THE NEW BLOOD: Leonel VHS

68390_10151150539704998_897037894_n*We’ve been letting you fright fanatics know more about the Icons of Fright staffers, more specifically the ones who have joined the fold within the last year or so. Since Icons of Fright’s inception (2004!!), the site has had the privilege of having some really great writers and creators and before joining the team, I frequented it quite regularly as a reader, so I thought it would be a fun idea to let you know about the current crop. My good bud, Leonel VHS is highlighted on this one, so enjoy!      Jerry


A__453CHailing from the Central Valley of California, my love for horror films began in 1982 at the age of eight when, because of curiosity, my father sat me down in front of the original Friday the 13th as both a cruel prank and as an attempt to scare me away from them altogether. Growing up in a strict Pentecostal household and with my father being an Assemblies of God minister, anything horror-related at home was strictly forbidden. Because of him, ironically, there’d been a horror seed planted in my docile little heart that was now slowly and painfully aching to blossom into something grandiose. God loved me enough, though, to bestow upon me the wonderful gift of being able to live through the years that comprised the 1980’s and I was able to witness first-hand both the rise and the flourishing of the Home Video era. I got the chance to browse through what seemed like endless mom-and-pop electronic stores while my father purchased both our first RCA SFT-100 CED Video Disc player and our first top-loading Quasar Model VH5042XQ and got to fully experience the dawn of video rental. I got to observe local, independent stores charge membership fees on top of the price of a regular VHS rental just to be able to have the privilege of being able to take movies out for one night. My first video rental store was Ernie’s Video, a very small location in Reedley, California in late 1982 and it was in that charming little shack that I got my first real taste of the wonder of 80’s horror and first got a glimpse at poster art and VHS boxes for Maniac, Visiting Hours, The Burning, Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, Madman, Hell Night and Squirm. At Morgan’s Video in Selma, California that same summer, I got to see boxes for Graduation Day and Happy Birthday to Me. The local drive-in-turned-swap-meet-on-weekends introduced me to posters for Pieces and Sleepaway Camp. Little by little, my young mind began absorbing everything I saw and committing it to memory as my curiosity grew faster than I could keep up with. By the time we moved to the southern-most region of Texas known as the Rio Grande Valley in 1984, video-rental outlets had becomeA__6E96 prevalent as even gas stations, grocery stores and pharmacies were cashing in on the demand for videocassettes. There wasn’t anywhere you went during that time that didn’t have a way for you to take VHS home with you.

I spent most of my adolescent years browsing countless numbers of VHS boxes, memorizing titles and reading synopsis after synopsis on their backs as this was the only way I could educate myself being that even mentioning a horror film was a punishable offense in our house. That would change a few years later when Joshua, the older sibling of my childhood friend who lived next door – coincidentally, named Jason – landed himself a job as the assistant manager of a local grocery store my family frequented who had one of the best selections of slasher and gore films in the entire area. Desperate, with a fantastic idea in my head, I made a surreptitious deal with him: I would scope out their catalog whenever my parents went shopping and I would write down the names of the films I wanted to watch and he, in return, would bring those films home so I could watch at their house, allowing me to finally get to sit in front of all these movies that I’d read so much about and have my parents none the wiser. During the latter part of the 80’s and through most the early 90’s, I had this yearning and this insatiable pent-up passion inside of me that needed to be set free and soon enough, I was familiarizing myself with soon-to-be classics like The Mutilator, Basket Case, Evilspeak, Killer Party, Nightmare and what would soon become my all-time favorite film, Dario Argento’s Suspiria. As that horror-hungry teenager, two books would serve as a guide to furthering my horror schooling and I consider them both essential reading for any budding slasher fan: 1983’s The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film by Michael Weldon and 1985’s Stay Out of the Shower: by William Schoell.

 

With the advent of the Digital Versatile Disc in the late 1990’s changing up the home video game and the clamoring by fans for horror films of the 70’s and 80’s to A__35CAbe put out onto the newly-released format, I began renting more and more of the ones I read about and knew of but weren’t familiar with and without even noticing, I was delving into the realm of the Italian giallo film and quickly fell under the hypnotic spells of Twitch of the Death Nerve, Death Walks at Midnight, Torso, and of course, Profondo Rosso. My taste for these kinds of films began to elevate from American-made teen slashers to mature, (sometimes) sophisticated foreign offerings like Hasta El Viento Tiene Miedo, Mystics in Bali and The House that Screamed. Soon, I became obsessed with getting my hands on every film I could and my collection over the course of the last ten years has grown to over 1, 500 spread out over CED, VHS, DVD and even Laserdisc. I then began writing horror literary shorts that someday soon will become a collection and I’ve even gotten the chance to take my love for horror and slasher films and start a (now defunct) blog in 2010, Linus Loves 80’s Horror.

My collection also includes countless movie posters and classic 80’s artwork and within the last three years, it all has culminated into a love of attending horror conventions, meeting as many people as I can from these beloved movies of my youth that I hold very near to my heart. I love slasher movies and 80’s horror so much that in 2014, I founded the Visalia Horror Society, a monthly film club that I host out of my home where a group of us gather around and talk and mingle and watch hilariously bad fright films that is still going strong. Combine all of the above with my rabid affinity for Amy Steel, Felissa Rose and Zach Galligan, my undying love for 80’s European synth-pop (Erasure, Depeche Mode, Savage and the Pet Shop Boys are all-time favorites), alternative electronica/rock (I have a huge penchant for Morrissey, Bjork, and the Sugarcubes) and my unapologetically fanatical adoration of Mama’s Family, The Golden Girls and Absolutely Fabulous and you’ve got yourself one hell of a weirdo. Thankfully, though, I’m a weirdo with a big heart. I enjoy every moment of my life and I thank Icons’ editor-in-chief Jerry Smith from the depths of my black-and-rainbow-colored soul for allowing me the wonderful and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to share myself and my love for everything bizarre and fantastic with you.

Comments
One Response to “THE NEW BLOOD: Leonel VHS”
  1. Matt Garcia says:

    You are a true horror master. I love being enlightened by you and I know many others love your interest. Also, you really know how to paint a vibrant picture of your youth seeking out these films.

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