Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Childhood Trauma Flashbacks Part II: VHS Cover Art

I've done it once, I've done it twice and I'll do it a million more times ad nauseam.   I will proclaim my love of the VHS format and the magic that was our local Mom & Pop video store.  That little slice of heaven, which stood at 179 Main St, in my hometown of Fitchburg, MA, is now nothing but a block of grass that belongs to Fitchburg State College.  Such is life.  The memories, however, will live forever.

I wanted to talk about something that was quite instrumental in my early love affair with horror.  Roaming the aisles of good ol' Video Paradise, I would wander the horror section, soaking in each and every movie box that came into eyesight.  The artwork was at once fascinating and horrifying to me.  I can distinctly remember  several boxes that scared the crap out of me and had my imagination running overtime.

Of course I already spoke about the poster/VHS box art for the original Alien in my piece about why aliens scare the crap out of me.  Goddamn if that doesn't still give me the friggin willies.  That ominous egg...all cracked and leaking glowing green mist......hovering above that horrible waffle knit surface from hell.  The tag line was what really got to me:  In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream.  I wanted to know what was in the damn egg....but at the same time, I knew that terrible knowledge might scare me to death.

Now, as for a while, the video shop was the only place to look at all this wonderful and horrifying artwork.  Then one of the grocery stores started to rent out videos from the Courtesy Desk.  The way it worked was there was a rack on the end-cap of one of the aisles (I wanna say it was the frozen food aisle....dunno why) and there were these flip cards which showed the front and back of the VHS box....they were mini versions.....and they were on a rotating rack.  I have this very distinct memory of flipping through the various cards and coming across the CBS-FOX release of David Cronenberg's The Fly.  Looking back at it, the cover is actually rather Alien-esque.  Instead of a giant egg emitting green glowing mist, we have a telepod emitting a bright white light (and mist of course).  We see a man's arm and a fly's leg emerging from the machine.  This absolutely drove me nuts.  I wanted to know what the monster looked like.  The back cover wasn't too much help.  All I got was a shot of a naked Jeff Goldblum and a shot of Jeff all kinda....melty lookin'.  I sitting in the back seat of the car on the way home.  It was dark and raining out.  I kept seeing the cover in my head....and the picture of the Incredible Melting Goldblum.  I had this feeling of dread and unease that I just couldn't shake and it stayed with me well past bedtime.

There was another cover that I would frequently stare at not only in the grocery store, but also at the video store.  The HBO Canon Video release of The Return of the Living Dead was a masterpiece of trash punk zombie goodness and I was completely enraptured by it.  I wasn't so much scared by this one as morbidly fascinated.  I had seen Night of the Living Dead and I knew that somehow this was connected to it (maybe a friend told me or something...I'm not sure) but I could only imagine how horrifying punk zombies would be.  To a lesser extent, I was also fascinated by by the Lorimar release of The Return of the Living Dead Part II....which had the great evil face in the cloud above the town.  Again, neither of these covers scared me, per se, but what they represented creeped me out and kept me awake at night, wondering if zombie punks were going to come up my street and devour my family.  

There are hundreds of VHS tapes that haunt my memory.....perhaps more will pop up........but when I think of VHS cover art that really affected me as a kid, these were the three (ROTLDptII not really counting) that immediately come to mind.  I hope you enjoyed our little stroll down Big Box & Clam Shell Lane.  We'll see ya'll next time!

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