The Video Store Days #4: Sequels First!

Many times throughout our lives we have not started a series with the first film, but with what was the most recent entry at the time. With many series, especially horror, you can jump in at any point and be safe in the knowledge that you don’t really need to be caught up to understand and enjoy what is going on. This edition of The Video Store Days, I talk about ten franchises where I did not start from the beginning.

When I was getting into horror, the ALIEN films never really appealed to me. I love monster movies but these seemed to be slower paced films and no child wants to sit through something they would think is boring. I then found out that ALIENS was directed by James Cameron and I decided to take the plunge. I love it. The film is incredibly violent and that was something that I loved. I did think that the film was way too long with a run time of 2 hours and 17 minutes. This really didn't matter in the long run as the film is exciting from beginning to end.

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Out of all of the horror franchises, there were two franchises that my parents were a bit skittish on me watching: THE EXORCIST and CHILD'S PLAY. I understood THE EXORCIST. The film had scared my mother really badly (back when films could actually be that scary) and she didn't even want the film in the house, let alone let anyone watch it. CHILD'S PLAY was a bit different. I was the same age as the kid in the film, and it took place in Chicago, a place my family frequented, so she didn't want me to identify with the kid and then have horrible nightmares. What she didn't know is that I had seen the second film at a friend's house and it didn't bother me. In fact, I really liked it. I watched it a few times without issue and everything was right with the world. I do think that CHILD'S PLAY 2 is the best film in the series and I will fight anyone over that.

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DAWN OF THE DEAD was considered an "extreme" film from where I am from. It was the type of film that you had to be 18 to rent, meaning they wouldn't rent it to a kid. I could rent films that were far more extreme but not DAWN OF THE DEAD. I honestly didn't even know it was a sequel to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD so when I convinced my mother to rent it for me, I thought that it was just a single film. Like ALIENS, DAWN OF THE DEAD has a long run time but it didn't bother me. I liked the characters, the setting, and the gore. The gore didn't bother, probably due to the fact that it looks kind of fake. I would eventually watch the other films in the series but DAWN has always been my favorite.

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I couldn’t find the first EVIL DEAD film. That’s the real reason why I started with part 2 instead of at the beginning. In fact, the first film was so hard to find that I didn’t see it until about three years after ARMY OF DARKNESS hit theaters. I have no idea why it was so hard to find but it took going to multiple video stores throughout Illinois, putting hundreds of miles on my old car, bugging the video store owners that I knew to order the movie for me. That’s what ended up happening. I was talking to the owner of Lion Video and he said that he could put in an order for me. I paid him upfront and within a week or two, I had the film that I had been looking for what seems like forever. So what did I think about EVIL DEAD 2? I fucking love EVIL DEAD 2. In fact, it is my favorite horror film of all time. EVIL DEAD 2 is so good that I have made my wife watch it on numerous occasions. She likes the film but has grown tired with EVIL DEAD 2. I have not. It is a film that gets better with age and I will never grow tired of it.

FREDDY'S DEAD is a cartoon. I know that today and I knew that back then. I never really saw this as a horror film. Sure, it is one of many sequels to a horror film, but this is no horror film. The reason that I saw FREDDY'S DEAD first is simple: We had a “black box”. A “black box” was a cable box that got all of the channels that were available in your area including pay-per-view channels. When I started my journey into horror films was right around the time when we got our “black box” AND right around the time when FREDDY'S DEAD hit pay-per-view. The first time I saw the film was a Monday. My father was working late and my mother had her bowling league game to attend so it was just my brother and I. He was off doing whatever and I found that FREDDY'S DEAD was going to be on pay-per-view. I came back at the time it was on and watched it before my parents came home. Man, was that a weird film. I remember thinking “Is this how all the other Nightmare films are like?” I hoped not as this was not a horror film. I liked the film, but I was confused. I had never seen a film in a long running series by so completely different from the others in the series. I liked that it was trying to be something different, and I thought the film was funny, but it wasn’t a horror film. I saw the rest of the series not too long after that and FREDDY'S DEAD became less and less to me with every NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET film I saw. I still think that the film is actually entertaining, but I don’t watch it as a NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET film. I watch it more like its a fan film.

