The Last Store on the Left - Movie Gallery Memories

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2012-10-08 18:36
I couldnít start this chat off any more stereotypical; quite frankly, I wouldnít want to start it off any other way. If you scan a thousand different horror reviews, a hundred of them would include these words. Growing up, I spent every waking moment I could in the horror section in every video store in town. The framework of who we are today was steadied by locally owned video shops whose owners probably donít realize just what impact their selection of tapes had on our lives. The army of films lining their walls brought thousands of hours of joy and happiness to the average Joe and created a lifelong obsession in only a handful. Nostalgia laced horror articles are a lot of fun, and certainly youíll be smelling more than a hint of it in the next Lucifer knows how many words. One thing you have my word on Ė every sentence is true. Itís not about the big box tapes, the lurid cover art, seeing my first R-rated bush in Ghost Story. It is, but a blundering stuck in the past fool I am not. And it sure as hell isnít about rarity, bragging rights or dollar values, thatís for sure. Iím not out to write the most riveting article the net has ever seen. Iím just talking, me to you, one fan to another.

Unlike many, the past isnít the place I want to be. I donít think it was better back then. When I was a kid, I rented five movies for five days for five bucks. I skipped school and rented The People Under the Stairs one Halloween. I lost my marbles when I first saw Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and went full on apeshit when the local mom & pop shop finally got a copy of the first Texas Chainsaw. It was magical, but now Iíve lost track of how many horror movies I own. I must have 1500 on DVD. 200 more on VHS. I recorded so many on my DVD recorder, theyíre trying to make a law against doing so in my native land. And donít get me started on the rare DVD-Rs. At this point, most of us have astronomical collections weíve dropped enough dough on to keep a starving African village nourished for years. Theyíre in widescreen, theyíre in HD, they have 7.1 surround sound. Most importantly, theyíre uncut. You didnít see the little redheaded girlís brains splatter in your face with the 7 Doors to Death VHS, did you?

Itís October, and Iím pumped for Halloween per usual. I donít watch as much horror as I used to Ė chances are if youíve read a review from me in the past year, it was either a screener or something I drew up years ago. With fall in the air, I always come back and catch up on a dozen releases I missed out on during the year. This leads us to the real reason youíre listening and Iím flapping my gums. A person could watch 2000 horror movies in a year span and think they know a lot. They might have even seen more than I. But it takes years of experience, re-watching, re-interpreting, creating and passing trends for me to believe someone actually knows what theyíre talking about. And while I rented my ass off as a kid, and I emptied every paycheque into DVDs as an adult, the real era I most appreciate is from about 2000-2005. I was in my teens/early twenties and I was seriously into collection movies Ė horror movies mostly. I wasnít old enough for a credit card and online buying was new; mom and dad didnít want their credit card numbers given out over the Internet, you know! Being a Canadian living on the prairies, it also isnít exactly easy to come by horror DVDs, and certainly wasnít cheap. When I did end up ordering a bit online in grade 12 Ė on a Future Shop store credit card only Ė every Anchor Bay Eurohorror or Paramount Friday the 13th DVD was $25-$40.

I had to make due, and I did because a home video store chain opened up here. One that may have played a role in killing off the mom & pop stores everyone so cherishes, but kept me going for a few starving years. VHS was on life support with a brown out looming, stock was filling their racks to the brim. Something had to give. I canít remember the day I started obsessively collecting horror films. But I can remember what I bought. Movie Gallery offered a buy 2 get 1 free deal (which theyíd switch up to an astonishing buy 2 get 2 free deal every month!) and I just happened to stop into the store when they were selling off some of their junk. For $20, I walked out of there as happy as I can remember being carrying a bag filled with treasure in the form of Terror in the Swamp, Henry 2: Mask of Sanity, Zombie Nightmare, Oasis of the Zombies, Night Terrors and Prom Night IV. Many hadnít even been thought of being released on region 1 DVD. One or two still havenít. Actually, you know, I think that was the second time I went in there and they were selling off stock that came from a store in Alberta. The first time I got a still-solid line-up in Frailty, Blair Witch 2 and Bikini Party Massacre, which never lived up to the stiffy I thought I was getting into when I bought that piece of garbage.

Truthfully, the next time I went into the store with tape hoarding my full intent, I found rarer/more interesting movies I glossed over from being too amped up the second time and forgetting I came across them. I got The Video Dead, Phantom of the Opera with Robert Englund, The Midnight Hour, Popcorn and The Stuff. I couldnít afford anything from my cheques except the $10-$12 it took for me to get three used tapes (four on those buy 2 get 2, donít forget!) bi-weekly. For anyone who has ever gone through a rough patch, you know just how much you cherish that kind of stuff. I did catch some flack online, ironically from the same people who now will buy VHS tapes of movies out on DVD, for that very reason. Why would I want all those cruddy transfers and cropped movies? Without a credit card, you just had to make due. And I happily did. I always thought VHS had a certain charm, even during a period when everyone else forgot. But, now they remember again. For how long?

