Shot-on-video horror films cluttered the Mom and Pop video stores of the 1980s with titles like; Boarding House, Sledge Hammer, Video Violence, Splatter Farm, Demon Queen, Spine, and Dreamaniac. The majority of these films were made due to lack of budget or to render the gnarled thrills of the perverted imagination. The exploitation drive-in success was nearing extinction. Every Tom, Dick, and Jerry put their VHS camcorder to work with family members starring, never-ending boom mic appearances, and blood-spattered breasts in their back yards. Producers with budget constraints realized it was cheaper to finance their own shitty film rather than The straight to video market flourished and sales reached an all time high. That is, until Blockbuster ruined everything in the 90s. The production values are low rent with low-fi sound but does that make it an awful film? Absolutely. Let’s be honest here. However, there ARE redeeming veiling features. Friends gather around on a Friday night – Six-pack of Shiner and pot brownies with a copy of 555 shining in all its pink glory, “Viewing may cause damage to your brain cells.” If you’re going to destroy your brain cells, do it right. Not only do these shot-on-shiteo films make for great party favors, they’re ready for you when you’re going through stressful times such as; financial troubles, break-ups, or the demise of a family member or close friend. I let a couple of titles breathe during my case of the blues which is how I landed on the title for this addition. 2014 was a particularly dark year but I remained entertained. Time to break out the RC Cola and Moon Pies.
With the exception of a few practicing horror lovers, these filmmakers were only interested in making a few quick bucks. It’s all in the marketing. The eye-catching covers stole your attention. There you were, drooling over gruesome images in rectangular boxes. Though glorious, the pictures depicted were often absent in the film which was a huge disappointment. Many of these hard to find treasures were often self distributed but successful home video companies did dabble in a little releasing some of the more popular titles like Blood Cult and The Ripper. United Home Video being one of the more popular labels. Then there were independent labels like Camp Video (Sister label to adult company LA Video) that willfully distributed as many of these shot-on-shiteo films as possible with titles like; Death Row Diner, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Video Violence, and the all-time favorite Slime City. The titles Slime City and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers were top rentals among my neighborhood crew. How we got away with renting these tapes so often, I’ll never know. Another similar small time company that provided big clamshell cases, unlike some of the others, is World Video Pictures. They’re responsible for distributing those ghastly Fat Ethel and Death Nurse films where all the cast and crew are related. I strongly suggest eating a gallon of ice cream when watching Death Nurse. Sledgehammer was also distributed under this label and it’s a favorite among collectors. My personal favorite Camp Video is without a doubt the hilarious Killing Spree. Cavernous lips swallowing humans and regurgitating what looks like semen along with Styrofoam heads for the win!
A good example of not giving a fuck filmmaking would be Raedon Home Video. Video stores will blindly put any dung on their shelves. When I hear that there’s an existing ratchet label that hashed out the worst films ever made, it’s only natural that I go searching for these unbelievably bad flicks but all I have found so far are Roller Blade Warriors (Great cover!) and Feelin’ Screwy, far from SOV horror. Then there’s Hell Spa which in my opinion is a direct rip-off of the AWESOME Death Spa. Raedon Home Video’s films are hard to come by. My quest continues.
The rise and fall of the SOV slasher genre had come and gone within the bat of an eye. Blockbuster Video was nearly impossible to compete with. DVD replaced VHS and the audience had an appetite for crisper images and sound. No one wants to see a un-trackable figure in his grandmother’s basement with a rubber machete. OR DO THEY? It appears that SOV is making a come back. Modern day gore lovers will have no idea what you’re talking about when you discuss one of the biggest conserved secrets in horror. It’s essential for every horror film historian to be fluent in the world of SOV. That’s where people like me come in. Put down your torture porn collection and feast yours eyes upon an even bigger abomination. Over-the-top gore and over-the-top sex can be found around every corner, if you look hard enough. This very brief history lesson in SOV horror is over. Now I intend to revisit and pick apart several of these timeless classics over the next six months. Stay tuned!