Every horror fan of a certain age talks about it. The thrill of the VHS covers in the horror section at the video store. They were so deliciously unlike anything that existed in life that you couldn’t imagine what sorts of evil magic those tapes contained. The first image that drew me to the horror section was actually a “New Release” poster on the wall for the movie Waxwork (1988, Anthony Hickox). I was enchanted by the image of a redheaded little person in a tuxedo standing in front of a huge door filled with screaming heads. The image seemed strange and yet familiar, unnerving and yet comforting, as though I had experienced it in another life.
I realize that I must have started renting horror movies before I knew how to read, because I remember pointing to the poster and asking my mother to read me the title and the movie’s tagline: “Stop on by and give the afterlife a try.” I wanted to, desperately. The idea of a doorway that opened to a world filled with formal wear, screaming heads, weird lighting, and hot pink credits fonts appealed to me then as much as it does now. I insisted on renting it, and miraculously, my mother obliged.
When I watched the film, I was actually disappointed. I’ve now seen it multiple times and I still can’t remember what it’s about. Something about Zach Galligan and Deborah Foreman going to a wax museum in the middle of the night and entering the exhibits. Waxwork proved to be a rite of passage that every young horror nerd must go through: I learned that the image on the cover doesn’t always take place in the film. I didn’t like it, but I would be forced to experience it again and again.
Ironically, even though Waxwork disappointed me because it did not feature a scene in which a redheaded little person opened a gigantic door to a wild and wonderful world of strange, sublimely beautiful faces and weird lighting, that is precisely what Waxwork‘s poster, and the video store, did for me. They welcomed me in to the wild and wonderful world of horror movies, a world in which you could find anything you wanted and needed.
More of Ben’s video store memories HERE!