Latest posts by Sam Panico (see all)
- Mat Monsters: The Crystal Lake Crusher - 17th July 2017
- XeroXenomorphs: More Alien-Inspired Films - 15th July 2017
- Unearthing Wizard Video’s Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre Atari Cartridges - 15th July 2017
1983. A small town in Pennsylvania. And your author was a thick-lensed, long haired, chubby 11-year-old who only cared about video games, comic books and pro wrestling. In short, not a lot has changed but the mileage. I spent most of my free time reading Electronic Gaming Monthly, scouring the ads for new games and wondering when they would come out. Today, we get release dates and instantly download a game as soon as it’s ready. Back then, there was a good chance that a game may never see the light of day.
I made it my mission in life to know every game coming out for every system, as well as when they would arrive in stores. A lot of that knowledge base came from calling every single toy and electronics store in my area, sometimes several times a week. Don’t worry — years later I would pay back my karma by answering the video game phones at a Toys R Us. I could recognize myself on the other end of the phone, handwritten list in sweaty paw, demanding to know when a game that no one had ever heard of would be coming out — as if minimum wage employees have the ear of Silicon Valley’s game makers!
On the small main street of my town was an electronics store. I’d beg my parents to let me shop there and on one of the rare occasions that I was allowed in, I noticed the owner selling games from under the counter. Games like Custer’s Revenge, Bachelor Party and Swedish Erotica presents Beat ‘Em & Eat ‘Em. And oh yeah — Halloween.
I was scared absolutely shitless at even the idea of John Carpenter’s masterpiece. When it aired on HBO in 1980, my father was so frightened by the ending, he slept with the lights on. A movie that could scare my dad? It had to be the most evil thing ever made ever. And I certainly wasn’t going to play the game of such an evil film!
So how did this game even get made? We can all thank Charles Band. Yep, the very same Full Moon Charles Band. At the height of the VCR rental craze, his Wizard Video imprint brought a mixture of goretastic Italian splatter fests, softcore sex movies and cinematic insanity like Pink Flamingos and Crystal Voyager, a surf movie featuring a 23-minute long version of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes.” If you grew up in the 80s and love horror, you know a Wizard Video box — big, bulky and packed with the promise of naked flesh and spurting wounds. I remember the mixture of repulsion and desire I felt as I held the Wizard boxes for Zombie 2 and I Spit On Your Grave.
Seeing the demand for Atari games, Band commissioned the two games, which were sold under the counter, limiting their availability (and how much they sold, too). The games are down and dirty pieces of grimy art, with some copies of Halloween simply having a handwritten label. Even the instruction manual is strange, as it never refers to any characters, including Michael Myers, by name! That said, “the game where he comes home” is, by most accounts, a fun and challenging game that has you trying to save the kids before The Shape kills them and you. There’s no way to beat the game — making death inevitable.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the first video games where the player was the villain. You play Leatherface, chasing young girls with your saw while avoiding barbed wire, skulls and wheelchairs. If you run out of gas, one of the girls sneaks up and kicks you right in the ass. Game over.
There were plans for other exploitation movie themed games — Flesh Gordon and Deep Throat — before Wizard Video pulled the plug on its video game division. But folks haven’t forgotten these games — NECA even put out an 8 bit Leatherface figure a few years ago.
With the new Friday the 13th game looking exactly like the films, let’s not forget our horrific video game past, of the days when some of our most frightening monsters were just blocks on the screen.