Chris Alexander’s SHOCK TREATMENT: 5 Vintage VHS Tapes From my Vault

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ShockTreatment!

SHOCK editor drags out 5 of his favorite VHS horror movie tapes.

I have loved movies, specifically horror movies, the stranger and more esoteric the better, since I was a little boy and began collecting them on VHS the day we bought a VCR. I’m dating myself. But who cares. I was 11 when that top-loading sumnabitch came home and immediately I began doing whatever I could to earn my keep in order to get out there and start building my own personal film library.

These days, as a writer, editor and noted lover of this stuff, doing what I do, collecting comes easy as things are sent to me, almost every day.

But back then? Baby, it was hard, heavenly work.

And you know what? Out of the hundreds of cassettes I eventually horded, rarely have I ever given any away.

Recent events however have dictated that I must cull the herd and part with some of my stash.

But the 5 titles on the following list? Never. They’ll have to pry them from my cold, dead hands.

Here then are a handful of vintage tapes from my vast library of magnetic, plastic and cardboard cased creepy films, each one of which tells a tale about who I am, who I was and the dreams I still dream.

 

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CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT (Air Video)

One day in my early teens I was in a local K-Mart and, as usual, I went right to their home video section. You never, ever knew what you might find and it was almost certain that they would be blowing out the product of some fly-by-night VHS label that had gone south and had sold their stock off to whatever discount store that would take them. On this fine afternoon, I stumbled upon a dump bin containing only big box VHS and, after sifting excitedly through the rubble, it was a toss up for me. Either BLOOD MOON (the retitling of Paul Naschy’s THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN, aka WEREWOLF SHADOW) or CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT.

CHILDREN won.

I had recently read that one of the films I wanted to see above all others, Harry Kumel’s 1971 masterpiece DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, had been re-titled CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT. I learned of this silly title change via the man who was the spine of my VHS collecting days, Tim Lucas in his Video Watchdog column in GOREZONE magazine. Sure enough a closer look at the cheaply illustrated box revealed that this was indeed DAUGHTERS, though the copy on the back was goofy and referred to Elizabeth Bathory as “Bittori” and Andrea Rau’s Ilona as “Luna”. I paid $10 for this gem. The film blew my mind (read my essay on it here), despite the print and transfer being disasters and recorded on the skeezy SLP mode. For years I swore that lead actress Delphine Seyrig sang vocals over the theme music, sounding much like Marlene Dietrich. Years later after seeing the full cut of the film on DVD and Blu-ray, I discovered that the CHILDREN transfer was culled from the US theatrical print. The distributors had hired jazz singer Lainie Cooke to warble reverb-soaked words over the credits. I was so obsessed I tracked Cooke down and asked her. She didn’t remember doing it! I played her the track. It all came back to her. Anyway, this VHS is a treasure to me for all these reasons. I’ll never part with it.

 

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THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (Media Home Entertainment)

Media Home Entertainment was the successor to Meda Home Entertainment, founded by my friend and partner Charles Band and named after his first wife. The company spat out dozens of amazing horror titles in the ‘80s, packaged beautifully in sturdy boxes that opened from the top and bottom. This 1984 release of Tobe Hooper’s masterpiece is my favorite for nostalgia reasons, because the transfer is famously one of the worst ways to watch it. Though, it was my first. So wildly dark is this transfer that it literally renders the second half of the movie in shadows and obscurity. When Leatherface chases Sally through the woods, you cannot see Goddamn thing. But you can HEAR plenty. And because of this, the movie shattered me. Denied the visual, I was left with the roar of chainsaws and the screams of women and it was grueling. The only way to watch this accidentally horrifying dim-bulb transfer of CHAINSAW is here, in this version I bought when I was 12. I’ll keep it forever.

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MARY, MARY BLOODY MARY (Summit International/Continental Video)

I am addicted to lesbian vampire movies. Always have been since I found out they were a “thing”. I think because vampirism is so sensual and I’m a sensualist and to see women biting and bleeding is aesthetically pleasing to me on screen. There’s also an emotional complexity to many of these movies in that they often have an underpinning of feminist rebellion. They’re a dichotomy. They create entertainment that stimulates the heterosexual male gaze but they very often condemn that gaze, their undead Sapphic monsters turning to each other to escape the tyranny of men. On that note, I’ve always held Juan Lopez Moctezuma’s Mexican/American vampire drama MARY, MAY BLOODY MARY in high regard. It has a lazy plot that just drifts. It has some exciting sexuality (both straight and lesbian) and great music. It also has an eerie sadness at its core. And it’s very rare. Not many people speak on it. I found it in a flea market as a kid with no case, just the tape in a clear box. I held that tape for years. But I always wanted the real box so I could place it properly in my collection. When I discovered eBay in the early part of the decade I ordered this copy for pennies plus shipping. It’s an elegant looking case. And I love it. It will stay with me forever, thank you.

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ALIEN CONTAMINATION (Paragon)

Paragon licensed so many of their library titles to Elvira’s syndicated “Movie Macabre” show in the 1980s and that’s how I saw so many amazing international films like TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD, BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW and this film, Luigi Cozzi/Lewis Coates’ ALIEN CONTAMINATION, the slightly cut US version of CONTAMINATION re-titled to further riff on the movie it cribs from, Ridley Scott’s ALIEN. If you want to fully understand my passion for this film, best you pick up Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray release where my solo fan commentary gushes and gushes and gushes on the back end. Anyway,  a year or two after falling for the movie on Elvira’s program, I found this copy in a mom and pop rental shop in Etobicoke, Ontario and picked it up used for $5. I was in heaven. It’s such a cheap and simple design, like all the Paragon tapes. And it’s all mine!

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THE 7 BROTHERS MEET DRACULA (Trolley Car/Interglobal)

A really weird and cool and oddly packaged (the box is open at the side like a retail blank VHS would be) release of the final Hammer horror movie THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES but in its insanely cut U.S. version (for more on the film go here). The synopsis on the back is gold because it literally spills every key plot point and twist. It’s not a synopsis…it’s a treatment! The box says the company releasing it is Trolley Car, but the tape is stamped with the imprint of Canadian distributor Interglobal Home Video. So I’m not sure what the story is behind the release. But my deal is that I found this gem out of its shrink wrap and beaten up in a vinyl bin at Canadian department store The Bay when I was 11. It was the 4th film I had ever purchased. Well, purchased is a weird word as the cashier just gave it to my mom and I when she could find no record of the store even stocking it! The movie, even in its ludicrously re-edited form, kicked my ass. And this tape is part of my history, my heart. Never will it leave my side.

I have hundreds more vintage tapes in my vault.

Ask nicely and I’ll drag some more out next week…

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Weekend: Sep. 19, 2019, Sep. 22, 2019

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