My Personal History of Horror From VHS to Blu-Ray & Back Again

Monster Mary

Why am I such a Horror Geek? That’s a really good question and one I can’t answer easily. Honestly, I think I would have to put myself through psychoanalysis to figure out the answer. The Horror genre in general definitely has some very dedicated fans!

I can however tell my own personal tale of Horror. When I was very young, I had a small black and white TV in my room. I was the only one of my friends, who had this luxury. I used to scour through the TV guide section of the Sunday newspaper and circle any movies or TV shows that I wanted to watch the following week. This is where my love of Hammer Horror and the classic Universal films developed. I can clearly remember watching Frankenstein all those years ago on that little TV in my room. Every weekend on Channel 13, there were several movies for me to watch…  Creature From the Black Lagoon, Dracula, and The Mummy just to name a few.

Lucky for me my Dad also loved going to the movies and usually took me to the dollar theatre downtown or the theatre on the nearby Military Base. He loved a good scary movie, so I probably saw a lot of movies that I was way too young to watch! The one I remember vividly was The Exorcist. It scared the crap out of me, but I loved every minute of it.

When I got a little older my friends and I would watch the 70s and 80s slashers on late night TV, usually during a sleep over on Saturday nights. These always involved us screaming our heads off and sleepless nights.John Carpenter’s Halloween and Friday the 13th were some of my favourites. Then along came Cable TV with Showtime and HBO. My weekends were sometimes planned around what movie was playing late nights on Showtime. I am pretty sure I was introduced to the classics like Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, Dawn of the Dead, and The Shining by Showtime on cable TV. Of course all that has changed for my son’s generation. He can watch whatever he wants at any time he wants. No more waiting until midnight for the late show. He can just pop in a DVD or switch on Netflix.

About the same time as Cable started the local VHS Movie Rental place opened up. The Horror section of the rental store was right next to the Action section, so we often rented a Horror and an Action movie for the weekend. Suddenly picking a movie wasn’t so much about the story line or subject matter, but more about picking a VHS title that had a great cover. I would always read the back of the case and scrutinize the small pictures (if there were any). I think this is where I learned to appreciate a good cheesy movie. I also remember renting some really weird stuff too…I think Faces of Death and Cannibal Holocaust almost turned me off Horror forever!  But then I discovered my personal favourites was drawn back in.

Next up, came the DVDs….I had a few VHS I had collected, but I really didn’t start to buy movies until DVDs came along. I could normally buy a used copy of a movie pretty cheap after it was too old for the New Release shelf. In fact most of the time, Horror wasn’t even all that popular and I was able to buy loads of DVDs really cheap. This is when my Horror collection really started to grow and take over my family room. I have over 1000 Horror DVD titles now, but I bought most of them a long time ago when they were still relatively inexpensive. Now all those rental places are long gone and most people have no where to rent a movie anymore. It is really sad actually that the LVS has gone the way of the dinosaur.

Now everyone seems to watch movies on the Internet…You can use services like Netflix, HBO Go, VOD, or you can even find a lot of great classic films on You Tube. I still prefer buying the DVD or VHS though. I love to look at the artwork and watch all the special features that come along with a DVD. I think I need a bigger house soon for my collection!

A few years ago, I found a really fun little video store in the next city over from mine. A privately owned Video Store, The Vault, that rents and sells exclusively Horror films. When I went into The Vault for the first time, it was like stepping back in time to the 80s again. The store has rows and rows of VHS for rent or for sale. So many movies, that I will never run out of a good selection to choose from. So here I am buying VHS again! It really is comical to think I have come full circle. The Owner is very friendly and knowledgeable about the Genre. I have learned quite a bit from him and he always shows me something I have never even heard of every time I go in.  So now I am discovering all those great movies that I somehow missed years ago.  All I can say is thanks to The Vault for saving the day with his Little Shop of Horrors!

Now I write, tweet, and blog about my love of Horror movies.  I sometimes wish my Father was still around so we could go to the theatre like we used to.  If only he knew what he started way back when!  Instead, I am passing my passion and my torch on to my son.  He has become quite the Horror Geek himself.  He loves to suggest movies to his friends and they raid my movie shelves on a regular basis.  They are always looking for something to top the last movie they watched.

As for what will happen to the future of Horror? I don’t know for sure but I am optimistic that eventually we will have great DVD or Bluray stores again or maybe better online services that have a better selection than what is offered now. One thing I know for sure, is that I will always find new ways of watching my favourite genre!  So what is your history of Horror?  How do you find your movie fix?


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      1. Robyn February 18, 2013 at 11:28 pm

        My first horror movie experience was watching Scream with my mom when I was 10, and it gave me nightmares for a month! Soon after I watched Halloween with my dad, and to this day those are still two of my favourites. I was born in 1990 so a lot of the great horror films are older than I am, which is fine. My mom and dad definitely passed on their love of horror to me and I am very glad that happened. Horror is the best genre EVER!! I agree with you about the rental places, it is very hard to find one now which is sad. I used to have a movie store near me that had the greatest horror selection I had ever seen, but it closed down a few years ago and I have never been able to find a store like it ever since.

        I’m sure that the genre will only get better as there are so many dedicated fans, there’s just no way it would disappear altogether. I really need to find a great movie store though!

      2. Brent February 19, 2013 at 4:55 pm

        My love of horror movies came much later. I was traumatized by Jaws and the notorious “head popping out the the boat” scene. It took me 10 years before I would watch a horror movie again.

        I cut my teeth on the Universal horror classics but those were not really “scary”. My first foray back to horror was the Grace Jones camp classic “Vamp”. I watched that 20 times and then worked my way up to Freddy and Jason movies.

        I realized my fear was really silly and started to really get back into horror. I started seeing them at the theatre and enjoying them on DVD and VHS. Now I am a true horror lover with the exception of ghost stories. Damn I hate those. I know Freddy is not real but damn, ghosts and hauntings truly are. They get me every time.

        While my DVD collection of horror is not as big but I have way more horror than comedy, by about 3:1. My wife (who also loves horror) have a monthly HorrorFest every October where we watch the craziest and most bizarre horror flicks we can find. We love every minute of it.

        Thanks for letting me get that out…feel so much better. LOL.

      3. Tiago Almeida February 19, 2013 at 9:27 pm

        Nice story. I guess we do it because it helps us to deal with life.
        I’m really into HD. I watched The Uninvited, a few days ago, for the first time in Blu-Ray, and what a nice movie that is. I am trying to get my hands in every classic out there in Blu-Ray, cause it is so good to see a movie in that definition, very close to the cinema experience. watching the 80’s classics in HD is so good, because the VHS copies of these movies were at most times very bad, and lots of DVDs prints were no good either, at least here in Brazil they were very crappy. And I grew up watching those. Not to mention the 4:3 format that kills the original cinematography. So, to watch the Elm streets movies, Friday the 13th, Evil Dead, Romero’s and/or King’s anything in HD is like a new experience, I’ve been enjoying it very much.

      4. Tone 303 February 21, 2013 at 1:43 am

        I really enjoyed reading this. You truly captured the nostalgia feel of the video stores of old. I remember being enthralled by the cover art for the Evil Dead II VHS when I saw it in store for the first time. I am also a huge fan of the horror genre and I too hope to share that with my children some day, so it was nice to hear how the love of horror was passed down from generation to generation in your family.

        Thanks for sharing this!