Here's a clip (posted by Freddy in Space as their Vintage Video of the Week) that will stir some memories for any horror fan who grew up in the '80s: a concerned report circa 1987 titled "VCR Horrors" from ABC's newsmagazine 20/20 on the rising appetite among America's young people for violent entertainment, then more readily accessible than ever thanks to home video.
Here, give it a watch:
Man, that's good stuff. Vintage cluelessness towards horror. But the kind of uninformed hand-wringing found in that report was a big part of what made the genre so appealing to kids back in the '80s - like heavy metal, horror was outlaw stuff, considered dangerous by most parents and teachers. Watching that report actually makes me a little sad that those alarmist days are gone for good. Now that the generation that grew up renting hardcore horror every week have become adults with kids of their own, it's hard for even the most extreme horror to be seen as a threat to the fabric of society. You know, when you spent your teen years watching films like Make Them Die Slowly and grew up mentally unscathed, The Human Centipede doesn't seem like a viable scapegoat for society's ills.
Along those same lines, you'd also think that a generation that grew up on such disreputable pop culture touchstones as EC Comics and Hitchcock's Psycho wouldn't have lost their shit over splatter movies but yet somehow they did. Luckily, no one from my generation is going to ever claim that filmmakers today lack the classy touch of William Lustig! If anything, they complain that today's movies aren't as gory as the ones they watched as kids. We want movies to be old-school, not old-fashioned.
This report also evokes a real pang of nostalgia for the era of the video store. All matters of convenience aside, getting movies off of Netflix or OnDemand or whatever just isn't as cool as getting a video off a shelf. I know that's the old-fogiest of outlooks and that everyone loves having movies at their fingertips now but, jeez, video stores added so much to the aura of horror in the '80s. Now that's all just a memory.
Even sadder is to revisit a robust Chas. Balun (who probably felt like his comments weren't entirely well-served here) and scream queen Linnea Quigley, both then in their prime. Beloved genre critic Balun passed away too young at age 61 in 2009 after a long battle with cancer and not only has Quigley endured a natural fade from her B-movie glory days but she also represents the kind of semi-famous exploitation starlet (whose ranks would include Michelle Bauer and Brinke Stevens) that just doesn't exist anymore.
But apart from nostalgia, the one thing that most people will probably take away from this report is how all the kids seem so grounded, sensible, and untroubled about their viewing choices (sez young Josh Butler: "This guy just goes around killing people. That's the plot of all scary movies."). It's enough to make you wonder why anyone would have ever worried about their psychological well-being in the first place.
But then, hindsight is 20/20.