Camp Motion Pictures’ Retro 80′s Horror Collection Big Box doesn’t just have a long name, but a long list of contents – so much we had to split this review into two. The centerpiece of the set is Tim O’Rawe’s The Basement, a never-before-released 1989 horror anthology. You hear “never-released” a lot, applied to movies that never made the leap from VHS to DVD, but The Basement was truly never released. Or even edited together properly for some time.
To celebrate the unearthing of this relic, Camp have released The Basement in a “big box” similar to those put out by, among other 80′s companies, Wizard Video, who had used the box production facilities of a blue movie company to ensure their titles stuck out on shelves bigger and bolder than standard video boxes. That’s what we have here, and The Basement is packed inside on DVD (with its own dedicated DVD cover which jams 3 discs into one holder) and a VHS – writing the wrong of this flick never debuting on the video format when it was supposed to circa late 80′s.
Now, I had grand plans to swagger into this review with the lofty statement that I had opted to watch it on video first instead of the disc, however I couldn’t find my power lead to my video player nor does anyone I know close by have a video player. Some don’t even know what one is. I can’t think of a sadder but more apt analogy to the poor fate of VHS in today’s societal consciousness.
The linking segment has a bunch of characters approached by a Crypt Keeper-style character, The Sentinel, who shows them their dark futures, each of which are our stories. The Swimming Pool is the weakest of the lot and perhaps should have been schmushed in between the others. It’s a sort of wet riff on The Pit as a women feeds various annoying dudes and dudettes into a demonic pool, with the expected comeuppance in the ending. Zombie Movie is an enjoyable little entry that makes you wonder what it would have been like for real zombies to overrun the shooting of Night of the Living Dead, well before Dave Parker’s The Dead Hate The Living. Home Sweet Home is a bit of a plodding affair dealing with a haunted house but the real gem in these is Trick or Treat, the second story. It recalls the bygone era of latex monsters as well as the fun to be had exploiting October 31st which few horror films did post-Halloween.
The stories are essentially morality tales, some dealing with Faustian choices. This feeds into the final fate The Sentinel has in store for those would one day sin, in a climax to the linking segment that has the cheekiest use of stock footage I’ve seen in a while.
The horror anthology is a tricky thing to get right. For me, Creepshow represents its apex…and any number of cheap cheesefests represent the subgenre’s gutter (Tales from the Quandead Zone, anyone? Points for cool name, though). The Basement falls somewhere in between. There’s enough practical Special FX and WTF accents to tweak your nostalgia bone, and the Super 8 stock it was shot on gives it an unpolished charm.