It seemed as though every time I went in there, having cleaned out April Fools Day, The Crazies and Vampire Hookers a couple weeks before, that thereíd be exactly three or four tapes, maybe Night of the Bloody Apes, the Italian Madhouse or even modern DTV offerings like Biohazardous or Scream Bloody Murder. Perennial favorites Witchcraft and Doom Asylum came to my attention solely because they were the latest to be moved off rental racks to the used ones. I remember hiding Doom Asylum because I couldnít afford to get it until the next week. This is coming from the someone who Bill from Code Red years ago called the Doom Asylum guy in a PM he randomly sent me saying that heíd acquired the flick and not to tell anyone, also letting me be the first to know it was coming uncut. The only person I told was fellow OTH reviewer Wes R. He told me a lot of insider DVD talk and I knew my secret was safe with him.

By now, I could afford more, Iíd even gotten a credit card and purchased some pretty monumental Deep Discount DVD 20% off sale orders Ė back when it was really a sale. Movie Gallery tapes were still the meat and potatoes of my collection and with that, things got even better when DVD finally phased out the VHS. Iíd been frequenting the old Friday the 13th forum for years at this point and a buddy from the US told me Movie Galleries down there were getting rid of all their tapes. I figured I best go check this out. JackpotÖ but these were all $7.99 each now. No matter, with these gems, I still needed them. These might not mean much to you now, but to me, Iíd never seen them before, were out of print or just plain impossible for me to get on DVD at a decent price in Canada. Iím talking Black Christmas, Return of the Living Dead 2, The Exorcist 2, Offerings, Offspring, Cemetery Man, From Beyond, Paperhouse, Frenchmanís Farm, Quicksilver Highway, Return to Salemís Lot, Sleepless, and dozens more. Weíre talking some fuckiní muscle, man. To my dismay, Children of the Corn 2 and 666 were bought out from under my nose. I always wondered who the hell bought those. As much as I really, really wanted the second COC flick, they left the rest for me.

As this stock dwindled, more came in, this time at the ultra low clearance rate of $2.99 with a permanent buy 2 get 2 free deal looming above in giant pink signs. I bought about 40 VHS tapes that day and can remember a girl standing there, looking over my flicks and commenting how I must be a fan of horror films. Dolly Dearest, Prom Night III, The Other Hell, a pun intended handful of Witchcraft softcore horrors, and a lot of newer Full Moon features came into my possession at this time. By now, DVDs like Zombie Honeymoon became the norm on the $7.99 DVD racks, taking the place of the old ďexpensiveĒ VHS in the buy 2 get 1 free deals and I was buying a lot of those, too. It was really cool that I could get Beyond Re-Animator, Exorcist: The Beginning and other month-old DVDs for an average of $10, much cheaper than the $30 Wal-mart wanted. Alas, tapes had stopped coming in. No one wanted whatever was leftover. Not even me. It was the end before the end.

I wish I had a Usual Suspects style twist to throw at you here, but unfortunately you know where this is going. Like the mom & pop stores it once helped destroy, Movie Gallery was no more. There is a certain romantic feeling I get when I look back on this time when I cared about nothing more than watching horror movies and building a collection. A romantic feeling in the sense that most of those tapes Movie Gallery sold came from the mom & pop stores that so cherished them and fell into my hands and I still hold onto them to this day. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. There were other stores, hell, one of the mom & pop stores here still stands and I got Paranormal Activity 2 on Blu-ray there in the summer. But weíre talking about Movie Gallery now, the store that got me a killer collection and is the reason youíre reading this right now. Not even because of the old VHS tapes, but because the way I got back into horror in my late teens was because I saw the Nightmare on Elm Street DVD set in their glass case. I needed it, and it started quite the ride.

Itís getting late and I suppose this will be where we end our little conversation. To reiterate, I donít think it was better back when I was a kid renting DVDs, a young adult buying used tapes or even today; who knows what tomorrow might bring. The best thing is to take a little bit from everything youíve experienced and chalk up how these trials and tribulations caused you happiness and grief, dismay and hope, but made everything all the more exciting because of it. I was buying horror movies because I love horror movies. I didnít care that Cemetery Man was rare or Oasis of the Zombies was common. I just wanted to see the movies. I never understood why the prized possessions of so many collector showcases on Youtube seem to be the rarest. What would Terror in the Swamp, Henry 2: Mask of Sanity, Zombie Nightmare, Oasis of the Zombies, Night Terrors and Prom Night IV be worth today? Where would I be without them?
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