The Slasher Expeditions Part 2: The Attic of Terror

There once was a local Pic-A-Flick-Video store that was home to the greatest collection of horror movies I’ve ever seen.  What made this store so special was its location,  a two story building.  Downstairs was pretty much like every other video store, but the upstairs was Shangri-La for horror fans.  The shelves held hundreds of beautifully garish horror video boxes.  And you could rent as many as you wanted for only a $1 each. The Attic of Terror was really designed for hardcore horror fans.  You’d never see a John Carpenter flick  on these shelves but you could find a large selection of films directed by Jess Franco, Umberto Lenzi, Joe D’Amato, Lucio Fulci, and the master Dario Argento.  You’d never find slashers like Halloween or Friday the 13th upstairs but there was The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Bloody Moon, New York Ripper, and Monster Hunter (a.k.a. Anthropophagus 2).  Independent slashers featuring reformed porn stars (Demented, Deranged) and SOV low budget wonders (Night Ripper, The Ripper) promised viewers a night of down and dirty slasher thrills.

Many of the long gone video companies still had some life in the room of forgotten frights.  Paragon, VCII, Imperial Entertainment, Media Home Entertainment, Thriller, and Vestron titles held testament to a time when any type of horror film found a distributor during the golden age of home video.  Some boxes sported phrases like “A World Premier Movie in Your Own Home” to catch the renter’s eye.  Others featured really dreadful art work with a few splashes of blood thrown in to make the box look even more sleazy.  And chances were really good anything by Wizard Video had a bogus synopsis on the back of the box.  Wizard was infamous for pulling those kind of stunts with their Italian releases.

There were draw backs to spending too much time in the attic.  The employees rarely cleaned upstairs so the room was filled with a funky, musky smell which played hell with your sinuses.  One had to be careful when picking up the boxes because spiderwebs stretched from one video to another.  It was like the ending of Kingdom of the Spiders only without William Shatner there to save the day.  Since air conditioning was only available on the first floor the atmosphere in the Attic turned into one stagnant mess during summer heat waves.  Opening a window might’ve helped but all of the windows were protected by steel bars.  I guess the owner was afraid some of the horror films might try to escape so he barred the upstairs windows to protect the public.

When Pic-A-Flick-Video closed this location it was a major shock.  Open for business one day, closed and empty the next.  The greatest horror collection I’ve ever had the honor of seeing suddenly vanished.  The Attic of Terror was snuffed out by stiff competition from Blockbuster and Hollywood Video.  Business was also damaged when local churches started a boycott because the owner had a backroom full of X-rated movies.  Eventually, the owner torched the porn collection in front of the protesters and reporters from all over the state, but his reputation was already ruined by then.

Many years later, I learned a Pic-A-Flick Video in another county was going out of business and selling off their videos.  Fortunately, a relative knew the area and was able to give me directions to this hole-in-the-wall location.  Walking through this Pic-A-Flick’s horror section brought on a massive wave of nostalgia.  While the collection wasn’t as impressive as the Attic’s, they did have a number of titles I hadn’t seen since the local stores in my town shut down.

I left with several bags full of slashers at the end of my first visit.  Over the next few months I raided the store like a crazed Viking many more times.  I saw this as my last great chance to pick up these films so I wasn’t going to let something like needing money for food or tuition hold me back.  In retrospect, I would’ve held off on buying some of these movies if I’d known the DVD revolution was just a few years away.  Still, there’s just something special about a horror movie buying frenzy.

The Finds: The Crater Lake Monster, The Mad Butcher, Terror in the Aisles, Don’t Go in the Woods, Open House, The Incubus, The Dorm that Dripped Blood, Night School, Grotesque, Curtains, Popcorn, My Bloody Valentine, House on Sorority Row, Chopping Mall, Cheerleader Camp, Redneck Zombies.

The ones that got away:  Demented, Night Ripper, Claws.  Most of the films I wanted in the Attic are now available on dvd, otherwise this would be a much longer list.  I doubt the three movies listed above will ever see a dvd release.  Claws is a rip off of Grizzly, some sources claim it’s actually Grizzly II, that I held off on buying from the other Pic-A-Flick store.  Of course, it was gone when I went back to buy it.

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8 Responses to “ The Slasher Expeditions Part 2: The Attic of Terror ”

  1. Awww, I have so many video store memories. I was just thinking about a place called Phar-Mor the other day which was a pharmacy that had… you got it far more. They had a HUGE video rental section and it is there I first heard of Liquid Sky. When they went under, I bought Microwave Massacre! They didn’t have covers, which was lame… I’m not sure what happened to them.

