A Year on Saturn

...is approximately 29.7 Earth years.

"A Year on Saturn" is the website of Shannon Fay,
freelance and fiction writer.

Thoughts on Old VHS Movie Covers

Posted on: August 18th, 2016 by Shannon Fay No Comments

Lately my landlady has been telling me I should blog more. “You’re a young person, working in a major London gallery, traveling around the world, having exciting interesting experiences every day! You must have things to blog about!”

And she’s right. So, following in that vein, I present…


I grew up in an Ottawa suburb where everything, including the local Rogers Video, was just a short bike ride away from my house. I swear my brother and I must have watched nearly every kids’ movie in there a dozen times (our favourites were the Alvin and the Chipmunks specials that spoofed movies we had never seen ourselves, like King Kong and Robocop. We hungered for the whole spectrum of movies, not just kiddie fare, and those cartons spoofs were a tantalizing glimpse at what was out there). I also liked the ‘spooky’ Abbott and Costello movies where they met Dracula and the Wolfman and Frankenstein. I liked them because, well, there were funny, but also because they were just tipping their toes into actual horror movie territory (Mark Gatniss cites ‘Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein’ in his History of Horror series he did for the BBC). Even then I was drawn to scary movies, but I was also a wimpy small child. Even just looking at the horror section gave me the heebie-jeebies.

But some covers struck me more than others. Since I had no frame of reference (going down the horror aisle to read the back of the box would mean going down the horror aisle) I just had to imagine what the film was actually like.


This was a horror movie that it seemed like every other kid on the playground had seen and would recount in ‘a greatest hits’ style retelling: “At one point, someone swallows one of the leprechaun’s gold coins and he punches a hole in their stomach to get the coin out. And then later on the leprechaun pogo-sticks a guy to death.” As an adult I wondered if maybe this Leprechaun recounting were purely apocryphal. Maybe nobody had actually seen Leprechaun and everyone was just retelling the same made-up stories. I could have watched Leprechaun myself to find out, but luckily I didn’t have to. I asked my friend Chris, a grown man who has seen all seven of the Leprechaun movies (!), whether the leprechaun does in fact rip a coin out of someone’s stomach and then pogo-sticks a guy to death. Chris said that does in fact happen in the first of the seven (!) Leprechaun movies. And so one of the lingering questions from my childhood was answered.

Lawnmower Man

This cover just puzzled me. What is so scary about doing yard work? Yeah, it’s a pain to do your chores, but if you don’t do your chores you don’t get your allowance and if you don’t have your allowance you can’t buy snacks at Mac’s Convenience Stores and then how will you ever know what Orbitz tastes like? (When I finally bought a bottle of Orbitz I asked the pimply-faced store clerk if it would kill me “You’ll wish it did,” he replied). I was a very capitalistic child. When we had snow days I was excited, not because it meant I got to stay in my pajamas all day, but because it meant I could charge my neighbors a fiver to shovel their driveway. So a horror movie about mowing the lawn? Yeah right. I had no sympathy for lawn mower man.

(By the way, the ‘Orbitz’ succinct wikipedia page is a fun, quick read.)


A scary cover, but also somewhat perplexing. The image on the cover is just so striking, then you pair it with a boring title like ‘Hellraiser?’ I might not have known the word ‘generic’ when I was 7, but I knew what it described. You have a movie that features a man with multiple pins stuck in him! Are we not going to talk about that?!?! This movie should be called something like, I don’t know ‘The Man With Multiple Pins Stuck In His Head.’ Talk about burying your lead.


I had mixed feelings about this cover. Yes, it is very scary having a bee crawl around on your eye, but shouldn’t horror movies aspire to more than that? That’s such an easy scare, and even as a child I knew what I enjoyed about horror movies were the scares that could not be so easily brushed away (like, for example, seeing how much Lon Cheney’s character dreaded turning into the Wolfman was as scary as the actual Wolfman). And what is the connection between the title (no candy in sight) and the title image? Sure, bees are attracted to sugar, but that seems pretty loosey-goosey.

Silence of the Lambs

Okay. If Bee + Candyman was a bit of a stretch, Moth + Silence of the Lambs made absolutely no sense at all. I wondered if it were some kind of trend, horror movies featuring bugs on the cover but making no reference to them in the title. But it’s not like other horror movies did this. You didn’t see the cover to Rosemary’s Baby featuring a caterpillar crawling on someone’s eyebrow, or the Exorcist featuring a cockroach resting on someone’s nose. Yes, sure, once again, it wouldn’t be pleasant to have a moth sitting on your mouth, but that still a minor inconvenience, not necessarily horror film material.

Also, the cover was so sparse. Compared to most of the other 90s covers which showcased the horror front and center, this one barely gave anything at all. At some point while looking at the cover, it struck me that maybe it was the scariest film of them all because it was so scary they couldn’t even display it. Or…maybe it wasn’t on the cover because it featured something that couldn’t be showcased in that way, not like Pinhead or the Leprechaun. Maybe this was about the kind of evil that could hide in plain sight.

The idea intrigued me, but I was still a wimpy kid who wouldn’t watch horror movies until I was 13. I wouldn’t watch a horror movie in theaters until Sleepy Hollow came out, and even then my dad had to convince me to see it with him (I did, I loved it, and someday when I do a Hammer Horror blog post I’ll talk about it some more).


(Side note about Silence of the Lambs: I still love it as a piece of film making but Buffalo Bill is a really hurtful stereotype regarding transwomen and it has soured me on the movie as a whole. Those kinds of depictions are something that, like Orbitz, should stay in the 90s.)

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