Wal Mart's 2017 Horror Classics!
The phrase "Wal Mart Exclusive" is not something you would usually expect in the same sentence as a phrase like "wicked-awesome," but that's Halloween for you. It's an excuse for people stuck working under even the stuffiest megacorporation to have some real, actual fun for once, and I'm sure everybody involved in this had a great time with it - especially Orlando Arocena himself, the artist Wal-Mart has commissioned to illustrate exclusive, 2017-only cover art for nineteen horror DVD's, all priced from only five to ten dollars.
Now, I don't actually need any horror movie on DVD in this golden age of internet streaming, and I don't even need to buy any of these DVD's to appreciate artwork that's already been posted on a number of other websites, but for only five bucks, I just had to pick up such a special copy of The Fly. It's not even one of my favorite movies as a movie, but it definitely contains my favorite movie monster, and just look at that cover! We've got a face appropriately evocative of a human skull, a machine and an insect, complete with fly-like hairs and the notorious telepods themselve as its eyes. That is absolutely too cool for its own good.
When you unwrap the DVD, you'll find that the "new cover" is just a piece of cardboard lightly tacked over the original cover. Some people might find this disappointingly cheap, but I'm only buying this for the artwork anyway, so it's more like this DVD came with a free micro-sized poster.
Better still, every single one of these DVD's contains a mini coloring book of all nineteen cover designs. Yes, the media loves to make fun of the Adult Coloring Book trend, but I for one am glad we can all admit that basically everything fun to a child is still fun to a grown up. Adult coloring books are really just a sign of people getting the hell over themselves in at least one more teeny, tiny little way, and I don't think we can ever have too many of those moments.
Five bucks for a horror movie, a beautiful art card, and a coloring book? I'm hesitant to call anything "the" best thing ever, but right now, at this moment, this definitely feels like "a" best thing ever.
If you want to see all nineteen of the covers, Arrow in the Head already has you covered, pun intended even though it's the least funny pun I've probably ever made, but I'm sure they won't mind me reviewing them myself. I mean, technically Wal-Mart owns them, doesn't it? Technically technically, Wal-Mart owns America.
In addition to the covers, I'll take this opportunity to talk a bit about several movies I've never otherwise talked or even thought that much about. There's often a reason for that, mind you, so my opinions are going to be WILDLY all over the place.
CHILD'S PLAYAll of these movies are fairly modern choices, usually from the 1980's at the oldest, which was more or less when humankind fully perfected the art of realistic gore and we went kind of hog-wild with the slashers.
One product of the slasher arms race was Child's Play, the story of a serial killer's soul trapped in the body of a doll. This isn't generally my type of horror movie, to be honest, but this one is fun enough. It came before people really started rooting for slasher villains, so Chucky is written firmly as a villain and it was pretty satisfying to see him get his ass kicked by the babysitter.
On the original film cover, Chucky is about to sever the head of a Jack-in-the-Box with scissors, and that's been turned into basically a Jolly Roger here, which is pretty clever. I like how the actual film titles are also basically the "teeth" here, which is repeated on a lot of these pieces.
28 DAYS LATERThe first time I ever saw this movie, I was actually pretty enthralled by its first half. The trappings of the zombie genre had only been repeated a few dozen times instead of a few hundred thousand, and the film's screaming, running, blood-puking infected were something freshly terrifying to the horror scene. It honestly could have been pretty great...if not for basically everything else.
As soon as this movie brings in the military, everything falls apart. The "humans are the real bad guys" thing has not only been done to death, but has never really been pulled off by this genre since the original Night of the Living Dead nailed it with relative subtlety. Worse, the military exists to turn badass black heroine, whose name I forgot, into a damsel to be rescued by dorky white hero, whose name I forgot harder, and it's part of an unnecessary rape plot to boot. I get that it's SUPPOSED to be gross, because the bad guys are doing it, but it's also gross that anybody thought it would be fun or compelling or important to a nice, simple story about people throwing up blood.
A cover this beautiful is almost a waste on this one. We've even got the infected monkey head on there! I also really like the vertical cityscapes on either side. You don't really get enough vertical cityscapes.
