Long before Scream Factory, there was Vestron Video.
If you were alive and renting during the VHS boom of the 1980s, you damn sure remember Vestron Video. Founded in 1981, Vestron was one of the dominant players in the industry throughout the decade, and the company’s iconic logo played before so many beloved ’80s horror movies that it’s probably still seared into your brain. Films like THE GATE, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, CHOPPING MALL, THE MONSTER SQUAD, and GHOULIES were all released onto VHS by Vestron, and though the company may have gone under well over 20 years ago, horror fans continue to keep it alive.
Responding directly to the love that fans still have for the brand, Lionsgate – who acquired the defunct company’s assets in 2003 – just announced that they’ll be relaunching the Vestron Video label beginning this September. A handful of titles for the Vestron Video Collector’s Series Blu-ray line have already been announced, with Vestron faves Chopping Mall, Blood Diner, Waxwork, and even Return of the Living Dead 3 kicking off the festivities proper. Needless to say, it’s a damn good time to be a Vestron fan.
One of the fun little things that Vestron was known for, like many VHS labels in the ’80s, was whipping up cool promotional items for their movies, which were often sent out to video stores as a way of promoting upcoming releases. With the label coming back from the dead later this year, we wanted to celebrate its resurrection by shining the spotlight on five of the coolest horror movie promo goodies that they put out over the years. So come along with us, as we relive the glorious 1980s!
One of Vestron’s most popular titles was undoubtedly Stuart Gordon’s RE-ANIMATOR, so it only makes sense that the film spawned their most memorable promo item. Made out of pewter, this nifty piece turned the 1985 classic’s most enduring image, that of Dr. Hill’s severed head in a dish, into the world’s coolest paperweight. Every so often, one of these bad boys pops up on eBay, and you can expect to pay upwards of $150 to snag one. In the world of promo items, they just don’t get any cooler.
The mid-1980s represented a golden age for movies about diminutive rubber monsters, and though it may not quite rank up there with GREMLINS, Empire Pictures’ GHOULIES is certainly something of a beloved cult classic. When Vestron Video released the film on VHS, they whipped up this cheap plastic “hand puppet” to go along with it, emblazoned with the now-iconic art of one of the little monsters emerging from a toilet. Horror was just so much more fun back in the ’80s, wasn’t it?!
Another prime example of Vestron going above and beyond the call of duty, at least in regards to promotional items, is this STREET TRASH coffee mug, which is cool enough to be a must-own collector’s item even for those who don’t drink coffee. The ceramic mug, made to look like a garbage can, features the film’s logo on front and, coolest of all, comes complete with a removable garbage can lid. That a film like STREET TRASH was given its own coffee mug is a true testament to how awesome Vestron was.
I’ve admittedly never seen the 1981 Italian horror flick BURIAL GROUND (aka NIGHTS OF TERROR, aka ZOMBIE 3), but boy oh boy did Vestron do a good job when it came to getting potential renters interested in their mid-80s VHS release. Yes, that is indeed an official BURIAL GROUND notepad, featuring the film’s memorable poster image. But the coolest aspect of this promo item is of course the pen, the cap of which is made to look like the head of a shovel. Genius marketing, to say the least.
If you do a little digging, you’ll probably uncover a handful of different pennants that Vestron whipped up to promote various movies, including SPACE CAMP and PARTY CAMP – our own Rebekah McKendry owns the former, and it’s a cherished piece in her collection. But the coolest of Vestron’s pennant promos is this one for SLAUGHTER HIGH, the 1986 slasher film about a masked killer knocking off teenagers at a high school reunion. What’s your favorite sports team? Mine is totally SLAUGHTER HIGH.
LONG LIVE VESTRON VIDEO!