Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Video Shop

Having just posted on FB/Twitter the cover for 80s horror flick, 'House', I've found myself going all nostalgic. Why? Simple: getting into horror is, for me, tied up with going to The Video Shop.

A movie that has a very special place in my horror-loving heart...

Remember them? Little dust-covered shelves of huge plastic boxes, all fitted with gloriously lurid and idiotically fabulous covers? Dark corners at the backs of garages, sweet shops, newsagents, the local 7/11? We didn't have a Block Busters. We had the Texaco down the road, run by a bloke in his 30s with a pony tail, who looked like he wanted to sell you something illegal, and his dad, who looked like he was always monumentally surprised to be alive at all.

Hallowed ground...

I remember vividly, going in there with my dad to pay for petrol, and gazing longingly at those shelves. I knew the names of some of the classics, the ones spoken of in hushed tones round the playground ('Have you seen The Exterminator? It's AMAZING! This bloke goes through a MINCER!' 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre is BRILLIANT!') We knew we shouldn't watch them. How could we not? They were 'X-RATED'. And we all knew that X meant BAD. Which to us meant good.

Looking back, and having checked up on a lot of those movies that I dove into back then, most of them don't hold a match to what's on the screen now, certainly not in terms of gore and effects. I'm not talking about the classics, like DOTD, Chainsaw or whatever, but that vast sea of other movies that filled the shelves. But without them, the stuff we have now probably wouldn't exist.

The video format was made for horror. It allowed the film makers to go crazy with their covers. And there's something still so wondrously - dangerously - exciting, about opening up an old video cover. Then there were the trailers you HAD to watch, unless you wanted to risk actually using the fast-forward lever (levers, remember, not buttons!) and chewing up the tape, while at the same time breaking a finger.

I miss going to the video shop. I lament that Block Buster has gone from my local high street. I buy DVDs. I use Netflix (woeful selection though. Is it EVER updated?), Love Film, and all the rest. But nothing compares to the whole event of doing a video night. Because, from start to finish, it was an event.

Renting a video involved a trip out, to begin with. Not a download. You had to get out of the house, and walk or bike to the local shop. There you'd be for at least half an hour finding the most insane cover you could. Video rented (noting the due back date and the possible fine), you'd then have to sort snacks, supplies, the readies necessary to survive The Horror. Anything from crisps, to more crisps, perhaps some pop corn, more crisps, and definitely some Coke. Oh, and when we got a microwave, how our video evenings changed! Chips and burgers in an instant! It was like we were actually living inside a movie about american teenagers with everything right there whenever you wanted! The luxury! Then back home to black out the lounge and sit down to whatever hellish monstrousness was about to fall out of the TV and into your face...

I love DVD. I love being able to download. I love the quality and the convenience and the fact it doesn't mess too much with my day because it's all so instant and easy and ace. But you know what? A little part of me, that odd corner of my psyche that is still a teenager looking for the next best thing in horror, would swap all that quality and convenience for a walk to that Texaco garage all those years ago.

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