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{Rad Chat} 4 Movie Covers That Terrified Me – Volume 1

 

Growing up, I had a video store about 3 blocks away from my house named Nord Video. This was essentially my home away from home, and it captured my imagination something fierce, especially when it came to horror movies.

I loved browsing the movies at Nord video, it was your typical 80’s video rental store, with awesome standees and posters all over the slightly too-small space and floor-to-ceiling shelves of movies.

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Usually you would find me there browsing the video games or renting the My Pet Monster VHS Movie for the 27th time, but while my mom was looking for something to watch I would peek around the corner and see the horror section. I say peek because the covers absolutely terrified me as a child. Something about how they didn’t really tell you much but seemed to hide a terrifying experience that I imagined would be a million times worse than what it was.

When thinking of movies that triggered that fear response for this article I realized this batch is exclusively movies from 1986.
’86 seems to be my year. As much as I love 1984 thanks to Gremlins and Ghostbusters, 1986 is a huge year for me in movies; Trick Or Treat (featuring Sammi Curr, Rock’s Chosen Warrior), My Pet Monster, Little Shop Of Horrors, The Fly, Maximum Overdrive, Invaders From Mars, Rawhead Rex and so many more.

1. Critters

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Right off the bat, we have Critters. This cover confused and scared me because of the Krite grinning right at me, but yet it seemed reminiscent of a Gremlin. Like some sort of distant cousin. The back of the video was just as confusing, since it didn’t actually have shots of the creatures, but random pictures of the main cast. The shot of April Brown being attacked by the giant Krite’s arm always seemed to be a snake-type creature to me. It still looks odd to this day.

2. Chopping Mall

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I remember this cover vividly being more unsettling than anything else to young me. I was drawn to this because I could not get my head around the image for the life of me. I was a teenager before I actually saw the movie and then realized it was a bag of body parts, instead of some weird bug-eyed troll creature with feet-like hands and unusual ear placement. Yeah, I was a weird kid. This is still one of my favorite movies of all time, I can only imagine how much I would have loved it as a kid if I could have gotten over the cover.

3. Troll

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So here we have Troll. This was the big one that kept me from going all the way down the horror aisle. I would watch this cover from the corner of my eye, then when I got within a few feet, I would run around and go to the other side. I would not cross Torok’s gaze. Again it goes back to the stare, similar to the Critters cover, it just seems to follow you, even if you hide behind the Mickey Mouse standee on the end by the kids zone! To be fair the tagline just enhanced the terror as it beckons the potential viewer to “Come Closer”. Nope big ol’ nope there.

4. House

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Again the tagline did wonders for my young brain, much more effective than the movie was itself at being scary. Like there is no comparison for the cover vs the actual film. There is no hint that the film is a weird horror-comedy (the original one I saw as a kid didn’t have the review on the cover) but instead a movie about disembodied zombie bionic hands coming to kill people after ringing their doorbells.
Seriously I had no clue what to expect, and the funny thing is when I finally saw the film around the age of 12? maybe 13? I discovered that I had seen parts of it on TV or at a family member’s house, I just never knew that it was this film.

Thanks for joining me in this journey of nostalgia and video cover related fear. I am going to go curl up under some covers and ignore the fact I just stared Torok the Troll in the face for nearly 10 minutes straight.

 

{Rad Chat} #2 “Terror Stickers”

I had a surprisingly uneventful day at work, so when I left I asked my wife if she wanted anything on the way home. She decided she desired a late-night snack from the local supermarket. Sounds good, I told her, and I was looking forward to getting home a bit earlier than usual, so we could spend a bit of time chatting or playing random video games in the same room. We live an exciting life.

As I left the supermarket we go to a few times a week, I passed the usual vending machine which has fidget spinners, sticky hands, cheap plastic jewelry and the other usual not-as-good-as-when-we-were-kids trinkets.

This time though, the sticker machine caught my eye. “TERROR STICKERS” it proudly proclaimed.
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As you can see, the stickers feature not-quite-on-brand designs of legendary horror icons.
We have Kinda Sorta Leatherface, A decent Leprechaun,  Old-Age Pennywise, Angry guy breaking through a wood hut, Wood-shop killer doll, Reflective Jason Voorhees, and Almost Hannibal Lecter.

I don’t regularly have change for chance encounters like this but fate smiled upon me as I searched my pockets at 10pm at night in front of a vending machine like a maniac, and a few quarters were found!

My mind reeled with thoughts of getting some awesome TERROR STICKERS. I was already planning on where they would live on my laptop followed by my witty posts showing them off on twitter and Instagram with my fellow horror fan friends!

Phone at the ready, wanting to document the moment the sticker came out of the machine, I put two quarters in and out came my prize…

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{Rad Chat} #1 Skeet Shoot Tiger Handheld

Welcome to a new(ly named) section of Gremlins Online – Rad Chat! Every so often I have posted non-Gremlins related articles about toys, games, movies, or pop culture icons that I find rad.
Now that I have a name and a schedule of things to post, this will be a way to keep Gremlins Online updated for those stretches when there isn’t much happening in the Gremlins universe, and just share my love for pop culture in all its forms!
Today we get to talk about Tiger Handhelds, specifically, Skeet Shoot.

