Writer: Mario Covone
Artist: Vasilis Logios
Cover Artist: Graham Humphreys
Video Nasty is a hard-boiled, gritty suspense-thriller of a comic book. You could call it 4-color giallo, if that weren’t mixing nationalities. Because Video Nasty has to do with England – specifically, a small town called Kettering, set in 1983.
There is a rash of killings going on, and the press is looking to pin the unsolved crimes on the recent upsurge on interest in “Video Nasties”, VHS horror movies, watched in the home. This was early on in the video revolution, and the powers-that-be were as resistant as usual to new technology.
The story revolves around Detective David Gorely, the inspector assigned to the murders. A Nazi-headed dagger is found at the crime scene, and Gorely goes to meet the head of the local Nazi chapter in prison (with lots of tough-guy, through-the-glass banter, only to find out that the dagger was his, and had been stolen from him. Another dead end…
The Chief Constable (based on the infamous Chief Constable James Anderton, who believed that God spoke directly to him), who wants the inspector to investigate these horror movies, that he believes is driving men to kill.
Issue #1’s other main character is a director of horror movies, who takes the press coverage as a personal attack. He’s got a new movie coming out in a week, and the bad press could ruin him. He resolves to catch the next available train to Kettering, for some damage control.
So, we’ve got gritty detective drama, a skinhead with a swastika carved in his forehead. You’ve got faux-news reports, and a semi-sleaze merchant film director. You’ve got banter. You’ve got blood. Doesn’t sound like your typical comic book, not even a horror one.
The secret to Video Nasty lies in that tasty, smoking hot cover by Graham Humphreys, who did the artwork for the original Palace version of Evil Dead, as well as the covers for the first five Nightmare On Elm Street boxes. Video Nasty is a horror movie, a b-thriller. You can practically see the horizontal lines through the sides of the panels, and hear the tense, taut strings. It doesn’t have the usual pacing of a comic book. There’s a lot of talk, not a lot of action. Its a slow burn, after the first few tense pages.
And those pages, (and what pages they are, Vasilis Logios) remind us this is a comic book we’re reading, with its bloody climax rendered in full-page. bloody pop art splendor. Its like a fine art rendition of trashy horror, which means, of course, that its bloody brilliant.
The juxtaposition of reality and fiction, film and comic gives this comic added levels of complexity, that draw you back and keep you looking. It seems to me like an unknown, perhaps made-for-TV thriller, the kind you might see on TV on Saturday, flipping channels. We don’t often find those random thrills and delights, in these days of scheduled programming, so its nice to recall that feeling of coming across an episode of Unsolved Mysteries or Tales From The Darkside.
Video Nasty also takes a look at a particularly fascinating period of British history, and their unusual relationship with the horror genre. It marks a time when the government decided to babysit its populace, and horror movies (and their purveyors) suffered mightily, leading to the infamous list of 72 banned films.
It seems like this comic is working in tandem with the exhaustive Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide box set, and this is no bad thing. It seems like they are both creating, as well as riding, an interest in that particular debacle.
Issue #1 is kind of a slow burn, past the first few pages, but if you like old tense suspense films, this’ll stoke your fires. I found that, revisiting the comic yielded greater pleasure, as I was better able to differentiate between characters, and know what’s going on.
Vasilios Logios is doing a killer job, and the Graham Humphreys cover is worth the cost of admission alone. Covone rights good dialog; perhaps he enjoyed a former life as a cop show copywrite?
A Promising Beginning: 3 out of 5 bones
In Which Allan Derry Gets A Media Contact, and Det. Gorely Gets Schooled On Horror Movies
For all its lack of a kill shot, Issue #2 seems to pick up the pace a bit, or maybe the plot is just thickening. The series orbiting around the two central characters gives plenty of opportunity for character development and involvement. You see Detective Gorely at home with his wife and kids. You see Allan Derry down the pub, explaining his case to Sam Robson, who promises to be a great ally, getting Derry some on air time, to defend his case.
Turns out that Robson’s not quite the friend that he’s cracked up to be, leaving Issue #2 on a very uncertain note.
Detective Gorely getting a tour of the video shop is my particular favorite part of this issue, where the video clerk expounds on his theories on censorship, and his concerns over getting shut down. You must remember, not long after this would have taken place, officials began raiding video stores, issuing hefty fines, and seizing stocks, putting moms and pops out of business, all to maintain the ‘moral good’.
#2 also maintains the lo-grade, degraded straight-to-TV quality of the first, making it, again, like some lost bleak ’70s (sorry, wrong decade, but still) docu-drama, maybe something like The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Something in a big plastic clamshell.
I am enjoying this series immensely. It stands on its own, and it also points back towards this era, fostering a new-found re-appreciation.
There is something to be said for subtle dread. For tautological tension. For cold moods, and grey skies.
I want a poster of this cover.
If you want my advice, I’d say grab these comics (they’re super cheap, at least digitally), then cue up The Duke St Workshop‘s Lexicon Of Paragon Pines, a fictional soundtrack for “70s Cold Cases”, to give that perfect leaden-gray vibe to these panels. Or mayhap try Jon Of The Shred’s trilogy, if you like a little more Whitesnake on your ’80s horror, a little more keytar, a little more fog machines. That’s one of the great things about comics (and reading in general. You get to make your own soundtracks.)
Video Nasty also rubs up against the real world, being set in an actual era and locale. This segues nicely into my next set of posts, where I will begin investigating some Real Life Horrors, wondering why we are all so obsessed with the macabre, and what good or ill may come of it.
I also plan on returning, sooner and probably later, to the realm of British Horror, as it is a subject of which I have a curious interest, so expect to hear more about these 72 banned films, and maybe the next issue of this comic!
If you’d like to know more about the UK’s war on horror films, and this strange case of extreme moral panic and censorship, check out this excellent blog post from Book Of The Dead, which includes a handy, massive archive of scanned newspaper clippings, for the serious investigator or archivist.