Solace in Escapism: A Love Letter to Full Moon Features
By Jerry Smith
There’s something very special about seeing yourself in a film; the way the art form allows its viewers to almost live vicariously through their favorite characters has always left this writer quite enthralled. To find something, a deep meaning, or a relatable aspect to a film playing out in front of you, is such a great feeling. That said, sometimes in our darkest moments, when we really need cinema and the stories it tells, we’re given the opportunity to not identify with a film but to find a true escape.
Escapism is often overlooked in favor of deep meaning, and while both have their place in cinema, there’s something magical about allowing yourself to be lost in a film that wants nothing more than to entertain its viewer. As a child, I needed that escape and when I found it, my life was never the same. Manor Vellum readers, this is where I tell you about one of the loves of my life: Charles Band’s Full Moon Features. Full Moon is a studio whose output has been an active part of my life, through the good, the bad, and the ugly moments, like the most comfortable security blanket.
I’ve written about my childhood a great deal in the past, so I’ll spare the majority of the details, but the cliff notes version would read that after my parents divorced, my mother immediately married another man who loved to spend his time drinking until he would do the most unimaginably vile things to me from the ages seven to nine. Each night was a nightmare forever imprinted into my soul and my childhood was deeply broken by the abuse. My stepfather destroyed me in so many ways, my youthful excitement was gone, and I was just a shell of the rambunctious kid I had once been. I found solace when I discovered the Halloween franchise and how they meant the world to me as I’ve written about in countless articles on the internet and in magazines. Those films mean more to me than I could even begin to articulate, but I digress. We’re here to talk about another special moment in my life: discovering Full Moon.
Growing up, I spent every single penny of my allowance frequenting my local video stores. I’d spend countless hours walking up and down each aisle, the smell of freshly cleaned video shelves, the scent of mylar balloons being blown up for the children of customers. My local video store’s “5 movies for 5 days for 5 bucks” deal was my heaven. Every weekend, I’d hand over my ten dollars and rent ten movies, everything from Short Circuit to Cobra to Jaws and even some Death Wish II in there for good measure. If a VHS tape had cool art, I was there. Great VHS cover art was responsible for changing my life. As I passed through Major Video’s aisles, each genre section had its own display: a boulder in Action, a poorly made spaceship in Sci-Fi, and my personal favorite, a coffin that would open and close automatically in Horror. I spent so many hours of my life in the Horror section, browsing various tapes and hoping for something creepy but fun. The cover of Ken Russell’s Gothic stood out. The cover of Evil Dead II is forever burned into my brain. Don’t even get me started on the fake-out cover art that was Vamp. I was absolutely terrified to watch that film based on the scary as hell cover, only to find years later that the film itself was a wild, neon-soaked ’80s gem.
My birthday weekend had arrived, and my father allowed me to have a couple of friends over complete with pizza, Dr. Pepper, and of course, a trip to Major Video. I stumbled upon a newly released film, one whose cover art seemed to leap off the box and say, “Here, you want to go on this adventure, come see what these characters are up to.” It was the first Puppet Master film. I was nine years old and seeing its box art for the first time was a moment I hold almost as high as the first time I saw my newborn child. It was a point in time from which I was never the same. While many might scoff at that statement, let me clarify: I needed that discovery. At that age, freshly out of the abuse of my stepfather, I didn’t know how to be “normal.” I felt very much like an alien. I was damaged goods and scared to get close to a single human being. I needed something but what it was I didn’t know until I took Puppet Master home and spent the following hour and a half being transported into another world. I immediately fell in love with Blade, Pinhead, Leech Woman, and the rest of Andre Toulon’s puppets. I was amazed, transfixed, and an immediate fan. I needed MORE.
I fell deeply in love with what Full Moon offered to its viewers. Full Moon saw the potential in reaching out of the screen and inviting their audiences into the process, with their Video Zone segments following each film making them some of the first proponents of special features. Band walked you behind the scenes of the film you had just watched while also telling you what films and/or sequels you’d be seeing next. That transparency allowed a young me to follow SOMETHING.
My love for Full Moon was massive, and it felt like when a new film would arrive just when I needed the escapism to forget the pain of trauma and how to process it. I lost myself in each Puppet Master, Trancers, and Subspecies film. I forgot the nightmares every time I watched Doctor Mordrid. I fell in love with the monsters, the puppets, the future cops, the Demonic Toys, and as an adult, the Evil Bongs, the Gingerdead Men, and so on.
Full Moon allowed me to be what I had forgotten how to be for so long: a kid.
I don’t know much about life, but I know Charles Band and his Full Moon company gave a scared kid some escape. Now, as a 41-year-old man, I am still in love with the company that made me feel like a kid again. For that, I am grateful. 🩸
Jerry Smith is a film journalist and composer, hailing from the Central Valley of California. For over a decade now, they have annoyed readers of many sites and magazines with an overabundance of Halloween 4 love and personal essays. Follow them on Twitter @JerryisjustOK and visit their website Rainydaysforghosts.bandcamp.com.
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