Typically every Halloween I receive complaints from one or two grumps who reject the Halloween spirit. I'm a big believer in Halloween. Not just because I lived in Canada and experienced the absolute jubilation and celebration of it, but more so because I think the world needs more fun. We'd be a better place if we let loose a little and got a bit silly. I sure as hell can't see anything wrong with dressing up in spooky costumes, trick-or-treating and having a good ol' time. The whinges usually bang on about Halloween being an American tradition that we have no right to adopt. Bah-Humbug! People celebrate Christmas and Easter without appreciating it's religious significance... and the amusing thing is that only a few days after Halloween we enjoy a public holiday to celebrate gambling, alcohol consumption and really fucking STUPID dress-up. The fact that this is all for a horse race is irrelevant to most of the folk who enjoy it. I certainly know which of these celebrations I prefer to get behind.
And so with the ring of the school bell, so begins the afternoon Halloween trade. We welcome trick-or-treaters into our store, we flog the horror movies in discounted deals and we love seeing kids all dressed up. You can't accuse us of being kill-joys, that's for sure. This afternoon I had one very grouchy woman lash out at me for encouraging Americanisms...
Her tirade was full of contradiction. Firstly she tried to educate me on the historical significance of Halloween... something I am aware of. Actually, there are several points of origin but I digress. She went on about Halloween being an American custom but then she mentioned it being a celtic lore. I asked her where the harm was and she couldn't answer. She just kept insisting that it is wrong to celebrate an American tradition. Again I made the point that it was European. She told me that we need to find our own days to celebrate Aussie things. What? Does she mean drinking ourselves into oblivion and acting like a pack of bogans? Haha. That's exactly what Melbourne Cup Day is for (or has become). I wasn't in the mood for the discussion and so I let her rant...
There is no reason why we shouldn't celebrate Halloween. It began as a pagan and celtic tradition, which managed to seep it's way into Christianity before being introduced to American culture by way of immigration. You see, it's NOT an American tradition as much as it's an adopted one from the Europeans. Australia was founded by Europeans too and I never understood why the custom was never embraced here. We have the same connection to Halloween as America does and yet we view it so differently.
Remember how fun it was to be a kid? Remember when dressing up was awesome? That's what Halloween is all about. Every night you switch on the news to see war, famine, crime and hate. The world is an ugly place and there are so many more things deserving of people's contempt.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN, FRIENDS!
Have fun & be safe...
Every time I add a new entry to this blog I wonder what people think? These stories are so unbelievable that surely no one buys into them. The fact of the matter is that I am not making any of it up. These things DO happen and I must be a magnet for absurd and illogical behavior. These stories seem to come in pulses too because I can go for months without having an amusing story to share and then all of a sudden, BAM, a bus full of nit-wits rolls in and the tales start flowing.
While I was writing my previous entry I got to thinking back over all of the stories I haven't told. I cast my mind back to my early days in the business when the industry was enjoying it's boom years. Video stores were busy places back then and I can recall working shifts with 10+ staff on hand and anywhere up to 100 customers in the store at once on a Saturday night (that was a huge warehouse-like store). Our business brought in all types... from families to elderly... to horror fiends and connoisseurs of porn. They were great times and the stories I could tell are numerous and hilarious. With the passage of time I wouldn't be able to recount these episodes with much clarity but I can offer you some abridged recollections. Keep in mind that back in these days I was just a regular team-member and the owner had many stores with all of us staff pin-balling between them. One shift at this store, another at that store... and so the stories come from various places.
What you are about to read is all true.
A few days had passed and one guy's name kept appearing on our overdue list. He wasn't answering our calls and 2 letters were eventually sent. The videos he had rented were deemed as stolen and his information was handed over to a debt-collector. Having received notice of legal action guy finally came into the store, furious as hell. He ranted and raved insisting that he had returned the movies. It turns out he was telling the truth because he had thrown them onto our roof. Video surveillance shows that when he arrived out of trading hours he became agitated that the door was locked. Rather than look for the after-hours chute he chucked the damn things onto the roof - and expected us to know.
