NOVEMBER’S LOCAL HOT SPOT OF THE MONTH: THE VIDEO RENTAL STORE.
Your bored and have nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Not old enough to drive but still too young for permission to walk around town. Then suddenly, your sister screeches up the driveway in the wood-paneled, family station wagon and calls out to you…
“HEY LET’S GO TO THE VIDEO STORE”
Whether it was Blockbuster or the little ratty video store on the corner with the grumpy desk clerk who also sold cigarettes and rubbers, EVERYONE misses video rental stores. The current age of “movie browsing convenience at your fingertips” will never hold a candle to walking those carpeted aisles of endless VHS wonder. The ritual of physically walking into a video store to choose a movie is something we didn’t even realize at the time was so precious.
Anyone remember TNUC’s Love Letter to Blockbuster? That was basically our attempt at an apology on behalf of all the online bashing the video rental legend received from whiny nerds who somehow were still complaining about their “bad experiences” at Blockbuster back in the day. Mind you, this was also happening while the business was rotting away and slowly closing their stores. Soulless idiots!
I have just as many fond memories of browsing rows of VHS covers at the mom n’ pop rental places as I do at Blockbuster. When I was in 5th grade I clearly remember reaching into the bargain bin at our Blockbuster and pulling out a copy of Surf Nazis Must Die for $2.99. Normally I’d be too intimidated by horror titles to actually rent one during that time, and browsing around just staring at them was enough excitement. But a Nazi with a robotic hand and machine gun, surfing a wave over a babe looking up in pure terror? Count me in.
There are many things these days that instantly remind me of being at the video store. Fake-buttery popcorn, microwaved pizza, clam-shell plastic, weird carpet smells…the list is massive. Also whenever I see those rubbery Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from from the 1990 movie…instant video store dreams.
One strange memory that sticks out in my mind from video store days, which would actually foreshadow an obsession later down the road, was this:
I’ll never forget combing the action/adventure section and seeing 1987’s THE BARBARIANS staring right back at me. I’d usually do one of those quick looks back and forth while moving down the aisle, excited but a little uncomfortable at what I was looking at. It isn’t everyday a 9 year old comes across an image of oily, bulging twin meatballs in loin cloths.
Are there any video rental locations still in operation where you live? Did your local shop have an adult XXX section with those bizarre saloon doors? Tell TNUC everything in the comment section!
† R.I.P. †
[Local-Hot-Spot-Of-The-Month is a adrenaline-thrusting history lesson and celebration of signature hangout spots one might recognize from television, film or real life. Our objective is to not just rediscover and dissect these places, but more importantly create a feeling like you’re really there. Take your time with these entries. Hang out. Turn some music on.
To visit the rest of ’em, go here.]
Fantastic article! My local video stores were a big part of my formative years. I know I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I had modern technology at my fingertips. There was something special about renting two movies for the weekend and being stuck with them. Very rarely did I leave one unfinished – in fact, I almost always watched them multiple times before they went back.
Also, I’m glad you mentioned the saloon style doors. There was always such a sense of mystery as to what was behind them. It was always fun to see someone you know coming out of there (teachers, etc.).
What an awesome picture of that horror section. A lot of those spines bring back memories. Although, it is definitely a mid 90s picture or later – Jason Goes to Hell, later Hellraiser sequels, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Jack Frost. I think I see Bones and Blair Witch 2.
I love the Italian stuff there though – House by the Cemetery, Creepers. I would have loved that store.
That Rent A Flick looks pretty dingy. I’d love to have a peek inside!
Our local spot in Pacific Grove, California was Movie Mart. Nestled in a little corner lot by a hair salon and hardware store, Movie Mart was where I first became entranced with the covers of ’80s horror flicks. C.H.U.D., Return of the Living Dead, Motel Hell – artwork flush with the slime, fog and eerie light that we treasure nowadays. The staff there was a crew of perpetually stoned teens that would have made good victims in those movies I obsessed over, and they would eventually let me and my degenerate tween comrades rent PG-13 and R movies after they learned no one would narc. Blockbuster put them out of business, but no hard feelings, the brick and mortar video store model wasn’t long for this earth anyway. Cheers to the movie store, an experience younger generations are shit out of luck for.
My horror obsession began with those VHS covers. Covers like Killer Party, Bad Taste, Terror Vision, Blood Diner, Phenomena (Creepers) those images left you with a million questions. The only way to get any answers was to rent as many as you could. Another cool thing to come out of there was when I go to rent the TurboGrafx-16 game system so I could play Splatter House. My place also had the saloon doors tucked in the corner. Later my family ended up running the place, when it finally closed in the DVD days I pretty much took the whole horror and action sections home with me.
We had Video View which had a slight advantage because it was in the same shopping center as Pizza Hut. If only we realized the heaven on earth we were living in at the time.
Man…I could go for a beef patty from Video Hut right now..