02/28/2014 02:33 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Horror in the Void: Classic VHS Horror Makes It To the Ether


Before Blockbuster Video came and went, I pretty much grew up in the horror section of our local video store (then it was called AA Video -- businesses used to name themselves AA so they'd be higher up in the phone book!!!... little trivia for you). I'd skip school, therapy and church to just spend my time in absolute astonishment of the titles and box art alone... Cannibal Holocaust, Midnight Murder Mansion, Revenge of the Teenage Vixens from Venus... These were movies that had been made as part of the international craze to shock and disturb people... I'd go as dramatically far as to say that these movies both saved my life and inspired me to do what I do to this day. But I'm concerned of the future of these films. Most of these films have been aborted and abandoned by their creators, wasting away in an ever growing pool of media and "content". With digital distributors coming and going, media in its current state is trying to figure itself out, and its black sheep stepchild is not even an afterthought. Why should Netflix bog down its capacity with the Nekromantik or Blood Orgy of the She Devils if they don't particularly 'rank'? But there is a glimmer of hope... Full length movies have begun to pop up on everyone's favorite Piracy blog, YOUTUBE (get ready to 'skip ad'!!). And while this article is hardly close to the religious experience of gazing upon boxes and boxes of sex and violence, I hope it at least stands to keep the spirit of the artfully demonic alive in our hearts. Here are some of the finest ways to spend your night -- all you need is a high speed connection, a bag of skittles, and an existential desire to experience horror, madness, and fear. No go out, shoplift and do drugs!

In no particular order!


#1 - The Sentinel 1977:


OK -- while this might be at the higher end of the "forgotten" film heep, its still widely under-viewed by the general public -- and it actually has those pesky Hollywood 'celebrity' types in it. In fact its LITTERED with faces you will recognize. Very simply, its a fantastic blend of haunted house and demonic possession... Christina Raines, an upwardly mobile model, determined to be independent, moves into an amazing Brooklyn Heights apartment that just so happens to have an odd cast of characters inhabiting it including an aged and mildly retarded Burgess Meredith and Barbara Hershey as a fondling lesbian. Oh and John Carradine is a blind creepy priest who stares out his window all day and night 'for some reason'... One of the absolute finest films ever made. Fans of both hauntings, naked old fat women and genetic freaks will not be disappointed. Also -- keep your eye out for pretty much every big name of the day.


#2 - Possession 1981:


A sort of artful and European look into madness and, well I guess possession... the main character, the amazingly beautiful Isabelle Adjani is kind of cheating on her husband, played by a frustrated Sam Neill. But thats really not whats going on here. I think you have to be french or Japanese to know whats REALLY going on here -- But some very unforgettable scenes include a shamefully erotic miscarriage scene that goes on just long enough to be both intense and shocking. I think a lot of people make the mistake to try to watch this without doing much thinking -- I'm pretty sure you need to pay attention... Or at least be so high that you THINK you are paying attention.


#3 - The Mansion of Madness 1973:


This is actually a recent find and rapidly becoming one of my favorites... Less a gonzo torture film and more an homage to Cocteau. A reporter travels to an experimental asylum run by a Mephisto-like Dr. Tarr. Tarr of course seems more a candidate for treatment than a doctor fit to treat the mentally ill, and shows our reporter friend around his torture chamber... There's a sexy niece, elicit behavior and lots of quasi-intellectual and religious references. But the film is artfully done, the acting is a bit cheesy but it works for me, its about madness and does a good job flickering that madness across the screen. Worth a watch.


#4 - The Mask 1961:


I cannot go on enough about how much I love this film. It tears at my nerves when I see this film reviewed as one of the worst of the worst. I admit -- the plot is loose and the acting is mediocre, but once the mask goes on, you are sucked into one of the most psychedelic mind bending visual experiences (in 3d...). Quite simply, Dr. Raiden, a psychotherapist, receives a mysterious mask from a patient who has recently committed suicide. Putting on the mask sends the wearer into a psychotic 'other world'. Fans of surrealism and psychedelia need to watch. Of course there are some cheesy 3d effects but name me one film, honored or cursed, that doesn't have at least a few flaws. The film is a masterpiece, and a pioneer of 'mind-bending' cinema...


