As a kid, I made a mental catalog of all the movies I saw in the video store that I desperately wanted to watch based solely on the awesomeness of their covers. I wasn't allowed to rent any of them at the time, but I knew that one day I'd be old enough to make all the horrible decisions I wanted.
This was in the late '80s and early '90s, when you couldn't just hop onto Wikipedia and look up an insanely detailed plot synopsis for every movie ever made, such as this one for Running Scared, which has a higher word count than the number of people who have actually seen Running Scared. I had to rely on the bitchingness of the cover art and let my imagination do the rest.
When I was finally old enough, I sprinted through the video store, snatching all those movies up like I was stealing pterodactyl eggs to pass the Warrior's Trial of Fleetness and Stone on my 16th nameday. And without exception, every single one of them crushed me with disappointment, because they aren't anywhere as cool as their covers.
#8. Def-Con 4
New World Pictures
Def-Con 4 is one of the raddest posters I have ever seen. It is so boss, Bruce Springsteen lists it as his employer on his tax return. It has a skyline of scarred modern ruins clawing up out of a desert wasteland toward a giant fucking spaceship swinging in low orbit through a radioactive sky. And in the foreground is the deadest astronaut in cinematic history. This movie should have been nothing less than Mad Max teaming up with Sting's character from Dune to kickbox their way through the International Space Station and steer that sonofabitch into the scorched capital of Homeworld to deliver space water to the people of the Shambling Wastes.
Sadly, that movie only exists inside my heart, because the first 20 minutes of Def-Con 4 consist entirely of three people arguing with each other and listening to the radio in a tiny spaceship that looks nothing like the majestic celestial death cannon on the cover.
New World Pictures
Then they crash and spend the rest of the movie wandering around in the Canadian wilderness, trying to outwit a junkyard full of cannibals inexplicably run by a smarmy college student.
New World Pictures
No part of it takes place in a desert or among the skeletal remains of a former metropolis, and there are no dead astronauts anywhere. That's like renting The Road Warrior and finding a copy of The Postman inside the box.
Clearly, clearly, this is a movie about monsters that come whistling up out of the toilet to murder people's assholes. The slogan all but guarantees that a well-groomed shit goblin in boxcloth suspenders and a belly shirt is going to shred more taints than a rusty bicycle. The toilet is the biggest thing in that picture. The gremlin almost seems like an afterthought, like maybe it's the toilet that's killing people and the gremlin is just along for the ride. This movie should've been so full of bleeding anuses that the American Medical Association had it classified as a new type of colon cancer.
But it isn't. It's a slow, boring movie about a guy and his dumbass friends summoning a bunch of raccoon-sized demons in his zombie grandfather's mansion. There is exactly one two-second shot of a Ghoulie popping out of a toilet, and it occurs during a montage:
And that's it. Nobody's bunghole gets eaten, the Ghoulies aren't born from some arcane toilet magic, and the one Ghoulie we do see spring out of a toilet bowl isn't even wearing suspenders. They shamelessly went on to build an entire franchise out of the "lurking toilet monster" idea, because they apparently weren't done slapping me in the face with the cold cruel hand of blighted hope:
If you lined all three of those up on a shelf, you would assume that the entire series takes place in a bathroom like some haunted potty training video. But those toilets are fool's gold, my friend. Fool's gold.
#6. Moon in Scorpio
Trans World Entertainment
Objectively speaking, and without an ounce of hyperbole, this is the greatest piece of home video box art ever constructed. There's a ghost pirate ship with sails made out of tattered banshee hide, an angry skull-shaped storm cloud just waiting to blast the surface of Fear Ocean with poltergeist lightning, and the murky silhouette of an underwater titan scorpion who we can only assume was responsible for turning the majority of that sloop's crew into vengeful shades (one or two of them probably succumbed to rickets before the first scorpion sighting, but that's just a risk you accept as a buccaneer). A movie about any one of those things would be worth a rental, but a movie about all three should win every major award in the entertainment industry and spawn a generation of children named after its main characters.
However, the reason why none of us went to school with a kid named "Mooninscorpio Johnson" is because Moon in Scorpio is about precisely none of those things. There are no ghost pirates, there's no phantom hurricane, and, most egregiously, there is no giant sea scorpion. It's about a woman in a mental hospital, telling her psychiatrist about the time her husband and all of her friends were murdered on a yachting trip by a freewheeling psychopath. The killer's identity is never made entirely clear, but it definitely isn't a scorpion or an undead corsair -- it's just some clownshoe in black footie pajamas with a medieval grappling hook.
Trans World Entertainment
For some reason.
There's a vague Vietnam subplot that suggests there might have been ghosts somewhere in this story at one point, but any trace of the supernatural was violently deloused like Angelina Jolie in Changeling. All that remains is a jumbled mess of confusion best described by the plot keywords listed on IMDb:
No giant scorpion anywhere on that list. However, "breasts" are strongly represented in both the standard and bare variety.
Quick, what is this movie about? If you said "a murderous sentient eyeball," then congratulations, that's exactly what I thought. I had every right to expect this to be about a possessed human eyeball (or an evil cybernetic eyeball, whatever, I'm not picky) zipping through the air like an enchanted walnut shell and boring holes through the skulls of its understandably confused victims. Or maybe it hypnotizes people and makes them do crazy self-destructive things, like jump the fence at the zoo to try to put roller skates on all the tigers. Or maybe it grows tiny eyeball arms and simply chokes/stabs/bludgeons hapless teenagers to death like a typical slasher movie villain.
To my dismay, I learned that Eyeball is actually about a man in a red plastic raincoat tiptoeing around like a cartoon burglar and stabbing people's eyes from their heads like an optician with a cocaine debt to an organ-harvesting mobster. Eyeballs don't fly, grow teeth, or do anything other than get jellied by a hunting knife. There are plenty of super uncomfortable close-ups of people with weirdly spaced facial features. But no rabid eyeballs. None whatsoever.
Not pictured: an eyeball.
I'm not sure what compelled them to go with the "killer eyeball" design for the movie's poster outside of just poor translation or a specific desire to fool 10-year-old children in Video Express, but it worked.