagined if he hadn't seen it on a box cover."
This was definitely one of those which would leave me wondering just what the hell kind of horrors this movie contained. I mean, what on Earth was happening to this poor guy??
6. THE GATES OF HELL
Now more commonly known as City of the Living Dead, this one always creeped the life out of me, with its grim warning label about "shocking scenes".
5. SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS
How could you not love this cover? I got such a kick out of the clever references to Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Well, it seemed clever to me at 12, anyway.
4. DEAD ALIVE
This is the most recent one on the list, but even though I was an adult when it came out, I had to include it. I can honestly say that I might not have rented this then-obscure title if it weren't for this attention-grabbing cover. This one definitely stood out amongst the glut of direct-to-video crap.
3. BLOODSUCKING FREAKS
Where to start? The title. The dinner table. That bloody, cross-eyed guy. This one used to just scream out at me: "You should not be looking at this."
2. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE
With its riveting mix of sex and violence, this cover would have a virtually hypnotic effect on me. Camille Keaton's bare back, covered in sweat and scratches--I couldn't take my eyes off it, even if I didn't understand why at the time.
I can remember this as one of those ridiculously gigantic VHS cases that were briefly popular in the '80s--which made its imagery that much worse. The catch-phrase was enough to turn my bowels to water, but that now-iconic photo of ol' wormface... I literally would have to avert my eyes, that's how terrified this box cover made me.