Do you remember the early days of home video? In
the late 70's consumer grade videotape
players were first marketed in the US.
To a movie buff they these early days were both a blessing and a
curse. While it was amazing to possess
movies you could watch whenever you wanted, the players were very
bulky, the picture was mediocre, and the prerecorded tapes were
pricey ($50/movie back in the 70's!)
What was worse however, was a dearth of films.
The pickings were pretty slim and I remember
going into my local mom and pop rental store ($50 membership fee,
$5/night) and realizing that I had seen all of the movies that they had
was interested in watching. Some niche
most notably Troma who made so much money in the early videotape market
they were able to buy a building in New York City that now serves as
headquarters, embraced the new technology and started cranking out
meet the demand. Most of these films
were low-budget horror flicks, made on a shoe string budget and very
quickly. While they weren't art, a lot
of these movies had some creative effects and what they lacked in
quality they made up for with a love of the genre.
recaptured the feel of those long gone days with a fun and creative set: The
Basement: The Retro 80's Horror
Collection. For those of you who
rented a video tape of a movie you've never heard of solely because the
blood-splattered scream queen on the back cover looked cute, this
will bring back memories. Consisting of
five no-budget films that were all made in the late 80's, this
collection come with three DVDs (which contain all of the movies) as
well as a
VHS tape of The Basement so fanatics can watch it as it was originally
The title film, The
Basement, is arguable the best in the set.
Four people are looking through an old house when a mysterious
The Sentinel, emerges from the cellar.
He announces that he will show them vision from their future,
that they haven't committed yet, which are destined to damn them to
It's an anthology movie, my favorite horror subgenre, with a
quartet of short but sweet offerings.
The first tale involves a woman who has been cheating on her
and finds a way of ridding herself of not only her unwanted spouse, but
of the people in her life that she doesn't like... it involves the
living in their pool.
Next up is a tale of a disillusioned teacher who hates
Halloween. In this twisted version of A
Christmas Carol, the teacher's dead wife warns him that he'll be
spirits on All Hallow's Eve, but these aren't the harmless spooks of
The penultimate tale tells the story of an overbearing jerk
who is directing a horror film finds out that things are a bit scarier
intended when real zombies invade his shoot.
That's followed by a short about a writer who buys an old spooky
for inspiration. He isn't deterred when
the realtor informs him that multiple murders occurred in the home
if anything he's excited by the houses history.
When his best friend from high school shows up and complains
run down condition of the house, the friend ends up dead.
Or was it just a dream?
With some creative special effects (though the first story
does fail in this regard) and a good amount of gore, this shot-on-video
has some nice moments. The costumes and
makeup for the Halloween story were especially noteworthy.
The entire soundtrack was redubbed in
postproduction for some reason, but that just adds to the
of the movie. Some people ended up
dubbing multiple characters and changed their voices to hide the fact,
leads to some unintentional laughs.
The next movie in the set is Captives, and it's the
weak link in this chain of horror. When a
psycho woman, her crazy stud, and a
mentally challenged obese guy break into the home of a rich family,
out to steal anything. Instead they want
to show the woman of the house a video tape of what her husband has
done in the
past. While a lot of home-invasion
movies are great, I found this one on the dull side.
The poor acting didn't help either.
On the same disc is Cannibal
Campout a film that starts out a bit on the slow side, but ends up
lot of fun once the gore starts to flow.
The Deliverance-like plot is pretty simple.
Four buddies take off to the woods for a
weekend of camping. They get into a
brief altercation with some hillbillies, but think that the worst is
they move on. How wrong they are. They become hunted by the trio of psychos who
want more than revenge... they want dinner.
This movie with its over-the-top violence, below-par acting
and pretty impressive special effects is one of those low-budget films
so bad that it's good. A lot of fun once
you get past the walking parts, make sure you stay tuned for the
why the hillbillies are cannibals. This is a movie that goes way past
boundaries of good taste, and there's nothing wrong with that.
The set is wrapped up with a pair of related movies:
Violence and Video Violence II.
In the first of the duo, a young couple opens
up a video rental store in a small rural town.
The store really takes off and business is booming though the
that get rented are horror flicks. When
someone accidently returns a snuff film instead of the tape they
the couple ends up meeting Howard and Eli, the leaders of the local
makes movies featuring real murders.
It's a violent, comic, and gore-filled classic.
In the sequel Howard and Eli have their own cable show where
they exhibit their own unique style of entertainment for the masses. Full of just as much gore and even more
laughs than the first, it's a worthy successor.
The three DVDs come in single-width keepcase along with a
VHS tape of The Basement. (At least it's
labeled as such... I don't have a VCR hooked up to check it out.) The whole package comes in one of those
large-sized VHS boxes from years ago.
It's quite a nice collection.
The A/V quality is pretty abysmal, as one would expect given
the shot-on-video origins of these films.
They were meant to be seen on a 23" SD TV and viewed by eyes
VHS' 170i resolution. The creators never
imagined that they'd be shown on a 60" or larger monitor capable of
1080p. The audio has some background noise
terribly clear to begin with, but that's just par for the course. Just don't go in with high expectations.
This set has a surprising amount of bonus material.
There are commentary track to all of the
films, 6 ½ -minutes worth of deleted scenes to The Basement,
a news segment on The
Basement, a pair of short films, Vengeance
and Say No to Drugs, and a nearly
15-minute interview with Video Violence Director Gary Cohen. I honestly was expecting a bare-bones
package, but this set has some decent extras.
If you remember the SOV days of the 80's with fondness,
you'll dig this set. It has some great
low-budget horror that gore hounds will doubtlessly enjoy.
The great packaging and ample extras make up
for the videotape quality of the films.
If you're even slightly inclined to check out this set, I'd
urge you to. A strong Recommendation.