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31 Days of Horror V

31 Days of Horror V

Years ago, on a rainy October night in upstate New York, an eerie haze dulling the light from the streetlamps, a group of five teenaged boys entered their beloved local video store and headed straight for the horror section. Far from a mere aisle, the horror section at this particular store was an entire room—the outer wall of which resembled a rotting porch, with an evil-looking skeleton in a creaky rocking chair greeting all comers. Inside, each wall was filled floor to ceiling with hundreds of tapes, many sporting gloriously oversized boxes, the most alluring of which were faced out to display their garish contents to greatest effect—the demented oldsters adorning Rabid Grannies, the irresistible lure of Suzanne Somers’ cleavage on Ants, the terrifying possibilities of Headless Eyes. The boys scattered and began to search, shouting to each other when something particularly appealing was stumbled upon: “It’s Not Human, and It’s Got an Axe!” “This one’s about killer elevators!” “Nudity on the cover!” In the days before cult film websites, the decision to rent one obscure horror flick over another was informed by box covers alone: the allure of a promising title, a bit of irresistible art, or an extravagant and enticing tagline.

Sometimes, the film would turn out to be a genuine horror classic, worthy of multiple rentals as the years went on. But even if the choice turned out to be a stinker – sometimes so bad as to prompt a second walk to Video King to rent something better – no one was ever truly disappointed. For the fun lay in the hunt—reading the taglines to each other, drooling over the cover art, suggesting potential rentals just for the sheer thrill of pronouncing the lurid titles aloud.

In the ensuing years, as such beloved video stores sold off their stock and eventually closed their doors for good, this devotion to obscure horror has engendered a collection of hundreds of horror films, all of them on VHS, most of which were purchased for a fraction of their original cost and with absolutely no familiarity with the cast or crew. For our fifth annual month of horror, we have opted to use this collection as the basis of this year’s slate of reviews.

More significantly, we have attempted to emulate the wonderful experience of browsing for unknown horror, albeit without the unparalleled glory of actually going to a video store. We devised an interactive database of horror films for our writers to sift though—a database of several hundred, mostly unknown and unheralded titles containing information available only on the boxes of the original VHS tapes, along with scans of both the front and back covers. The selections vary greatly in their countries of origin, run times, and ratings, but all are classifiably horror, and not one was made in the past decade. We asked our writers to browse the database as they would the shelves of a video store, refraining from employing any outside research, basing their selections on only what is on the sleeve. The end result is an attempt to reprise the now outmoded practice of browsing—to select without the burden of information, to watch with little knowledge of what you’re going to see, and to ensure the potential for discovery. Over the course of the month you’ll be able to share in the results of our experiment.

31 Days of Horror V begins September 30th at Midnight.

Introduction by Thomas Scalzo

Reviews

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