Screens Old monsters never die

Creepy Classics video store feeds our bloodthirst for Godzilla, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and things that go bump in the night

With the almost endless encroachment of big-business video rental chains such as Blockbuster Video and the ever-expanding online Goliath known as Netflix, it has become harder for smaller rental outlets to retain their clientele. One such mom 'n' pop source for video rentals in San Antonio is Creepy Classics, which carries thousands of titles that the big chains don't usually stock `Netflix does carry Blood Feast`. Located at 530 San Pedro, close to San Antonio College, Creepy Classics offers movies on VHS and DVD for those looking to plumb the depths of the horror genre. Although they rent newer horror films, Creepy Classics specializes in rare and out of print films. "Big chains just don't carry 2,000 Maniacs or Blood Feast," says owner Lorie Gonzales.

Gonzales' love of horror movies began in Louisiana when she was 7. "I started watching The Creature from the Black Lagoon and then my grandfather had a fit because I was watching it. Well in Louisiana, that's very brackish swampish water, so when he tried to take me out on a skiff, I'd scream my head off because the Creature from the Black Lagoon was at the bottom of the lake!" she recalls. "They'd go frog-gigging and fishing but they had to leave me at the house because if you tried to drag me to the water line I'd have hysterical fits ... I just knew that thing was in there!"

After moving to San Antonio, she (along with countless other children, myself included) watched the '70s television show Project Terror on KENS that broadcast different horror movies each weekend. Midnight on Friday it featured such kitschy fare as Creature with the Blue Hand, The Deathmaster, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Island of Terror, and an ample helping of Godzilla movies.

With more than 5,000 titles available, Creepy Classics' library includes best bets such as Night of the Comet, Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad, Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster, I Spit on Your Grave, Hell's Angel's Forever, HotRod, the Johnny Weismuller Tarzan films, and all things El Santo, the Mexican wrestling legend turned move star. Gonzales says she is expecting a shipment of about 60 Korean, Japanese, and Thai horror films, "very much like The Ring and Ju-On. Some really creepy, get your feet off the floor, turn the light on kind of movies." Gonzales also tracks down hard-to-find titles from all over the world for her customers. Just bring a list, she says, and she'll start the detective work.

Like most businesses, 4-year-old Creepy Classics has good months and bad months. "During Halloween, we have a booth at the 'Nightmare on Grayson' haunted house. Halloween pushes us through the rest of the year," says Gonzales. "But we're such a peculiar little niche ... I'm trying to stay with the movies you can't find on the video shelves anymore, like The Creeping Terror or It Came from Outer Space."

The demographic for such cinematic rarities is more varied than one might think. "It ranges from SAC students to the Goth crowd to couples that come in here in their 60s who sit here on the floor all day long, and pull out a dozen movies once a month when their checks come," says Gonzales. "The Goths rent the black-and-white films and the silents. We hit so many different markets, we just finished the Slinging Ink Tattoo convention, they're big Betty Page, Russ Meyer fans."

With the renewed interest Japanese films have generated in horror and the newfound popularity of comic books and graphic novels - Creepy Classics also carries a wide selection of old television shows starring Spidey, Superman, Isis, Shazam, and their peers - the little store could be poised for crossover success. "They're as cheesy as you remember them but when you were a kid they were awesome! We used to wear my mom's white shirts and pretend they were togas and run out in the yard and scream out, "Oh Mighty Isis!" Gonzales laughingly recalls. "A lot of people who rent from me, they're grabbing their childhood memories. We used to pretend to BE these people."

By J. Michael Owen

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