CONTAINS SPOILERS, SORT OF
Years ago I had hundreds of VHS tapes. Many precerts and ex-rentals, and some quite rare, but I eventually gave them away when I realised I wasn't ever going to watch them again. Only a few I kept back: Bruno Mattei's Rats: Night Of Terror because it was rather fun, the genuinely repulsive Nekromantik (which I won in a raffle at the Scala Cinema and Jorg Buttgereit autographed the sleeve), The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue, because it was my only actual video nasty. And this sort-of documentary about the psychological workings of horror movies that doesn't really work on that level as it has no depth or insight whatsoever (hey, as if I'm one to talk) but as nicely edited assemblage of great and awful horror movies from the 70s and 80s it's enormous fun. And it's also a fabulous trivia game of Name That Movie - shout out the title as you identify each clip. Which is tricky because some of them are only a couple of seconds long.
Terror In The Aisles has Nancy Allen and a genial but slightly sinister Donald Pleasence sitting in a tatty grindhouse cinema in the middle of a pretty rowdy audience, putting forth various arguments and theories about different aspects of horror movies: wish fulfilment, the role of the villains, shock versus suspense, whether we invent fictional horrors to help us cope with the real ones. But while they're burbling merrily away I'm much more excited about the series of clips tumbling onto the screen - classic horror titles like Halloween, Alien, The Omen, Carrie, Psycho, Jaws, Rosemary's Baby and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, largely forgotten movies like Nightwing and Alone In The Dark (the Landau-Pleasence slasher, not the Uwe Boll nonsense), and films like Play Misty For Me, Vice Squad and Nighthawks which are either borderline genre movies or not genre movies at all.
Terror In The Aisles hasn't been released in this country since its 1987 video release, and indeed still isn't available. But, strangely, it's been included in its entirety as a bonus feature on the newest American BluRay of Halloween II (the Rick Rosenthal film, not the Rob Zombie atrocity) which is happily Region Free. And it looks fantastic in the proper widescreen ratio and 1080 definition rather than the 4:3 crop on a battered ex-rental VHS tape. And just as Not Quite Hollywood made me want to see some of its vintage Australian exploitation movies again, so Terror In The Aisles has made me want to see Nighthawks and Ms 45 again. And while I have spotted most of the film excerpted, I'm still not sure where Dawn Of The Dead shows up: Romero's zombie masterpiece and The Greatest Film Ever Made is included in the end credits copyright listing but despite having watched it many times over the years I've never spotted a single shot.
I love Terror In The Aisles for its editing together of wildly disparate movies (The Birds, Halloween, The Brood and Night Of The Living Dead all bolted together in one sequence) and its thundering John Beal score, which has become one of my favourite recent CD purchases although the music as heard in the film is even better. Granted it doesn't really delve into the deeper social relevance of horror cinema, and the comedy pop song tacked on the end doesn't feel appropriate even when playing against shots from horror comedies like Saturday The 14th (which is rubbish) and The Howling (which isn't). But it's great fun and I'm thrilled to finally have a more than decent copy of it.