The female manager was working at the counter when a man stood in front of her, smiled and said that his videos were stuck in the chute. The manager bent down and reached under the counter into the drop box. Instead of grasping video cassettes she found herself clutching this guy's junk. With his dick in her hand there was only one thing she could do.... she yanked it through the slot so hard that the man ran from the store clutching his nuts in agony.
At one particular store we encountered a stealthy serial pest. For several weeks we would find random polaroid photos of dicks, inside video covers. We would be hiring out titles to a member, open a cover and be confronted with a cock. The mystery deepened when we realised that the photos had been taken inside the store. The staff went through the entire catalogue and checked every single cover but only ever found one photo at a time. This guy had not simply come into the store once and hidden a heap of pictures... but rather, he was coming in weekly and taking on-the-spot photos. His identity remains a mystery. Was it a random person? Was it a staff member? To this day the case remains unsolved.
At the same store I was working a late shift with another staff member. It was 11PM and a tall man with long black hair walked in, wearing a trench coat. Obviously at such a late hour it's important to be alert and as we'd never seen him before, we kept a close eye on him. He stood facing the new release wall and appeared to be doing something. We suspected he was putting video covers into his coat but didn't approach him. We figured that the cameras would catch him, besides which, the covers were empty (we kept the tapes at the counter). After a few minutes the man walked out. As he passed by us he smiled and said "I'll come back". Myself and the other staff member looked at each other with raised eyebrows and WTF expressions. When we were tidying up the store and preparing to lock up at midnight we noticed that the covers displayed, near to where the man had been lingering, were sitting awkwardly on the shelf. Behind them was a huge hunting knife. We called the cops, sent the security footage to them and preyed this guy never returned. He didn't.
Vomit was a common occurrence, especially during school holidays. Sometimes it hit the vinyl but other times it spewed all over the carpet. Most mothers would grab their kids and leave. Very rarely would they apologise and offer to clean it up.
The very first video store I worked in belonged to a different chain to the one I ended up with. One afternoon I walked into the back room to find the owner rummaging through my back-pack. As I caught him, he looked up at me like a deer in headlights. He had found a handful of videos in my bag and accused me of stealing from him. The guy was an absolute fuckwit. These were movies I had purchased earlier in the day while in the city. The receipt was still inside one of the covers. Later that evening I never finished my shift. I grabbed my things, locked the door and left forever... taking the rest of the staff with me. None of us returned.
To be continued...
You guys must think I make this shit up - I swear I don't. This morning while I was opening my shop a school-mum walking past noticed my Re-Animator hoodie. She has obviously noticed that I wear a large variety of genre-themed clothes (something different each day) and she stopped and said to me "don't you think you're a bit old to be wearing stupid things?". At this moment I had my back to her and so I turned and replied "sorry?". She looked at my top and told me that "cartoony horror movies are infantile". Err, what now? I smiled at her and replied "you do realise that I own this video store, don't you?". She gave a glance through the doorway and said "you wear these kiddie clothes. I don't get it. It's not really appropriate". I giggled and responded with "well they don't make a men's large for nothing and most horror movies are rated for mature audiences.. ie adults. I'm wearing a Re-Animator hoodie. Re-Animator is an R rated movie. Restricted to adults. There's nothing kiddie about it". At this point she must have seen one of her invisible friends because her attention was cast over my shoulder and she called out "Beverly! Hi" and she walked away. I turned to see no one there. It's possible that Beverly stepped into a store but it's more likely that this woman had just been pummelled by logic. The irony of this is while I was being lectured about what constitutes appropriate clothing, the back of this woman's clothes had two things inscribed. 1) a sweatshirt with FCUK! written on it and 2) tracksuit pants with "TAP DIS" embroidered into them.