In the weeks leading up to the release of JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY, my friends and I wanted to catch up on our FRIDAY THE 13TH knowledge (which meant watching the previous eight films for the first time). We went to our local video stores to find that all the FRIDAY THE 13TH films had been checked out AND that they were all on hold lists as well so that any time one of them was returned the next person on the list was notified that whatever film they had asked to be held would indeed be held for them. We went around to probably seven to ten video stores looking for these films. Then, when all hope was almost lost, we were able to snag the sixth FRIDAY THE 13TH film. We figured that most of these films were pretty much the same anyway, so who cares if we are watching the sixth before the first. We already knew enough about the series so we took a gamble. We loved the film. It was funny and scary and really, really fun. We had heard that the films were scary, but this one wasn’t so much. Sure, there are a few moments that would make a pre-teen jump, but nothing that would make us shit our pants like we had been told. (Playgrounds were notorious for grandstanding) Since we had gotten our first taste of Jason so late in his franchise, we were privy to Jason in his realist form. We had skipped over baghead Jason, indifferent Jason, Jason who could run, and Roy. We watched Jason rise from his grave and kill people who really didn't deserve it. That’s all we wanted.

I don’t know why I was so late to the HALLOWEEN game. By the time I got around to getting to know Michael Myers, I had already seen all of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and CHILD'S PLAY films. It wasn’t until HALLOWEEN 6 that I finally said “ok”. I sat down to watch this sixth entry into the very confused HALLOWEEN series and I was kind of confused myself. All I had heard when this film was released was that it was a horrible film and brought shame to the series. As I watched the film I would see what they were talking about, but I hadn’t seen any of the other films in the series so I had nothing to base these opinions on. This was my first exposure to good old Mikey and I actually liked the film. It has its problems for sure, but the film was never boring and had some great scenes, most on them with Donald Pleasance. Myers was the same killer that I had come to believe he was and the film had the right feeling for the season. Even after watching the other films in the series, I can say that I still like this film. It is very weird, but I like that it took chances instead of rehashing the same old tired cliches. The cliches were there too, but the film felt like it was doing something that no other slasher film had done before. You have to respect that no matter who you.

Like DAWN OF THE DEAD before it, HELLRAISER was considered an “extreme” film. Had the people who made these decisions ever watched the first film, they would have known that the film was that extreme. Sure, it covered topics we might find risque, but I never understood why it was considered an “extreme” film. Of course, this meant that I could not rent the film, but that didn’t stop me from renting part 3 when it hit VHS. The film was cut a bit for an R-rating, but Pinhead was still pulling the skin off of helpless individuals so there was that. This being my first HELLRAISER film, it seemed to hit all the right buttons. There were ample amounts of gore and nudity and Pinhead was just as badass as I had read. The film was actually fun which is something that I am not sure that Clive Barker wanted from a HELLRAISER film. The novella was about the forbidden and about how pleasure and pain are two sides of the same coin. This HELLRAISER film had Pinhead creating Cenobites and walking about a downtown cityscape. I didn’t have a problem with as I liked the new Cenobites, but I felt that this was something that was too big. Like the series should be smaller stories. Still, HELLRAISER III got me into seeing the first two films and helped me fall in love with the series. At least the first four films.

The teaser trailer. The teaser trailer is what got me to watch this third entry in the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE series. The calm, serene water with a light fog floating above the very still water. A man with a mullet stands quietly by the water, seeming to enjoy the sounds of nature. A chainsaw rises from the water being careful not to disturb the peaceful water too much. The chainsaw was being lifted into the air by a hand that is wearing jewelry that makes it look like it is coming from the lady in the water from King Arthur. The chainsaw is then thrown through the air only to be caught in the air and struck by lightning. The chainsaw then turns itself on and the man turns towards us to reveal that it was Leatherface all along. The camera zooms in and freezes on his face and an announcer announces the title to the new TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE film. This is one of the best teasers out there and its for a decent film. The film is a direct sequel to the first one which is something that this series can’t enough of doing. I think that this is the closest we have gotten to a real sequel in the same vein as the first one.  There is a lot of good to be found here, but it is marred by the not so good.

After discovering that Trimark was a company that made films that I would like, I came upon a copy of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 while perusing the video store. I thought that it looked like it could be a good time what with the star of the film being decked out with piercings and skimpy clothing. Once I got the film home, I found myself horrified. The film was much more graphic than anything I had seen up to this point. Now, I had seen DAWN OF THE DEAD, HELLRAISER III, JASON GOES TO HELL, and plenty of other horror films by this time, but those were fun. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 is nasty, dark, and mean-spirited. This was a shock to me and I felt awful after watching it. In fact, I did not watch this film again until Lionsgate released the film on blu-ray through their Vestron Video Collector’s Series line of blu-rays and I am able to appreciate the film so much more.  So check the film out if you haven’t. It isn’t like the first film, but it is still a pretty good flick with really impressive gore.

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