This is a movie & nostalgia blog that is an extension of my retro website, Castle Cyberskull!

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Summer of HORROR!

I had some pretty epic summers growing up. When you're a kid, you might go on a sweet-ass family vacation or away to summer camp (if you were lucky enough to go to a cool one and not get murdered by a deranged killer!). Or maybe you just spent the summer having memorable adventures with your friends... 

One such summer and one such adventure, I had with my friend Lindsay. It was the summer we decided to rent all the horror movies (or at least the cool looking ones) at our local 'mom & pop' video store. It was the summer that I've officially dubbed..... THE SUMMER OF HORROR!!! 

The year was 1997... Or was it 1998? It was definitely one of those years when we were still in Jr. High. When summer rolled around, we had to find something to keep us occupied in the small town that we lived in: Calistoga, CA. Population: 4,801

I literally have no idea how this came about-- but basically, we decided to start renting as many horror films as possible from Peter's Video. Let it be noted that I was no stranger to horror films at that point. I grew up on the genre thanks to my dad, so I was already a Jedi Horror Master in training. However, Lindsay was pretty much a newbie to the genre, and I think telling her about all the crazy horror films my dad let me watch, might have sparked an interest. Again - we'll never know for sure, as both of our memories are foggy as to how it came about.

photo credit: Lost Video Archive

But what does matter is that it happened, and it was Epic! I remember we'd usually do it in the afternoon, and go back to her house and watch them in her bedroom-- which was completely blacked out by all the tinfoil covering her window. I thought it would be fun to check in with Lindsay to see what she remembered about our "Summer of Horror".

Me: Had you seen a lot of horror films prior to that summer we rented a bunch from the video store?
Lindsay: Nope. You were my influence for that genre. I may have watched a few, but nothing like the collection we tackled that summer.

Me: How would you describe that whole experience?
Lindsay: It was a summer challenge. See how many movies we could get through. 

Me: Do you remember what prompted us to do it?
Lindsay: It was summer and we had all of the free time in the world. We lived right around the corner from each other, so that made things easier. Neither of us could drive, but Peter's video was walking distance too! Cheers to small town life.

Me: What was your favorite film out of everything we watched? 
Lindsay: The Exorcist, obviously! I remember being really scared by Dead Pit too.

Me: What was your least favorite? 
Lindsay: I can't remember a specific title that I hated. I wasn't a fan of the cheesy ones.... Like Dead Alive or Attack of the Killer Tomatoes 

Me: Do you remember everything we rented? 
Lindsay: I don't think that's possible! I do know we went movie by movie on the shelf and didn't skip any! How did we afford this? I'm thinking I remember dollar horror movie rental day?

Me: Do you still watch horror films today?
Lindsay: Occasionally, but only if it's highly rated. Even then I critique it beyond belief and compare it to the classics.

Me: Any additional comments?
Lindsay: I think we de-sensitized ourselves with the early exposure to all of the guts and gore! I don't find horror movies scary anymore. Lol

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Unfortunately since this was 19 years ago, it's impossible to remember everything that we rented. Lindsay even remembered some that I didn't! Like CARRIE, HELLRAISER, THE HOWLING & POLTERGEIST. We both agree some of the HALLOWEEN films, and I'm sure FRIDAY THE 13TH & NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films, however it remains unknown which ones exactly. Also possibly THE OMEN and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR.

But here's some of the movies that we both definitely remember (with my notes/memories included):

DEAD ALIVE  - And what a time to be alive, to be 13 and discover THIS at your local video store!! It was a game-changer for sure. I mean, my little teenage brain was just blown away by this movie. I remember laughing hysterically at the scene where the mom gets bit in the ankle by the rat-monkey at the zoo. Also, I can never look at pudding the same way again. 

THE DEAD PIT - Our video store didn't even have a proper cover for this, it was just a blank cardboard video box with "The Dead Pit" written on it with a sharpie marker. So naturally, that made it a billion times more intriguing! I would say the payoff was pretty damn good too. It was genuinely creepy and one that has always stayed with me.

