Many moons ago, I rented videos almost every weekend.
This was when Blockbuster and Rogers Video (the present Canadian video
behemoths) were merely a blip on the burgeoning VHS rental world. For me,
it was all about Jumbo Video.
Renting videos represented a simpler time in which claims of “No
Late Fees” or “Guaranteed To Be In Stock” were the last things
on the mind of consumer. Sure, it was frustrating to discover that the
one and only copy of the film you wanted to see was already rented out long
before you arrived; but in retrospect, it was part of the fun.
Jumbo Video was a video store that had a large popcorn machine next to the
kid’s section, with an employee dressed as a film theater usher dispensing bags
of said popcorn. It was the type of place that exuded an uneasy
feeling. Probably because it was never busy and the employees (especially
the popcorn man) seemed to be much more unpredictable than the contents of the
VHS tapes that they carried. The videos were rarely (if ever) in order,
genres meshed, with “The Sting” sitting next to “The Wizard of
Oz” , which was just above the cruddy foreign copy of “The Mask of Fu
Manchu”, which was… well, you get the picture. The floor was never
clean, the place smelled like burnt popcorn (a common memory for those who are
familiar with Jumbo) and the store seemed to get “New Releases” two
months after they were released. Sure, it sounded horrible… and in many
ways it was… but it had character.
Above all else, however, the horror section in Jumbo Video reigned supreme.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized it has achieved an almost mythic
status in and around
You see, horror seemed to be the only genre that Jumbo respected. Stores
always carried the most up to date copies of each film and displayed them
according to sub-genre (Gore Fest, Nail Biting Suspense, Campy
Horror…). But what was most incredible of all was that the horror
section took up the entire back portion of the store… and it wasn’t displayed
in typical fashion.
As soon as you walk into the store, your eyes would fall on an extravagant mini
castle, complete with a series of old candles lining fake stone walls made out
of styrofoam. Plastic bats, dollar store spider-webs and crumbling
gargoyles decorated the surrounding area, which led to a fake wooden door made
out of cardboard.
Inside the dreary, fog-filled castle, aside from the VHS tapes, there were more
bats, more gargoyles and more spider-webs. But there were also life size
cutouts of Jason, Freddy, Micheal Myers and Pinhead. In fact, at the store
that I frequented, Freddy wasn’t a cutout at all; instead, he was a seven foot mannequin
dressed up to look like the classic monster.
I loved perusing through the different covers of the VHS tapes, to point that
my imagination would take flight. I will always remember the first time I
laid eyes on the covers of Night of the Creeps
and Demons… even
though I didn’t see those films until much later, they still gave me nightmares
on those images alone.
Over time, Jumbo tore down its horror castle due to lack of customer interest. I’m sure a number of fanatic parents also complained about the nature of the section and demanded that it be taken down. I can’t begin to explain the sadness I felt as I watched a number of employees take down the castle, piece by piece. After that day, I visited Jumbo Video less and less, no longer interested in what they had in stock. A few summers later, the video store chain went bankrupt and quickly disappeared from public sight. Very few noticed. To me, Jumbo disappeared when they tore down every single horror castle in their chain of stores. Now, it is only a memory, reminisced by only a select few. But every so often, I look back at the Saturday
afternoons I spent at Jumbo Video in the early 90’s and smile, because I know
that what I experienced will never happen again… sadly.