My parents were both avid trapshooters in the 1970’s (in fact, that is how they met) and while I was far too young to handle a shotgun, I was exposed to trapshooting culture at a very early age. I spent plenty of time at Boxhorn and Milwaukee Gun Clubs in the 1980’s, and when I found out that I could participate in the sport myself through video games, I jumped at the chance.

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First I played Duck Hunt on my cousin’s NES when visiting them in Fon Du Lac, WI.

My most vivid memory of this was my mother yanking me out of my cousin’s house and back home to milwaukee because I kept insisting on shooting the clay pigeons with the NES Zapper touching the TV glass. However, my cousin did give me one of my still-most prized possessions that day; a copy of the Gremlins novelization by George Gipe. I devoured that book and still return to it today, even though it has long been split in half due to re-reading it and taking it with me everywhere.

Not long after that, I discovered Tiger handheld games. This would be around 1988, and LCD handheld games were becoming a mainstay in the toy aisles. Keep in mind, the Game Boy wouldn’t come out until 1989 and even when it launched it was cost prohibitive for many families, including mine, so LCD handhelds filled a niche before and during the early years of the Game Boy era. Sure I eventually had a Game Boy, but that was due to family members that had the means to purchase such devices.

My parents were able to afford to indulge 7 year-old me a Tiger handheld game from time to time, usually before drives up to see family in Canada. They were great at keeping me quietly occupied in the back seat, especially Skeet Shoot, Mouse Maze, Contra, and Pinball. My favorite LCD games.

Recently I realized that I am a grown adult that can make adult decisions, so I went out and tracked down some auctions online for LCD handheld games rather than make actual smart adult decisions like socks or shoes or other footwear-related purchases.

My first purchase was a no-brainer. Skeet Shoot. One of the more unique handhelds out there due to its theme and design. I can’t imagine too many kids were dying to get their hands on a trapshooting video game, yet it existed.

After a few days of checking the mailbox over and over until my wife told me to just watch the tracking number online like a civilized human, my package arrived.skeet1
I ripped open the padded manilla envelope and was thrilled to see that yellow square-ish device. I was even more excited to see the battery panel was still attached. This was a prime specimen indeed.

It was a weird feeling holding a 30+ year old device that I spent so much time with as a kid. I grabbed some AA batteries and hoped that it would work.

Thankfully it did, and once I remembered how to begin the game, I was off to the trap range!

The game is fairly simple. You aim your gun with the dial on the right-hand side, and shoot with the button on the left hand side. As you clear waves of 10 clay pigeons, the game becomes harder with the targets moving faster and more erratically. The game ply is very responsive, the dial turning feels good and you get good immediate feedback through the bleeps and bloops the game provides.

As a kid, I rarely made it past the 3rd stage, and as an adult, I discovered I have similar skills, which is isn’t saying much.

Graphically, it is an LCD game, so you know what to expect. The characters are crisp, and even 31 years later, there is no sign of fading or loss of quality.

Obviously each image is pre-set and is visible when the game requires it, but it does the job just fine.

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The screen isn’t backlit and suffers from glare when in direct sunlight but this was a common issue with all LCD games. Too dark or too bright and you aren’t playing.
The sound effects really are what brought me back to my childhood. The simple sounds are pushed through a tinny “beeper” style speaker that would seem right at home in a 1980’s PC, but it simulates a satisfying “Pshow!” when you destroy a clay pigeon.

I was amazed at how quickly I got sucked into the game, and how I didn’t get as distracted as I do on the computer or video game devices. I assume this is likely due to there being no pause function or save game. I can’t Alt-Tab over to a browser to see what my horror movie friends are up to on twitter. If I want to play, I gotta keep playing, no excuses.

The last thing I wanted to do is let my 10-year old play the game and see what he thought.
He spent about 10 minutes with the game, then ran off to play in a sprinkler.
Interestingly, the game was second nature to him, once he saw the dial aimed the gun, he did fairly well. Good game design transcends generations. He hasn’t asked to play again, and I think he would rather watch videos of funerals or dominoes falling on youtube than play dad’s old handhelds.

I am sure I will pull this out from time to time to unwind and try to beat a high score, but it reminded me of not having a million options for gaming, but instead focusing on just the one title in front of you, which sometimes can be really liberating.

It does feel good to have this back in my collection, and I am sure that it will not be the last LCD handheld to show up in my mailbox.

{Gremlins In The Media} Ready Player One Standee Featuring Gizmo!

I posted this earlier on our facebook group (Come join! https://www.facebook.com/gremlinsonline) but thought those of you that pass through the site would like to see the photos of the Ready Player One Standee with Gizmo! The standee seems to be exclusive to Wal-Mart in my area, so check it out if you get a chance!

In other Ready Player One news, I am attempting to get some screengrabs of the Gremlins and Gizmo (Graffiti in the latter case) but have not been able to get a clear shot as the scenes featuring Stripe are incredibly busy. If anyone has screencaps out there, send them in and I’ll be happy to feature them!

{Website Updates} Bio Background Update

I have begun updating old portions of the site for clarity and expanding information within. First up is a section very close to my heart: On Mogwai & Gremlins.

Just a bit of cleanup and updated information there, but feel free to poke around and see if there is anything that you would like to see added!

https://gremlins.wordpress.com/fandom/on-mogwai-gremlins/

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