THE EXORCIST - When we got into Jr High, kids started "discovering" The Exorcist and spreading rumors about how scary it was and that people were actually sleeping with their parents afterwards. So, I ended up watching this with my mom, who had seen it when it first came out- so that was a fun experience to share with her. And yeah, it scared the shit out of me too and I think I even slept on the floor in her bedroom that night! LOL. Lindsay had not seen it yet, and I told her about it and she wanted to see it. So we rented it and her Dad watched it with us because he had also seen it when it first came out. Anyway; after we watched it, Lindsay became OBSESSED! She read the book, she went as Regan for Halloween one year and she even perfected Regan's demonic voice!! Which came in handy years later, when she would go on to star in my first motion picture werewolf movie, "Bloody Moon". But that's another story for a different time ;)

DAY OF THE DEAD - So this wasn't a first time watch for me when we rented it, but I hadn't seen it since I was around 3ish/4 years old. My dad let me watch some of it with him, and all I remembered was him explaining to me that "Bub" was a good guy. This was definitely one I was always pushing my friends to watch, but it was too "scary" for them. Thankfully Lindsay was up for the challenge. 

DAWN OF THE DEAD - Another one that I had previously watched with my family when I was like 7 or 8? It was on Halloween and the year that I dressed up as Cat Woman. My mom, stepdad, grandmother, her boyfriend Andy & my Uncle Joe came over to my dads house and we all squeezed on the couch and watched this movie (the original of course). But I don't remember being too scared of it, it was kinda the norm for me at that point. haha. PS - here's an ACTUAL photo from that night!

THE RE-ANIMATOR - This is yet another one that I had previously watched parts with my dad when I was young. I definitely remember telling Lindsay about it. Specifically, the scene with a naked chick (Barbara Crampton) strapped to the table and David Gale's zombie head trying to get all up in those lady parts. I was like "DUDE you have to see this movie!", but that was the only scene I remembered from it. So re-watching it was pretty sweet. 

PET SEMATARY - This was a first time watch and I remember just being in awe of how scary and awesome it was! I remember specifically being terrified of that creepy sister with the twisted back. It really is a perfect film all around. Definitely in my top 5 favorite horror movies of all time!!! Also - sometimes when I get really drunk and want to watch a movie, this is my go-to film.

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 - I think our video store only had part 3 of this series, but nonetheless it became an instant favorite of mine. I wanted to be the Julie zombie, she was so fucking cool!!

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES - I definitely remember us renting this, but I literally retained no information about it. If my life depended on it, I wouldn't be able to tell you what this was about (besides tomatoes rolling around) or what I thought of it. haha.

THE EVIL DEAD -  Another classic unlocked! This became a regular at slumber parties as I got deeper into my teenage years. I always remember having a good laugh with friends over scenes like the tree-rape. But yes. Evil Dead. Classic. D'UH! and I want to almost say we *possibly* rented ARMY OF DARKNESS as well?  

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD '90 - I definitely remember always being intrigued by the cover, but I don't think I liked it upon first viewing. It has however, grown on me over the years. But I DO remember traumatizing my best friend Erica with this film. She's legit afraid of zombies and I'm pretty sure this is the film that started it all. (sorry, Erica!)

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS - Ok, this one is going to be lengthy (and extra nerdy!). This was the most influential movie for me out of the entire bunch! That Angela demon face taunted the fuck out me every time I went to the video store and creeped the horror section. When Lindsay & I finally rented this, I had no idea it would change my life forever (literally). It not only legit scared the SHIT out of me, but it quickly became my favorite horror film of all time, to the point where I rented it constantly and forced all my friends to watch it at sleepovers. Years later I would go on to make the first extensive fan site dedicated to the movie, called Night of the Demons Central, which was hosted on Geocities for many years until they closed. Through that website, I became friends with the screenwriter, Joe Augustyn and director Kevin Tenney. Then later through Facebook, I became friends with one of the actors-- Philip Tanzini, who plays "Max" in the movie... and also through Facebook met Steve Johnson, who did the makeup fx and who I've dated for 6+ years now. LOL. I swear none of this was planned! It was all just predestined because I sent those Night of the Demons "love vibes" out into the universe when I was 13, yo.

Attending the dvd cast commentary for the Scream Factory bluray.

Swimming with Linnea Quigley in Arizona

Funny the direction your life goes in all because you rented a horror movie from the video store.........  

*  *  *
In conclusion...

Looking back on Lindsay & I's Summer of Horror, I can only describe it as "definitive". I was just at the right age to be discovering some of those films, and although I had grown up watching horror films with my parents, I discovered some films that just elevated my love for the genre. It was just a magical time for me, not to mention the whole experience of physically walking into a video store and renting VHS tapes!! 

Anyone else miss those days?! 
That was a rhetorical question. Of course you do! Now go watch some horror movies....


  1. I miss my horror rental days so very much. At least we had the experience.

  2. This was such a great read, loved it! Looking forward to future posts.