#5 - Tourist Trap 1979:


Chuck Connors has never been more terrifying than as a cross dressing psychopathic, telekinetic wax museum owner in the middle of nowhere. Of course a group of sexy young tourists' car breaks down and the seemingly kindly Connors takes them to his amazingly creepy wax museum. Oh -- he also makes wax figures, from living people. And has a tiny little puppet that talks... well it screams.. or sings in a high pitch ominous voice. Also the place is littered with mannequins who also sing before people die terrible deaths. And for all you with short attention spans -- this one generally keeps the terror coming... I admit some of these films do become a bit tedious to watch in the day of kitten videos and footballs to the groin but Tourist Trap keeps your attention from the get-go


#6 - Superstition 1982:


Another of MANY films relegated to late night cheese, this one keeps the blood pumping. Very atmospheric -- Witch gets burned at the stake -- time passes -- witch decides to violently murder everyone in a creepy old house. And there's some fun stuff in there -- BELIEVE me (microwaved head). James Houghton gives the performance of a lifetime.


#7 - Witchboard 1986:


Full frontal Tawny Kitaen (the chick from the Whitesnake videos...) is not the only reason to watch this amazing film. I used to get some real shivers and I am a hardened horror fanatic. Basically its a don't play with ouija boards PSA (and also a "don't invite your weirdo friend who plays with Ouija boards to a party for fear that he might break out said Ouija board and be not only ridiculed by your preppy cohorts, but unwittingly release a demonic force onto the world" movie). Yes -- you get to see Tawny Kitaen naked -- we've gone over that -- and it used to mean something to some people... But I'd say from start to finish, this one really keeps you glued to 'your set' (which is now 52" and mounted to your living rom wall...).


#8 - Night of the Demons 1988:


I had such a crush on the gothy girl who plans the whole 'Lets go to a haunted house on halloween night, get drunk and party' party. Also, they play Bauhaus at the party. Its a ton of fun; the goth girl gets possessed and starts acting all freaky, people start dying in very fun ways, the teens have sex, Linnea Quigley sticks lipstick into her boob... It really is a childhood fantasy. I BELIEVE this was remade for some reason but I've got no time for any of that...


#9 - Faces of Death Part 1 - IN HD:


I have to include this as it was such an obsession of mine as a pre-teen and teen... even then I was able to establish that it wouldn't be possible for 'home video' recordings of death to have multiple camera angles. Me and my friends would make our own pardoies of the Faces of Death series. My favorite part -- of course -- is the dream sequence. I am thrilled that francis B. Gross (thats his REAL name) is now available in HD. Looking back -- the film is pretty artsy and almost respectable by comparison to what you see nowadays on the internet. One note -- when we were kids, at the shootout / hostage scene -- we always thought we heard someone yell -- "NOW! SEND MORE PIZZA!" -- listen for yourself!


#10 - The Video Dead 1987:


OK this is a very dumb movie, and as a late night film it certainly does its job -- but if you stick out the bad acting, bad concept, idiotic situations and overall poor quality, there is a real art to this film. I think I am adding this to the list because it marks that milestone in my life where I actually made it to 3:00 in the morning to watch the end of the broadcast... I actually found that to be the creepiest part of the whole experience. In short, Demonically possessed TV gets wrongfully delivered to some guy - zombies pop out and kill everyone in sight including a small dog. Give it a try...

Now this is by NOOOOO means a comprehensive list -- and for some may be even a bit on them mainstream side -- but these films and many more deserve to make it to their rightful future! Movies like Microwave Massacre, Prime Evil, Hollywood Strangler vs. the Skid Row Slasher, Death Bed (its about a killer bed...), and hundreds of other films are just waiting, like lost teddy bears, to be taken in your arms and cared for... Pirate away!