Memoirs of the video store.
I haven’t watched any new movies for a while so instead here are some ramblings about an aspect of movies that I loved and dearly miss. This is a back in the day kind of thing. Although I’m not that freaking old, times have changed. Especially in the last decade or so.
Internet killed the video store.
It seems insane that I have to actually write this but back before the internet you actually had to leave the comfort of your house and visit a place called a “video store” to rent or buy movies. Crazy I know. There was no online ordering, no netflix, no streaming video services and no torrents not that i condone such things…….. What there was, was the video store. A place whose walls were lined with VHS tapes. You came in picked out half a dozen movies, paid a couple of bucks and returned them a week later.
VHS tapes! What the fuck!? Yeah, dated analogue tape contained within a chunky plastic brick. Sleek, cool and shiny DVD’s weren’t around and special features? Forget about it! Unless of course you happened upon a deluxe two VHS tape edition. Two chunky video bricks for the price of one! Renting a VHS was risky business. Analogue tape wears out, so chances are if you rented a movie previously hired a few hundred dozen times you may be watching a mess of static with an occasional pop of sound.
Ok VHS tapes weren’t that great, my nostalgia goggles are certainly kicking in. DVD’s and now Bluray are superior in a pretty much every way, but I do miss going to the video shop….
What brought on this trip down memory lane was when I saw a display in a window in my city. It was the finest collection of VHS films I have ever seen in a shop window. There was sign that read “Video Mart” and flyers stuck to the door saying “2 for 1 rentals $3”. It was late and it was clearly closed, but was this seriously a video store? In the day of the internet? I really hoped so… I went back the next day during a time I was sure they would be open but no, they weren’t. A little bit of research revealed that it was some sort of art installation. First things first, thats the crappiest art installation I have ever seen. Second, that is a fucking tease. I was so excited that there could be video store. I would have gone in there and rented every fucking VHS movie they had and I don’t even own a VHS player anymore. I would have happily rented them and just stared endlessly at the cover art.
You see I really miss going to the video store as a kid. Especially the first one I remember in the late 80’s and early 90’s in the city of Darwin Australia, where I lived at the time. I wish I could remember what its name was because the place was epic. It was exciting to go. What new movies would I find? I have no idea? I didn’t have the internet to check them out before hand.
The place was huge, supermarket huge and it was full of nothing but VHS tapes. Lining every wall and adorning every shelf. As you entered there was the massive open floor which was home to the action, comedy and drama sections and this occupied the bulk of the area. But branching of was half a dozen different rooms which housed other genres. Starting from the back was the childrens section, which was a room twice the size of my lounge room full of cartoons and at its centre was toys and video games and puzzles for us kids to play while we waited for mum and dad.
Next to that was the documentary and special videos section. It was about the same size as the childrens section but I never went in there much. Except for a brief period where I was really into fishing and hired a bunch of how to fishing videos. You have to worry about yourself when you start watching fishing videos.
The next room was my favourite, the horror section. And this room goes a long way to explain why I am a fan of horror movies today. For starters it was a whole room full of nothing but VHS horror movies. This is awesome enough to begin with, but the place was actually scary…… well for a six year old kid at least. The lighting was low, not dark but enough to be atmospheric. The walls were painted black, thats cool enough by itself but theres more. There were creepy eyes painted on every wall, even the ceiling. As soon as you enter the horror room the first thing you notice is all these creepy eyes staring at you. Combined with the low level lighting and the scary 80’s vhs cover art on every single video this was a scary place. I didn’t want to spend to much time there afraid the eyes would get me. A perfect horror section. It was almost against the rules for such a little kid to be in there it was so scary. The taboo nature of the room is part of the reason why as soon as I could I started renting every horror film I could find.
Speaking of taboo, the final room which was at the front of the store near the counter so the employees could keep an eye on it was the adult movie room. The other roomed sections were open and you could just walk in. The adult section was closed of behind a curtained door and this place was certainly of limits. This goes to show how old this place really was and how quickly the video store changed and then eventually disappeared. These memories are only from 1990 or so but even by ‘95 the adult movie section was a thing of the past thanks largely to chain stores like fucking blockbuster video. Who were guilty of some pretty heinous and back handed things by the way. Censoring movies for example. But thats a whole other story. The Adult movie section was definitely of limits to me at six years old. I probably knew the word sex not that I knew exactly what it was about. But still I had to know exactly what was in that room so any chance I could sneak past my parents and sneak past the employee counter and into that room, I did. Its actually quite hilarious how sleazy the adult section was. Most of the store was brightly lit, the horror section notwithstanding. The adult movie section though was lit with sleazy blue and purple lights, it was like a strip club. The walls were dark, the purple lighting low and adult movies lined every shelf. As a kid it was hilarious being in there and pretty embarrassing getting caught.
There was one final thing I loved about my local video store back in the day. At the very back was a monster in a cage…. No really for some reason and I have no idea why, there was a large rubber monster movie prop in a cage. Why was it there? I honestly have no idea. What was it from? I’m not sure but I want to say it was from the movie Critters. It looked like the giant critter from the end of that movie. But c’mon how could a video shop in Darwin Australia of all places have this giant movie prop. It couldn’t be, but lets say it was….I’m not sure how it came to be but I’ll always remember it fondly. I frequented this video store for 5 years at the most and during that time the poor Critter prop really fell apart. Whatever it was made from was not designed to last. When I first visited the store it was shiny and new but sadly towards its end before it was taken away its paint had cracked and peeled, the rubber had rotted and its eyeballs were falling from its sockets.
This stuff is gone now and its a shame because I really do miss going to the video store. Its just not the same ordering a movie online. When I was old enough to go by myself I would ride my bike there and literally spend hours looking at videos trying to decide what to rent. Plus the VHS cover art was pretty cool. This really is some nostalgic bullshit of days gone by but the video store is something I really do wish was still around.