As a VHS collector and a die-hard horror fan, I find titles that can be had exclusively on VHS to be of extra significance. The fact that there are a limited number of copies in existence and that the copyright holder has no plans to produce more on a contemporary medium makes me feel an immediate compulsion to track down and purchase copies of these titles.
I have often lamented the lack of any kind of resource for identifying titles that are exclusively available on VHS. There’s really no definitive guide to all of the VHS exclusive titles out there. And while there are certainly more than 13 films only available via VHS, this list gives the lowdown on 13 of the most important titles that haven't made the jump to DVD or Blu-ray.
Every day this month we're bringing you a different Top 13 list from the world of horror. You can find them all here.
Nightmare on the 13th Floor (1990)
In Nightmare on the 13th Floor, a travel journalist visits a luxury hotel with the intent of writing a review on the establishment. When a fellow guest goes missing, the young reporter puts her critique on hold and looks into the unexplained disappearance. It turns out that the hotel has a history of unexplained deaths and a very dark past. This made-for-TV horror film is surprisingly entertaining. It’s nothing groundbreaking or terribly original, but at the same time, it’s not a bad way to pass 90 minutes. VHS copies of the film can still be found through online resellers but they aren’t particularly cheap. Moreover, most of the copies floating around are former rentals with the box cut to fit a rental case. A copy of the film that was not previously a rental will likely run you over $50.00 via leading online resellers.
The Prey (1984)
The Prey stars 80s scream queen Lori Lethin (Bloody Birthday) in one of the lead roles. It’s part slasher and part backwoods creature feature. The result is less than stellar. Lethin’s involvement and the film’s classification as a VHS exclusive were the driving factors that led me to seek it out. I’ve seen it once since I purchased it but I am doubtful that I’ll watch it again. The acting, effects, script, and direction are all pretty poor. It may be worth seeking out for collectors; anyone else should probably just skip this one. Used copies start under $15.00 via Amazon.
House of Death aka Death Screams (1982)
A deranged and merciless killer stalks a group of teenagers in a small North Carolina town. Though it doesn’t really have any recognizable talent in it and was made for nearly no money, House of Death is not without its merits. It’s the kind of film that is likely to appeal to slasher fans but since it has never seen a stateside DVD release, it has remained relatively unknown. There aren’t a lot of copies of the House of Death VHS floating around but there are still a handful available. As of this posting, a non-rental copy with the original box intact can still be had for under $20.00 on Amazon.
Above is a kinda freaky scene from a merry-go-round.
The Mutilator (1985)
Reportedly, Code Red acquired the DVD distribution rights to The Mutilator several years ago but when the popular genre film distributor found that there were no 35 MM prints of the film in existence, they dropped the project all together. It’s a little surprising that The Mutilator hasn’t ever seen a stateside DVD release. In spite of that, it’s probably worth checking out if you haven’t seen it. However, there are very few copies still available for sale. As of this posting, Amazon has a total of three available. That lack of inventory has driven the price up a bit. You’re likely going to pay a minimum of $30.00 for a used copy that previously served as a rental.
Hide and Go Shriek (1988)
Hide and Go Shriek is a slightly below average ‘80s teen slasher film. It’s not the worst low budget stalk and slash title to come out of the VHS era but it’s also far from being a must see title. Hide and Go Shriek follows a group of recent graduates that stay overnight and party in a furniture store, only to learn that they are trapped inside with a ruthless killer. If you feel the urge to get ahold of a used copy of the film on VHS, it can be had starting at under $20.00 via leading online resellers.
Open House (1987)
Adrienne Barbeau stars in this 1987 low-budget slasher film about a deranged killer bent on knocking off real estate agents. This is definitely not a must see title. I originally saw it on Netflix and it didn’t leave a lasting impression. If you haven’t yet seen it, there’s no need to rush. This particular title is really only suited for die-hard slasher fans and even they may not be totally won over by this forgettable, low-rent horror film. If you feel the need to add this picture to your collection, you can score a used copy for under $10.00.
This forgotten horror-thriller is perhaps best left forgotten. It’s never seen a US DVD release but that very likely has to do with a lack of demand. If you haven’t seen this film, there’s really no pressing need to do so. It has a decent cast that includes Robert Mitchum and Jaclyn Smith but little else working in its favor. The premise and the direction do no favors for the film. Due to limited availability, used copies are starting at around $20.00 online.
The Devil Walking at Midnight (1971)
The Devil Walks at Midnight sees a group of travelers seeking refuge in an abandoned castle. What the group has not planned for is a battle to the death with pure evil. Before their stay is over, each of the visitors will see temptation in various forms and do battle with a succubus. This obscure horror film is actually available to stream for free via the Amazon Prime Instant Video platform. you check it out online and like it, a used copy of the VHS starts at around $25.00.
Massacre at Central High (1976)
This 1976 film may have been marketed a bit like a slasher but is more appropriately described as a political satire with horror overtones. It may not be the type of film you want to watch over and over, but Massacre at Central High is worth watching at least once, even if just for its underlying political allegory. This largely forgotten features has received a PAL DVD release but its never been granted a region one release for US audiences. As it stands, the film is pretty hard to find and it’s not cheap. The least expensive copy I could track down was over $70.00.
Phobia tells the tale of a psychiatrist whose patients begin to turn up dead – all by way of the thing they are most afraid of. This 1980 horror feature is probably safe to take a pass on. It’s fairly forgettable and doesn’t really offer anything of substance. If your curiosity gets the best of you, a non-rental VHS copy of the film can be purchased for around $5.00 via leading online resellers. But don’t expect to be particularly impressed.
Blood Salvage (1990)
A twisted horror comedy, Blood Salvage tells the story of a killer redneck that harvests the organs of his victims for sale on the black market. The film was originally released in 1990. Nearly 26 years after Blood Salvage was first released, it is still only available as a VHS cassette. If you’re interested in picking up a copy, it starts at around $10.00 on Amazon. This feature isn’t entirely without merit but it’s not the kind of film I would insist that you rush out and watch, either.
The Brain (1988)
This horror/sci-fi hybrid from B-Movie maven Ed Hunt (Bloody Birthday) focuses on a TV show host that purports to encourage his audience to be independent thinkers but in reality, he is using thought control to brainwash his target audience. The rights to the film reportedly sit with LionsGate but to the best of our knowledge, there is currently no strategy for bringing the film to DVD. Perhaps we will see a label like Scream Factory! lease the distribution rights to the film and give collectors the opportunity to own this cult classic on DVD. A used VHS copy of The Brain will set you back about $25.00.