When talking about toy companies that delivered the goods for us horror fans, it’s impossible to not shine a big ole spotlight on Mike Markowitz’ Mezco Toyz. An offshoot of previous company Aztech Toyz, Mezco turned its attention to horror in a big way beginning in 2007, introducing the toy world to their Cinema of Fear line – picking up where McFarlane left off with its fan-favorite Movie Maniacs line.
In addition to various other collectibles, the main Cinema of Fear line spanned four series’, and brought us the first ever action figures of horror icons like Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s Hitchhiker, the sequel’s Chop Top and even The Dream Master’s Debbie “Roach Girl” Stevens. Several incarnations of Freddy, Jason and Leatherface highlighted the line, depicting their looks in different franchise installments.
Under that Cinema of Fear umbrella, Mezco made their most unique contribution to the horror toy game with the spinoff Screen Grabs line, comprised of two series’ that respectively hit shelves in 2007 and 2008. Serving to recreate some of the most iconic scenes in franchise horror history, the mini dioramas featured both victims and villains, and six of them (plus two variants) were released in total.
The first series of Mezco’s Screen Grabs were housed inside of boxes, making it appear as if you were looking at TV sets freeze-framed on those memorable moments. In the inaugural collection, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Friday the 13th made the cut, though it’s interesting to note that the Friday set was wrongly attributed to the franchise’s fourth installment.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Horror movie moments simply don’t get much more terrifying than Kirk’s death scene in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which immediately introduced Leatherface as a whole new breed of big screen monster. The Screen Grabs diorama captured precisely the moment that Leatherface struck Kirk in the head with a mallet, and the backdrop brought a little piece of the Sawyer home into our homes.
Though the other dioramas in the series were based on the original films in each franchise, Mezco decided to instead pay tribute to A Nightmare on Elm Street’s most beloved sequel, Dream Warriors. Before Patricia Arquette won an Oscar she was nearly swallowed alive by a massive (and suggestively phallic) Freddy snake, and that memorable bit of nightmare fuel was immortalized in plastic by Mezco.
Rounding out the first series was a diorama recreating Jason Voorhees’ very first appearance, jumping out from his watery grave and grabbing hold of final girl Alice Hardy in a dream sequence that is to this day one of the most effective horror movie jump scares. NECA recently made an action figure of “Young Jason,” as portrayed by Ari Lehman, though this was the first collectible to give him the toy treatment.
For Screen Grabs Series 2, released in 2008, the boxes were traded for traditional blister packaging, and once again Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Texas Chain Saw Massacre were the three franchises immortalized. In a bold move, it was the Chainsaw remake that was given its own diorama this time around, recreating the visceral slaughter of Morgan at the hands of 2003’s Leatherface.
Now fully grown and more badass than before, Jason Voorhees was given his second Screen Grabs diorama in Series 2, based on sequel Jason Lives. This time he was fully submerged in the water rather than leaping out of it, desperately clutching to the throat of Thom Mathews’ incarnation of franchise hero Tommy Jarvis. To date, this is the first and only toy to depict Jarvis – a damn shame, if you ask me.
And last but certainly not least, the line’s second series made up for shunning the original Nightmare on Elm Street in the first wave by bringing Freddy’s nemesis Nancy Thompson to our toy collections, depicting the scene wherein the dream demon literally emerged from Nancy’s bedroom wall while she was catching up on her beauty sleep. A loving tribute to one of Wes Craven’s most enduring scares.
It’s worth noting that both the Elm Street and Chainsaw dioramas in Series 2 were given black and white variants, the former dubbed the “Nighttime version” while the latter is known as the “Monochrome version.” The Jason Lives figure, however, was not. Also must mention that while many attribute a figure based on the Elm Street bath tub scene to the Screen Grabs line, it’s actually from Cinema of Fear: Series 2.
If the Screen Grabs line was ever brought back to life, which horror scenes would you like to display on your toy shelf? Let us know!