VICTOR FRANKENSTEINSo apparently these movies weren't really selected based on popularity or success, because this 2015 remake set a new record for lowest-grossing opening weekend and has only a 24% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not only have I never seen it, but I had no idea it existed until now, and it only came out just the other year.
But, hey, that's alright. Somebody out there probably really likes this movie. Maybe I'd even like it if I watched it. Maybe not. That 24% of people might be pleased to know it was selected for the prestigious honor of a Wal Mart DVD series, and this isn't a bad illustration. Maybe you don't like the movie, but you still like the literary character of Victor Frankenstein, so you can pretend this is a poster about how great Victor Frankenstein is.
CARRIEThe only Stephen King movie in the set, Carrie actually saw its first publication as a short story in Playboy magazine, and in fact, so did the original version of The Fly and countless other horror movies, because oh yeah, Playboy used to be a platform for more than just your grandpa's idea of softcore porn.
Anyway, I haven't seen Carrie in an awfully long time, but it probably still holds up pretty well as a bullying revenge fantasy. This cover art evokes the climax, too famous and iconic to qualify as a spoiler anymore, in which a bucket of pig's blood is dumped over Carrie as a prom night prank, triggering an explosion of telekinetic powers that ultimately burn the school to the ground. I love how Carrie's hair looks like flame here, but the negative space around it looks like more dripping blood!
JEEPER'S CREEPERSSorry, not a big fan of this one. The idea of a mysterious figure in a trenchcoat stealing body parts from people has some merit, but loses me as soon as he turns out to be a bat-winged CG devil. It got a big "eh" from me before I knew that this movie was directed by a guy who raped a kid on the set of one of his other movies and only served a year in prison for it, so now it gets a "fuck him, why did anybody give him money again, what the fuck is wrong with hollywood" from me.
Orlando made an effort here, but it doesn't feel like as much love was put into it as most of these other pieces, and it's not like there's all that much you can do with such a hokey and uninspired monster design anyway.
JOY RIDEThis is another movie I actually never heard of, despite the fact that it was apparently successful enough for a couple of sequels. It's more of a thriller than a horror, revolving around a murderous truck driver with no supernatural element, but I definitely like this menacing image of the skull-faced semi. It makes me wish this really was a movie about a living monster truck that doesn't need a driver.
BLACK SWANI actually still haven't seen this movie, either, but I know it was a critical success and that it explores the psychological decay of a ballerina split between two opposing sides of herself. I probably really ought to watch it one of these days.
YOUNG FRANKENSTEINThrowing a lightly PG-13 Mel Brooks comedy into this mix of bloody mayhem is an interesting choice and I can definitely appreciate the variety, but I cannot for the life of me even remember any of the jokes in this movie. Most people seem to highly prefer it over Dracula: Dead and Loving It, but it was the latter I thought was positively uproarious when I was ten years old. I'm not really sure if that would hold up either, but I at least remember the line "Yes, We have Nosferatu, We Have Nosferatu Today," which is hilarious if you're familiar with the banana thing it's parodying.
DEVIL'S DUEThis one came out in 2014, and rests at a paltry 14% tomato rating for being far too similar to Rosemary's Baby and shot in a "found footage" style for no obvious reason. It's interesting to read up on it, however, and see how much thought actually went into its production. Its creators actually did care and they actually did try, director Eli Roth still stands firmly by it and it's at least earned a little cult following. I don't know if I'll enjoy it or not myself, but it already sounds like the kind of underdog I'd want to like, and I'm glad either way that it found its way into this wildly eclectic collection.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTERThis, on the other hand, is a movie I still don't feel like I'll ever actually bother to watch. "Let's have Abe Lincoln fighting vampires" is the kind of idea you get from people who very incorrectly believe they have a "weird" or "crazy" sense of humor, and it really doesn't sound like even that joke lasts very long through the film.
FROM HELLBased on an Alan Moore comic based in turn on the legend of Jack the Ripper, From Hell is yet another movie I haven't watched, in case you're not sick of hearing that by now, but at least this one was a critical success. We're also getting back into the more interesting cover art; I really enjoy the overall color palette we have here, and the fact that the ripper himself forms a skull nose.
JENNIFER'S BODYThis one is another stinker according to the internet, an attempt at a "sexy" horror comedy in which a high school girl becomes demonically possessed by a succubus and murders a bunch of boys.