Honestly - why does this shit always happen to me? LMFAO!
So some bloke walks into my shop this afternoon and paces along the new release wall. I'm pretty good with faces but I've never seen the guy before. For some reason the past month has seen an influx of new members signing up... more than usual for this time of the year. Anyhow with a frustrated demeanour he says to me "You got The Conjurer? ". I asked if he was referring to The Conjuring and advised him of it's release date in November. He laughed at me and said "November? That's ridiculous!". I wasn't sure what he was on about and brushed his comment off with a raised brow. He then continued to tell me how stupid it was that the movie wasn't on my shelf yet and at this point I sensed he was trying to provoke a reaction from me. I said that the film might still be lingering at some independent cinemas and that it will be available nationally on blu-ray and dvd on November 20. He laughed again. Whatever this guy was trying to extract from me I really couldn't be bothered with it. I've seen his type before and the next thing from their mouths is usually something along the lines of "Well I've already got it". And then the next words out of his mouth were "Ha. I've already got it". I ignored him and kept working. He continues "yeah. I went to Bali. Picked up about 50 movies". I looked up at him with a less then impressed glare and asked "so what are you doing here, then?"... to which he replied "hardly any of them worked". My glare turned to a smirk and I fought the temptation to say "suck a fucking arse, mate" but I offered a more restrained "yep. buy illegal. get screwed". His arrogant smart-ass attitude quickly turned into a defeated drop of the lip as he said "so. November 20, yeah?" I replied "Ah huh" and he left.
Some conversations really do my head in. I am aware that my comprehension of cinema, movie making and genres is probably greater than the average person who walks through the door. It's my job to know stuff and I fully appreciate that for most people movies are nothing more than simple escapism. All good. But this afternoon a woman tried to challenge my knowledge and her inability to grasp the reality of movie-making drove me insane.
Today in store I am playing Steven Spielberg's ADVENTURES OF TINTIN. It's one of the most impressive examples of motion-capture animation that I've ever seen. Its a technically remarkable film. This particular woman watched a few moments of the film and then approached me. She was concerned and asked "aren't you fearful for actors?". I wasn't sure what she meant and asked her to elaborate. She continued "all of these computer generated movies are putting actors out of jobs. Aren't you worried for their profession?".
This is a misconception that I've had to address for years. Back in 2001 when FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN was released, the CGI was so impressive that audiences panicked and saw the writing on the wall for the actor's profession. Almost 13 years later and that forecast is nowhere near visible.
I smiled and reassured this lady that the actors' profession is safe & secure and, if anything, these motion-capture films were giving them MORE jobs and offering new opportunities, skills and challenges. It's a revolution! She still couldn't understand how actors could possibly be significant if movies are all going down this computerised path. Again I tried to reassure her. "Firstly" I said, "not all movies are going down this road. In fact probably close to 80% of the new releases in the store are live action, featuring real people. Secondly this brand of animation is called motion-capture and those cartoon-like characters are real actors performing in front of cameras". I went on to elaborate on how the format works and how actual human beings are fitted with markers and sensors and computers capture their movements. I explained that had TINTIN and similar movies been animated the traditional way then fewer actors were required... she still didn't get it.
I couldn't be bothered arguing. Her mind was made up and no amount of explanation was going to sink in. I guess time will tell for her. Fear not my friends. Cinema is like any other technically driven industry and it is constantly evolving. Every evolution has it's wonders it also has it's shortcomings. I will champion practical filmmaking to my dying breath. I'm a child of the 80s and am in love with puppets, strings and all of those wonderful and magic things... but even those movies were an evolutionary step... from the days of Ray Harryhausen's fantastic stop-motion creatures and right back to Georges Méliès' primitive (yet magical) wonders of the early 1900s. We progress and right now we're in a new realm of movie-making where computers and actors collaborate to dazzle and awe us.
An actor's job is never done.