While I was in college, I worked at a video store in order to pick up some extra spending cash.
Being a huge movie buff, I loved my part-time job.
From heated debates with co-workers and customers about the finer points of film trivia to being able to take an early glimpse at what new releases we would be stocking the walls with every Tuesday, my job was full of perks.
Not everything was sunshine and flowers, though. There were, of course, the stupid customers.
There was the person who demanded a refund on Texas Chainsaw Massacre because they did not realize how inappropriate the film would be for their four-year-old — despite the words “Texas,” “Chainsaw” and “Massacre” being in the title.
There were the people who tried to return foreign films because they “didn’t want none of that reading” in their movie.
And, worst of all, there were the people who didn’t bother to read the back of the box for the movie they were buying before they paid for it.
I once had a thirty-minute argument with a customer who was surprised that the copy of Bridge to Terabithia she had rented was the 1985 version and not the 2007 version that was, at that time, currently playing in theaters.
To make matters worse, she was upset that while the video box had pictures of “fairies, goblins and shit,” the actual movie was “really boring.” Needless to say, she did not get her refund.
This was not an isolated experience either. Customers were constantly being fooled by movies. Whether it was renting Snakes on a Train instead of Snakes on a Plane or The Da Vinci Treasure instead of The Da Vinci Code, deceptive packaging and a timely appropriation of a famous name tricked many a customer into renting a substandard film.
I used to mock the customers foolish enough to rent a cheesy direct-to-video version of The Black Dahlia instead of the Brian De Palma film scheduled to be released in theaters that summer.
Surely customers couldn’t possibly think that they had somehow found the only video store in the world that carried major Hollywood movies before they were released in theaters.
I have realized, though, that it’s not the customer’s fault. It’s the fault of the slimy video companies who like to make a quick buck through bait and switch.
Through the use of these so-called “Mockbusters,” films made with a low budget and created with the sole-intention of riding the coattails of a summer blockbuster film, studios are all to keen to make a quick buck off of somebody else’s misfortune.
One studio alone, The Asylum, has been responsible for such cinematic rip-offs as AVH: Alien vs. Hunter, Transmorphers, I Am Omega, Sunday School Muscial, The Day The Earth Stopped and so many more.
So how can customers protect themselves against renting Pirates of Treasure Island when they really meant to rent Pirates of the Caribbean or from buying When a Killer Calls when they had intended to purchase When a Stranger Calls?
It’s tricky sometimes.
These Mockbuster studios are notorious for releasing their films with box art derivative of famous movie posters.
The key is always to read the back of the box.
If, for some reason, you are still unsure if you are holding the right movie in your hands, feel free to ask one of the store employees. Once they finish laughing at you, they will be more then happy to help you find the right movie.
Bad Movie of the Week: AVP: Alien vs. Predator
To those who have not seen AVP, the 2004 action movie pits the stars of two legendary science fiction franchises, Alien and Predator, against each other.
The Predators, a species of dreadlock wearing, armor plated crab monsters are hunters on the search for the ultimate prey.
Xenomorphs, those vaguely phallic influenced extraterrestrials from the Alien movies, are mindless killing machines that enjoy long walks on the beach, candlelit dinners and poking people with their toothy mouth erections.
Together, the two are the Tom and Jerry of the galaxy, constantly dueling it out with no regards to property damage or the safety of innocent bystanders.
And what kind of Paul W.S. Anderson film would it be without a crew of black body armor wearing, gun-toting special ops bystanders.
In AVP, the film’s red shirts are a group of research scientists, mercenaries and arctic drillers — but essentially they all have the same job title: cannon fodder.
As a film that wears is silliness on its sleeve, AVP is by all definitions a bad movie. Sub-par special effects, overblown performances and a script potmarked with plot holes add up to a flick that has a hard time endearing itself to audiences.
A large part of the animosity most critics had with the film had to do with the fact that, unlike the original bloody franchises, AVP was given a PG-13 rating, with most of its blood and gore left on the cutting room floor.
Originally, I was one of those initial whining fanboys, mewing about the missing carnage like a little boy who lost his balloon.
Having seen the sequel, AVP: Requiem, I now realize that blood and guts do not make a good movie. While AVP 2 featured its fair share of dismemberments, child deaths and popped pregnant women bellies, it lacked heart (well, besides the ripped out and exposed hearts of the film’s casualties).
Rewatching Aliens vs. Predator, I think I’m starting to come to the realization that a movie doesn’t have to be ultra-violent and full of four-letter words to still be fun. Sure, those things help, but in the end they may not be necessary.
I watched Predator for the first time when I was in third grade.
My mom, feeling I did a good job in school, let me watch the movie as a treat.
Sitting there, seated Indian-style in front of the television, I was enraptured by the story of one lone Austrian’s battle against an alien reggae singer. At the time, I was totally tweaked by the site of skinned human bodies hanging from trees, but I think I came out okay in the end. There were a few restless nights, though, were I was haunted by nightmares inspired by the film.
Maybe it’s a good thing that we have an Aliens vs. Predator movie rated for teens. That way, they can still watch and enjoy a dumb science fiction punch ‘em up movie without having to worry about scary dreams about Jessie Ventura.
Robert Saucedo is still haunted by dreams of The Body. Visit him on the web at www.robsaucedo.com.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.