    We also had what was once the world’s largest video store. It was called Video Park and it was open 24 hours. I knew the graveyard crew well and each room had a theme, so the horror room actually had a Nosferatu that would come out of his coffin every 5 minutes or so and his eyes would blink red. I still have a piece of the spaceship from the Sci-Fi room! Anyway, Hollywood Video bought them out, they began closing at 2 am and the world was never the same.

  2. Thanks for the flashback Thomas. You’ve brought back a flood of memories for me. I miss mom and pa video stores from yesterday. You guys should do something for the website involving pictures of the inside of old video stores. I could spend hours looking at old displays and video boxes. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m not the only one. It would be very cool to see pictures of horror sections in there prime(early to mid-80’s). Just something to think about……..

  3. In Britain there were loads of small video places, usually run by old Asian/Indian gentlemen. When the one near me closed down they sold off all the VHS tapes. It was sad to see it go, but I netted loads of good stuff and a few real stinkers.
    A list of I what vacuumed up would be too long, but I got a some oddities. The Butcher aka Psycho from Texas, Appointment with Fear (a limp late slasher about a tree god or something), The Lamp aka The Outing. Blood tracks, Impulse with Shatner and pre-video act big box copies of Bloody Moon, TCM and Possession. Renting videos is something I do sort of miss. That ritual of asking for things that had just gone, then renting something non of us had ever heard of, because the misleading box looked good . It’s oddly moving to find out that the end of Video rentals was so universal.

  4. I would have done the same thing, no regrets. Are there any like these still out there?

  5. “Claws” was released as “Grizzly 2″ on European television. The REAL “Grizzly II” was never finished. However, I have a workprint and all the music is from Michael Jackson’s THRILLER! The workprint is pretty awesome, but most “bear attack” scenes hadn’t been filmed yet, only a couple REAL BAD shots were inserted.

    Great article.

  6. Great little article.
    I am going to have to walk down memory lane soon and write up some stuff about the last true video store that I had the pleasure of renting from.
    Some gems I rented from this place were Hide And Go Shriek, Neon Maniacs, Highway To Hell and that one where Julie Brown gets naked. What the hell was that one called? Plus many, many more!
    You know if a store has Neon Maniacs on it shelves then it is down for the cause.

  7. Brian you’re thinking of Bloody Birthday.

    The places Amanda and Thomas describe sound awesome! One of my favorites a Hastings that opened in our town. Not a mom-and-pop store but it’s horror collection belonged in one! It’s where I first saw future faves like Blood Cult, Zombie, Sole Survivor, Nightmare, and others, plus trash like Night of 1000 Cats (AND the Blood Feast titled version). There was also a Heartland Video with the largest horror collection I’ve ever seen and even more obscurities (Microwave Massacre, Boardinghouse, etc). Rows of glorious oversize boxes from Continental, Midnight, and others, that just barely fit the display but fortunately were never thrown out or cut up for a plastic case. I got some gems when they were phasing out VHS (for $1.50 each) but I wish I could’ve hit them much harder!

  8. Sometime in the summer of 1995, I decided to go on a series of adventures in search of movies I couldn’t find in my own home town. I took my darling bride with me at the beginning from video store to video store, supposedly searching for a copy of Night of the Howling Beast. After three days of traveling to every store in our town, and one to a nearby burg, my darling wife abandoned the search, and so I took my friend Gary. At each store, in each small town, I would search for my title, but purchase others. I was able to find most of the big box releases of Herschell Gordon Lewis, Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and several others. On the sixth day, we wandered into a giant rental store in Duncan, Oklahoma that had a copy of the Paul Naschy film I was searching for. I spoke to the manager about purchasing the title, and she flatly refused. I held the box up to her and said, “Are you seriously going to tell me that this film rents so often, you’re unwilling to let it go?” She assured me it was one of her best renters. My friend Gary turned to me and said, with dire seriousness, “We need to leave this town right now, man.” I asked if I could rent the film, and was told I could open an account and rent whatever I desired. I did just that. In fact, I rented five movies from that store. As the manager finished checking us out, and holding the bag of tapes up for me to take, she had a sudden realization while handing the tape to me. “You…you’re…YOU’RE GOING TO COPY THESE, AREN’T YOU?” I pulled the bag forcefully from her hand, and smiled at her. “You bet I am!” We walked out the door, and I got my first copy of a Paul Naschy film out of the deal. This wasn’t my last video search, but it was an incredibly entertaining one.

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