My, how times have changed.
I remember, back in the early 90’s, when late night television was a
safe haven for sick and twisted triple bill horror films; the kind that spat in
the face of censorship and showed the audience a good time. I
consider myself lucky to have lived during that decade because now censorship has quickly taken its toll on late
night movies. I mean, think back for a
second. Do you remember those nights
where you would stay up late, cuddling close to someone or relaxing on your own
(or in my case, sneaking downstairs and watching television in the den when you
should be asleep) and watching a film that you shouldn’t be exposed to in the
first place? Violence, excessive gore,
nudity, language- half the fun about watching these movies was in the fact that
you shouldn’t be watching them in the first place. And then everything began to change.
Since I’ve lived in Toronto my entire life, I never tuned in
to MonsterVision (with Joe Bob Briggs!) during its original run on TNT because
I didn’t have satellite. But I did
watch late night horror films on City TV almost every night. Well, that is until they started airing
softcore porn for some reason. From
there, I tuned in to Off Beat Cinema, which was shot on location in the dingy
basement of a coffee shop in downtown Buffalo, New York. I still come across it from time to time,
mostly by luck since it no longer airs on a regular timeslot.
Hell, even YTV had horror themed nights every now and then
(who here remembers the Dark Night Halloween specials every year?). Now, my eyes hurt just after watching a
couple of minutes of that station. It’s
disheartening to see the state of programming nowadays. Whatever happened to those nights where we’d
have a creepy or cheesy host guide us through some offbeat tales about oddities
and outsiders filled with all sorts of politically incorrect images?
Monster movies (just like drive-ins and triple bill horror
nights) are a dying breed and it’s a shame that nothing is being done about
it. On the surface, they appear to be
simple time wasters; but to me, they are something so much more. They represent my childhood, when staying up
late was seen as something fun and “dangerous”. Sure, as we grow up, our tastes change but our feelings toward
certain things remain the same.
One such example is my experience at a Jumbo Video many
years ago. Walking around the video
store, scoping out the films and enjoying my free (!) bag of popcorn I came
across a dark corner. Intrigued, I approached,
having never seen such a sight before at the store. It was a section of the store made-up to look like a sinister
castle straight out of “Dracula” or something.
Sure, it was made out of Styrofoam and bristle board, but it was all in
the execution. Inside, thousands of
horror films, more than the eye can see.
And it was beautiful. Sure, back
then most of those films (and their covers, no less) should have scared the
popcorn out of me. But because of the
castle exhibit, it felt strangely… comfortable, familiar and accessible. It’s probably because, even more than now, I
had an over-active imagination. What
should have scared me didn’t. And it’s
not because I was a fearless kid, but because, back then, horror films were
presented in a different light than they are today. There was an underlying tongue-in-cheek quality to the way they
were advertised. Yes, the stories
involved people who were mutilated, eaten, ravaged, and had perverse and wholly
unlikeable personalities… but having someone point these things out made it
easier to swallow. Why do you think
MonsterVision, Off Beat Cinema, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock
Presents, Thriller and other programs were so successful during their
initial (and syndicated) run? They
treated the audience with a lot more respect than they do now.
Without a doubt, I will
always have a soft spot for off beat, midnight films. And what’s wrong with that?
Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and the great Vincent Price made
a career out of portraying characters in such films and they are (rightfully)
considered icons of cinema, not just horror films.
Feeling like a kid again is what horror stories are
all about. They bring you back to that
time when you sat around a campfire with your friends and swapped ghost
stories. As we got older, we would stay
up late and watch horror double and triple bills because they present a much
more entertaining and interesting worldview than our own.
Then adulthood hits, everything changes and we don’t look back. Sure we grow up and forget about these simple moments, but that doesn’t
mean our inner child has to grow up as well.
Just look at Hitchcock, one of the greatest filmmakers who ever