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I Went To Cult-O-Ween And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt by Lisa Ciurro
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I Went To Cult-O-Ween And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt You know how sometimes you keep hearing over and over again how wonderful a place is, and then by the time you finally get a chance to visit this place, it can’t live up to all the hype and is ultimately disappointing?
Well, Unique Video is NOT that place.
All the PCR columns, interviews, and in-person conversations over the past few months didn’t spoil any of the surprises that were in store for me at last Friday night’s Cult-O-Ween event. Unique Video is a fascinating place in and of itself, but throw in a group of cult movie fans, lots of low-hanging Halloween decorations bumping you in the head, chocolate cupcakes, an energetic video store owner who is a non-stop talker with an encyclopedic knowledge of film AND is dressed head to toe in a wizard’s costume, and a Paul Lynde Halloween special blaring on the tiny TV set in the back corner, and by gosh, by golly, you’ve got yourself a Night. To. Remember.
After successfully deciphering the directions hastily scribbled on a post-it note while simultaneously singing along at the top of my lungs to The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack (to get in the cult film frame of mind), I arrived at Unique Video about 9 p.m., a good hour later than originally planned. The first thing that popped in my mind when I opened the door was that my very mild claustrophobia might be an issue. The store is small and is crammed practically from floor to ceiling with movies, posters and hand-written shelf labels that give movie descriptions and information.
My very next thought was “Where are all the people I know?” followed quickly by “I hope there’s food.” One of the benefits, I’ve discovered through the years, of being one of only a few women in/at a mostly male-dominated event/hobby/environment is that I’m fairly recognizable and easy to identify. Within a few seconds of my entering the store, Andy Lalino, Mr. Oddservations himself, came up and introduced himself. (Technically he re-introduced himself, because I’ve been told repeatedly that I met Andy earlier this year. Since that was before I got to know him through his PCR columns – and since I don’t really remember it – I don’t think it should count.)
Given his well-known adoration of pre-1987 cinema, I halfway expected Andy to be dressed in pre-1987s fashion, wearing a Member’s Only jacket or a skinny tie. (He wasn’t.) Don’t tell him I said this, but it turns out that Andy’s a great guy and the perfect person to hang out with for two hours in a video store on a Friday night.
After a very brief chat with Andy, I had a chance to say hello to Nolan and Terence Nuzum. Nolan introduced me to JMiller2 from the message board, who that night was using the mysterious alias “John,” so I didn’t make the (really obvious) connection. I met Lonnie Dohlen, who had driven up from Bradenton to be there. Lonnie was instrumental in researching the Creature Feature database on this site years ago. He and I hung out at the chocolate cupcake table, where he patiently listened to my story about how my husband’s autographed photo of Dr. Paul Bearer turned up recently in our garage (in a box of random junk, of course) after being lost for years. (When I asked my husband why there was a band-aid on the photograph, he said “Dr. Bearer said something that sounded like ‘go home and put a band-aid on it.’ So I did. I was 12, gimme a break.”)
And then there’s Frank Granda, Jr. Businessman. Writer. Cult film enthusiast. Film critic. All around good guy, so willing to support this local film fan event that not only did he drive up from Miami to attend, but he enthusiastically embraced the Cult-O-Ween idea by wearing a royal blue wizard’s robe and hat, putting red glitter in his hair and sporting blue eyeshadow so elaborate that Snow White’s Wicked Stepmother would be jealous. Some guy, that Frank.
After all the greetings and introductions were done, I decided to take a tour of the store. I had never been in Unique Video before, so I thought I’d start at one end and walk through all the aisles until I had seen everything. I began my tour in one of the front corners, which I quickly discovered, much to my surprise, was the Classic Porn section. O-kay…
For those of you keeping score at home, this is one of the challenges of being one of only a few women in/at a mostly male-dominated event/hobby/environment. (Anyone who doesn’t understand why this might be a challenge is welcome to borrow my Sociology of Gender textbook from my freshman year of college.) But hey, I’m a good sport – and hopefully no one noticed that I headed straight for this section – so I proceeded with my grand tour. Forty-five seconds later – barely enough time to wonder if there are any good plastic surgeons in Tampa – Nolan and Frank walked by and we started talking. I didn’t get a chance to look at any more of the store’s movies (many other movies in many other categories; don’t get the wrong impression from this paragraph) for the rest of the night. (Although I kept getting glimpses of various titles and cover art in this section over Frank’s shoulder every now and then when he would take a step or two. One minute we’re discussing film critics, then BAM! I’m looking at the box for Debbie Does Dallas. Of all the corners of all the video stores in the world, I just had to stumble into this one.)
What I did get a chance to do was talk – and more importantly, listen -- mostly to Andy and Frank. About Suspiria. Black Christmas, both the original and the remake. Silent Night, Deadly Night. Retelling the storylines of all the Twilight Zone episodes we could remember. Mary Lambert. Dario Argento. Asia Argento. Remakes. Reimaginings. Sequels. Prequels. Which movie in the Halloween series was the best. Frank making me cringe with the gory re-enactment of a woman being stabbed in a film (I forget the title) and then my making him cringe when I mentioned the bathtub scene in I Spit On Your Grave. Stupid horror movie stereotypes. Movies that freaked us out. Ghosts. Mondo. Obscene phone calls. Blood. Gore. Fantasy versus reality. Tales from the Crypt. Lessons you can learn from horror movies. Stephen King. Which films are really rip-offs of earlier films. And on and on and on. I’d still be there now if I could.
That’s why we need places like Unique Video. Sure, Netflix and similar websites are efficient and easy to use, but they’re also impersonal. It’s the personal touch, whether in person or online, that makes being a film fan so much fun. We need cult film experts who will gladly answer countless questions from a cult film newbie without laughing at her (too much). We need message boards where we can argue for days over the tiniest of film details. We need video store owners who dress up like wizards and make great movie recommendations.
We need Cult-O-Ween to be an annual event. With plenty of chocolate cupcakes. Video of Florence Henderson singing optional.
p.s. My Cult-O-Ween experience didn't end when I was kicked out of Unique Video so they could close up the store. In the store I wrapped up five cupcakes to take home, but when I unwrapped them at home, there were only four. (There wasn't one turned upside down on the floor of my car. I checked. The fifth cupcake just...disappeared.)
Then there's the crazy ghost dream I had at 3 a.m.
And finally, Frank Jr. and I are now email pals and he's just as hilarious in print as he is in person. He had no idea that the hanging Halloween decorations were responsible for repeatedly knocking off his wizard's hat until I told him via email. And I'm not banned from his store for knocking over a bunch of movies with my over-sized purse.
"FANGRRL" is ©2007 by Lisa Ciurro. All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.
You know how sometimes you keep hearing over and over again how wonderful a place is, and then by the time you finally get a chance to visit this place, it can’t live up to all the hype and is ultimately disappointing?