Back in the ‘80s I made it a goal to watch every single horror movie my local video store stocked. Because of that, I got to see a lot of crap I would not have otherwise seen had I not undertaken such a strange task. I watched garbage like the “Friday the 13th Part II,” “Humanoids From the Deep,” and “Xtro.” I also saw some gems like “Mark of the Devil,” which still retains its nasty quality all these years later, and the perverse “From Beyond.” Because of this experiment, I became pretty good at spotting bad horror movies.
I still think a bad horror movie is better than a lot of other bad genre films (like a bad sci-fi film, for instance), but that’s because I’m a horror fan. That said, I don’t go out of my way anymore to watch a bad horror film simply because it is there. I haven’t taken in many of the Japanese remakes, the teen horror movies, or the remakes of classics that should have never been touched. As you can guess, that doesn’t leave me with a lot of new movies to check out. Instead, I haunt websites and video outlets looking for gems I may have missed the first time around.
Last Halloween I was in my local dollar store picking up some snacks. Usually there is a small rack of dollar DVDs that includes stuff like the Three Stooges cartoons and ‘70s films starring Robert Culp. There was a small horror section this time around, though, as an attempt to cash in on the season. I had to check it out because as any horror fan will tell you, you never know.
Nothing really stood out … at first. Then I saw a double feature DVD that screamed, “Buy me!” “Die, Sister, Die” and “Hatchet For The Honeymoon” together on one DVD. If you love Italian horror, you know why the latter excited me so. It’s a forgotten (and some would say that is for the better) Mario Bava film. Yeah, it’s a little arty and strange, but it definitely has Bava’s touch all over it.
I hadn’t exactly been searching for “Hatchet For The Honeymoon,” but I couldn’t resist it at a dollar (plus seven cents sales tax). Horror fiends know the emotions I was going through as I brought my purchase to the counter. It’s like Ted Bundy finding an unconscious co-ed. Good times. Good times.
Why was I so excited? Because I hadn’t seen this film yet, and I know the horror genre is sometimes found to be … lacking.
Horror films come in waves, which are usually tied to the political mood of the country. The best of the bunch come out of the most politically volatile periods in our history. The more serene times just don’t produce the same feelings of paranoia in filmmakers and writers. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but that’s generally the way it goes with horror films. Horror fans know this, so when they come across some horror gold that they either have forgotten about or haven’t been able to find, it’s one of the best feelings in the world. We are even luckier than most other genre fans because many of those companies that put out these horror DVDs know there is money to be made no matter the title, so they will put out almost any horror film they can get their hands on. Sometimes the transfer is bad, and there are often minimal (if any) extras, but the thrill is in the hunt.
The current horror wave, as all the die-hards know, is coming to another end. It probably has another solid year or two (possibly three depending on the releases) left, but we’re quickly approaching a dry season. We’re probably not going to see another “Haute Tension” or “Hostel” anytime soon. (Some would say that is a good thing, but those who pay attention to horror understand what those films represented to the genre.) We’ll get lots of films that try hard, though, and may get one or two more classics, but the end is nigh. Teen films will still reign supreme for a while, and there will be a sleeper out there that will only hit big on DVD, but the sun is going down, and horror fans will have to settle for what’s in their collections, or take to scrounging in the discount racks like rats going through a dumpster. That’s okay, though. Sometimes that’s the only thing keeping you sane.
The wave has crested folks. Remember, take what you can get and wait for the world to go to s**t again. It’ll happen, and we horror fans will be in Nirvana for a couple years. Guaranteed.