Doorways To Horror

One of the many short lived crazes of the 1980s was VHS games. The idea was that watching and playing along with a video tape would add a new aspect to board games. Maybe this was an attempt to deal with increased competition from video games or maybe it was just a way to cash in on the VHS boom. Whatever the reason was, this craze saw the release of a game called Doorways To Horror from Pressman Toy Corporation in 1986. I have long since forgotten the rules, but the basic idea was to watch the tape packaged with the game and to follow the instructions provided by the narration. Here’s a short clip from it to demonstrate:

I personally cared less about the game and more about the tape of horror movie clips. I only recognized a handful of clips when I first watched it and although I was able to identify more over the years, there were still plenty whose origins eluded me. Even my fellow members of Gravedigger’s Local 16 could only help me name a few of them! Thankfully many knowledgeable people at the Latarnia and Classic Horror Film Board forums were kind enough to help me fill in the blanks. I even learned that board game design legend Sid Sackson had a hand in its creation. So for the first time ever online, here is the complete list that identifies which clip comes from which film in Doorways To Horror:

Creature from the Haunted Sea
Curse of the Swamp Creature
The Terror
Medusa Against the Son of Hercules
Bride of the Monster
White Zombie
The Beast of the Yellow Night
The Phantom Creeps
Night of the Living Dead
Nosferatu
Bride of the Monster
Johnny the Giant Killer
Nightmare Castle
The Ape Man
The Witch`s Mirror
Spooks Run Wild
The Little Shop of Horrors
Night of the Living Dead
World of the Vampires
Curse of the Crying Woman
Curse of the Crying Woman
Curse of the Crying Woman
World of the Vampires
Curse of the Crying Woman
Curse of the Crying Woman
World of the Vampires
The Monster Walks
Hillbillys in a Haunted House
World of the Vampires
World of the Vampires
The Monster Maker
World of the Vampires
Curse of the Crying Woman
The Lost World
Curse of the Crying Woman
White Zombie
White Zombie
Haxan
White Zombie
Circus of Fear
Curse of the Crying Woman
The Beast of the Yellow Night
The Witch`s Mirror
The Beast of the Yellow Night
World of the Vampires
White Zombie
Popeye Meets Sinbad the Sailor
The Witch`s Mirror
Clash of the Wolves
White Zombie
The Witch`s Mirror
Popeye Meets Sinbad the Sailor
I Was a Teenage Werewolf
White Zombie
The Beast of the Yellow Night
The Witch`s Mirror
World of the Vampires
Popeye Meets Sinbad the Sailor
The Man and the Monster
Haxan
The Witch`s Mirror

In case you were wondering, the clip above covers the first nine films mentioned. Sadly the awful jokes continue for the rest of the game. I get the feeling certain clips were chosen for their potential for jokes. Why else would anyone use footage that features an ordinary chimp in a game like this? But on the other hand they skip scenes with tons of potential for humor, like the unintentionally hilarious giant octopus scene from Bride of the Monster. Also baffling is the decision to present footage from the color film Medusa Against the Son of Hercules in black and white! Did they somehow get a black and white print of the film prepared for television syndication? And why didn’t they use any footage of Medusa? I’m not talking about a woman wearing a wig made of rubber snakes either, as that film’s “Medusa” is some kind of one-eyed walking tree thing. It’s not like they could have passed it off as some other type of monster if they wanted to. Oh, did I forget to mention that aspect of the tape? Characters from White Zombie and Circus of Fear are referred to as vampires and any monster with facial hair is called a werewolf. One of my favorite examples is how they use scenes from the Clash of the Wolves for one of the werewolf segments. Not only are the wolves obvious German Shepherds, but the film is actually a silent western starring Rin Tin Tin! The only clip that features an actual werewolf is the one taken from the trailer for I Was a Teenage Werewolf, complete with narration and onscreen text. But if they felt that footage from trailers counted as being in the public domain, why didn’t they use footage from trailers of the classic horror movies that the cover art implies will be in the game? I can’t say I blame them for constantly using clips from Mexican horror movies, as those tend to have a lot of stuff crammed into their plots. But why mine White Zombie and cartoons for so much footage and only touch on The Lost World once? Come to think of it, why did they use a clip from Metropolis in Doorways To Adventure when it would have worked better in this game? That game’s tape is much longer than Doorways To Horror and it makes more sense in the context of a horror game. But despite all of my criticisms, I do have a fondness for the tape. Even though I lost the game and packaging years ago, I still have the VHS that came with it. It was my first exposure to many films I would enjoy later in life and hearing the theme music always makes me smile. Even the films whose clips were only recently identified for me brought a thrill as I thought of all the interesting horror films that are out there.

But don’t get your hopes up for the game being revived for disc-based media any time soon. Despite being sourced from many apparently public domain sources (with the seeming exception of Hillbillys in a Haunted House), a good chunk of the films have either had their copyrights restored or could potentially have them restored in the future thanks to developments set in place by the GATT agreement. I have heard some claim that NAFTA is responsible for Mexican films having their copyrights restored in America. But even if that was not the case, there’s still the matter of its VHS origins. The reason the VHS game craze ended was the lack of interactivity. The tape was the same each time it was played and the promised differences in gameplay were just minor variations on which player would win. Playing along with the tape only became more and more of a chore after each gaming session and this is true even if the game is ported onto a new format. The only VHS game with any long term success that let it survive into the age of DVD was the Nightmare (aka Atmosfear) series, which often required buying new tapes in order change up the games. In fact, one of its DVD installments was released by Pressman! Although DVD games are more popular than their VHS counterparts, with the Scene It? series arguably being the most successful, putting Doorways To Horror on a disc would not cut it. Given the massive storage capacity and use of chapters on DVDs and Blu-rays, it would make more sense to create a new game that would randomly play clips so that it could be played multiple times without getting boring. But with streaming content seemingly set to replace disc-based home media, one wonders if such games have any future left at all. Thank goodness everyone who has enjoyed watching them will always have the memories.

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  1. Anyone know how I can get the music score of this game?

  1. […] What really surprised me about Doorways to Horror was that is was made by Sid Sackson who has a reputation for making some classic board games. Doorways to Horror doesn’t appear to be one of them. If you want to find out more about the game and see a complete list of the films featured in the game check out GravediggersLocal. […]

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