Friday, September 24, 2010

We Have Such Sales To Show You!

One of the oddest movie merchandise promotions ever appeared on the first VHS release of Clive Barker's Hellraiser (1987). Those who discovered the film on its later VHS editions or on DVD never had the pleasure of seeing the end credits interrupted by the sight of an old woman in a puffy bathrobe, having just watched Hellraiser, sitting in her cluttered living room in the company of her cat Percy, introducing us to the "Watch & Wear" promotion.

As the old lady obliviously takes her scared-stiff kitty on a walk through an obstacle course of strewn body parts ("Have you ever seen such a mess?" she asks Percy) and dangling Cenobite chains while sporting the curious footwear choice of Converse All-Stars (what, no slippers?), items ranging from Hellraiser T-shirts to Hellraiser thermoses to Hellraiser sweatpants are proudly displayed. Besides its appeal to fans of random nonsense, this oddly conceived promo serves as a nostalgic reminder of a time before Hellraiser irrevocably changed both the horror world and popular culture in general.

Horror had always drawn members of the metal and punk crowd so torn T-shirts, mohawks, and leather jackets were nothing new at horror cons - but Hellraiser introduced the more severe, extreme fetishistic look that already existed in underground clubs at the time to a much larger audience that would eagerly adopt it as their own.

While this chintzy promo is trying to sell viewers on the idea of buying sweatpants and baseball hats to "be part of Hellraiser," what the movie really inspired hardcore fans to do be part of Hellraiser is to get their bodies pierced; to radically - in many cases, permanently - alter the way they looked. The fashions that Hellraiser inspired were about S&M imagery, about bodily mutilation - not about slipping into a cozy cotton hoodie.

Ironically, the hands-down best piece of Hellraiser merchandise spotted in this promo isn't even for sale. At the 40 second mark, the old lady reaches for a tissue - from a Lament Configuration-style Kleenex Box! Now that's something I'd love to have.

As any allergy sufferer can tell you, Hell is a runny nose.



Thanks to Will Errickson of Panic on the 4th of July for doing the extra legwork to get the full "Watch & Wear" promo uploaded! Now my memories are complete - gotta love that top-loading VCR!

11 comments:

Aaron White said...

Your stuff'n'things will be legendary-even in hell!

Jeff Allard said...

Ha! Nice one, Aaron!

The Frog Queen said...

I agree, I would soooo love that kleenex box!!

Cheers!

Jeff Allard said...

Cheers, Frog Queen!

Will Errickson said...

I absolutely remember this! Also I believe she was also at the beginning, putting the videotape into the VCR and saying to stay tuned after the movie. For years I had a Hellraiser coffee mug that I bought at Fango Con in NYC, but it disappeared after living with one too many roommates.

Jeff Allard said...

Bummer about your coffee mug, Will! And you're right about the old lady appearing at the beginning of the movie - unfortunately no one has uploaded that clip to YouTube!

Will Errickson said...

I contacted the guy who posted this and he now has the intro uploaded as well:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbG4NnYtSKQ

Jeff Allard said...

That's awesome! Way to go, Will!

AllHallowSteve said...

Wow. That's pretty fantastic.
Also got a little gadget-homesick seeing her fumble with the VHS tape in the top loading VCR-- I HAD THAT VERY ONE!
-Sigh-

Jeff Allard said...

Yeah, that VCR kills! This whole promo makes me nostalgic for the days of VHS.

Sarah said...

I remember this commercial, I think. Hellraiser was a staple at my best friend's slumber parties when we were all of 8 or 9 years old. I haven't seen it since, but looking back, it seems like an odd/bad choice to show to a bunch of elementary school girls.

My local indie video store has a similar commercial on their VHS copy of either Return of the Living Dead or Return of the Living Dead 2. I came across it when I re-watched it a couple of years ago.