This cover art would have had me expecting something a whole lot more interesting, honestly. It also sort of had me expecting a movie from the 80's or 90's, possibly about somebody dead or undead. Apparently this movie has every bad high school cliche in the book, from "the goth kid" to the fact that Jennifer is "insecure and bookish" before she becomes a sex monster. Remind me again why it's still considered so acceptable to play little kiddie high schoolers as "sexy" in mainstream movies???
WRONG TURNI believe that, at some point, I may have seen this movie as part of a TV marathon, or maybe it was in someone else's DVD collection and I was really desperate for something to put on while I wrote internet articles. It's another one that grossed just barely enough for a couple of sequels, but I can't remember anything standing out about it. I can't really remember anything about it, period.
Not a bad cover, though. The lettering is incorporated even more as teeth than it is in most of these other covers. If I hadn't known better already, though, I'd have thought this was a zombie or some other sort of corpse-being. That would have been significantly better than the inbred, deformed cannibals it's actually about. Writing people with realistic birth defects as bloodthirsty monsters is not a trope the world needed to hang onto. Wasn't said trope already skewered enough by Victor Hugo in 1831?
THE HILLS HAVE EYESSpeaking of which, this is pretty much "the" deformed cannibal murder movie, and the deformed cannibal murderers in this one are also rapists, just to make sure there's no little driblet of good taste hanging out of this butthole of a pitch, and I'm really sorry I gave you that image.
I guess it's kind of apparent sometimes that I'm really not cut out for what most people consider the "horror genre," am I? I don't get off on innocent people suffering and I'm not inclined to hate or fear something because its eyes are in a funny place. I do like what our artist did with those eyes, though, and the "nuclear explosion face" on the mutant's forehead is pretty damn rad. I know there was one "nice" mutant in this movie, wasn't there? Was it this one or a different one? Is this even a specific one?
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOORThis movie only came out in 2016, but it sounds like it has an interesting enough premise; a mother gets an opportunity to speak with the spirit of her dead son quite literally on the other side of a door, but is expressly forbidden from opening it. You can guess what she ends up doing, and that pretty bad things happen from there.
Both the synopsis and this artwork make me want to try this one. It seems to have a lot in common with Pet Semetary, and the idea of something coming back "wrong" from death is one that can still affect me.
KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACENow we're talking! This is actually one of my all-time favorite horror movies, and if you've never seen it, you probably can't imagine how good it actually is. It sounds like something that would be nothing but cheap, stupid schlock, but it mixes atmospheric horror with twisted slapstick and gorgeous creature effects like only the 80's really seemed to understand.
Orlando's cover features the most iconic of the Killer Klowns, just slightly more colorful and decorated than usual, and really plays up the grotesque, inhuman fleshiness of these things. They are, after all, just aliens who happen to look like clowns.
POLTERGEISTAnd speaking of clowns, Orlando chose pretty much the perfect image for the cover of Poltergeist, another genuinely good movie that focuses more on supernatural spookiness than torture porn. That damn clown doll is shown just enough times throughout the movie that EVERYONE knows it's going to do something sooner or later, and by the time it does, there's nothing surprising about it and it still feels almost unreasonably frightening.
It would have been a toss-up between the clown doll and the television for this cover, but we get the television in its eye sockets and the house itself as the nose.
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEADFinally, we end on my second favorite cover after The Fly, and actually my very favorite movie out of all of these. Maybe even one of my favorite movies, period, and it's my favorite zombie movie far too easily. It's no contest. Everything about Return of the Living Dead is perfect; it can be charmingly cheesy, chillingly creepy, or both at once whenever it wants to, and the zombies themselves are just fantastic. This is the movie that invented the trope of zombies moaning hungrily for brains, a cliche now relegated only to kid's shows but genuinely scary here in its original context, especially since it's not the only thing these zombies can do.
It's no surprise that the cover features the "tar man" zombie, still one of the most horrifying and magnificently performed cinematic zombies in memory. If you have not watched this movie, please watch this movie, and even though I know you can steal it online in about five minutes, do consider dropping just a few bucks on this version.
...If only because YOU GET A COLORING BOOK.