If you’re like me and grew up on 80’s horror, then maybe you remember a little weekly running event on the USA Network called Saturday Nightmares? Every Saturday night, you could stay up and watch your favorite horror movies with the nudity edited, but usually the gore staying primarily intact. It would usually be a double feature, and in between those features you could sometimes catch a little horror short to pass the time before diving into movie number two.
Thanks to Youtube this morning, I stumbled upon one of those aforementioned horror shorts called The Dummy. I haven’t seen this since my days of convincing my parents to stay up to partake in Saturday Nightmares, and it was definitely a nice trip down memory lane. Now before you watch, just know that this was a student film and it’s from 1982, so the quality is a bit sketchy. The music is great though and it’s got a creepy killer ventriloquist, so you really can’t go wrong there, right? On top of all of that, it’s been confirmed that this short inspired the story of Chucky from the Child’s Play franchise. Keep that in mind when you’re watching!
One of the joys of my youth was running to the local video store in town to check out the ‘Horror’ section and see if anything caught my eye. And an appealing VHS cover would sometimes be used for covering up a foul stench, with that smelly stench being the movie that you were about to watch. Speaking of which, easily one of the most enticing VHS horror covers of all time came to us in 1987 courtesy of The Video Dead:
The first time I saw this, I think my eyes almost popped out of my head. Then I realized that I was looking at the cover for Reform School Girls instead. Nevertheless, the VHS packaging for The Video Dead remains a highlight as far as VHS packaging goes. The question is, was it better than the actual movie? Well – yes and no.
The premise for The Video Dead is both simple and stupid at the same time. I don’t think this movie was made to make anyone use a giant amount of brain cells though, so stupid works in this case. Basically, a TV is delivered to a house in the woods that randomly spouts out a variety of zombies for no apparent reason. And that’s the gist of it. Probably more so classified as a horror/comedy, The Video Dead is the definition of a guilty pleasure. Aside from being viewed on VHS, it had a strong following on the USA Network’s, Up All Night and Saturday Nightmares weekly shows.
As far as whether or not the VHS cover is better than the actual movie, I would begrudgingly have to say yes. The artwork is honestly stellar, especially for an independent film with a budget of $80,000. And had it not been for that artwork, I wouldn’t have even thought of picking it up to rent. Mission accomplished there. Let it be known though, I do have a soft spot for The Video Dead as an actual movie. It’s just that if you mention the name to me, I automatically think of the cover, not of the scene where a zombie bride somehow hides her entire body in a washing machine before strangling a lady. What kind of zombie strangles someone btw?
If you have seen The Video Dead, you might find the zombie dinner table scene very reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s in 1992’s Dead Alive (a.k.a. Braindead). Is Mr. Jackson a closet fan of the movie? Perhaps. If you haven’t seen the movie though, Scream Factory recently released a double-feature Blu-ray version with TerrorVision being the companion film. And the good news is that they kept the original cover art for their release! Which makes me happy and makes writing this post all the more worth it.