CANNIBAL CAMPOUT (1988). Having just gotten my drivers license, I was free to inspect video aisles on my own and found the cover with a guy chewing chunks of flesh from a girl’s throat staring at me. Now this I gotta see, said my foolish brain. I was never the same afterward. And while this magnum non-opus may have been my earliest exposure, it wasn’t the first shot-on-video horror flick. That honor belongs to BOARDINGHOUSE (1982).
Renting horror flicks in the 1980s, you honestly couldn’t escape seeing a trailer for BOARDINGHOUSE on every horror title released by Paragon on VHS. I’m pretty sure there is a small army of folks worldwide who (involuntarily) have the narration memorized and the “peeee-owwwwwwww” sound and psychedelic glove shot burned into their brains. Prolific promotion aside, BOARDINGHOUSE deserves historical attention for being the first mainstream horror release to realize that video was the way of the future. Not only that, but the producers even transferred a shot-on-Betacam movie to 35mm and got this bad boy in theaters. Sure, it had been done before (like the 1976 Redd Foxx comedy NORMAN…IS THAT YOU?) but this was the first horror film to do so. The fact that it got into theaters and made money (Variety reported a haul of $390,000 in just two weeks!) is even more amazing (although the filmmakers say they never got a dime). Variety also famously said of the film “tape-to-film horror pic hits a new low” but, like it or not, it still was groundbreaking. It broke the barrier that led to a new era in exploitation filmmaker, for better or worse, and accurately predicted the current era of digital filmmaker. Yes, Steven Soderbergh owes BOARDINGHOUSE some rent.
BOARDINGHOUSE advertised alongside a re-titled RITUALS
(Farmington, New Mexico - October 1983)
Since it is the first shot-on-video horror film, BOARDINGHOUSE has been afforded a certain status in horror film history. Believe it or not, it has been the recipient of two special edition DVD releases in the last five years. Yes, BOARDINGHOUSE gets two special editions before STAR WARS fans get releases of the unaltered trilogy on Blu-ray. There is something so wrong, yet so right about that. The first release was in 2008 from Code Red. Five years later, the new upstart Slasher // Video has given the film a loving special edition in their 30th Anniversary release.
Two of BOARDINGHOUSE's gruesome bits:
To make it up to you for that last framegrab, I offer you this: