Little Shops of Horrors: Diabolik DVD w/ Co-Founder Jesse Nelson

Little Shops of Horrors: Diabolik DVD w/ Co-Founder Jesse Nelson

If you’re a horror fan, then you’ve likely heard of Diabolik DVD, if not then get ready to find your gateway to cult film glory. Specializing in “hard to find horror, cult, asian, and import DVDs,” the company has long history of providing fans with those small fixes of genre bliss that can’t be found anywhere else and it’s no wonder as co-founders Jesse Nelson and Joseph A. Gervasi are fans themselves. If you’re brave enough to watch it, they’re ready to show it to you and it’s for this same reason that Diabolik DVD is Bloodsprayer’s latest Little Shops of Horrors!

When was Diabolik DVD first founded?

We [Jesse Nelson and Joseph A. Gervasi] founded Diabolik about 10 years ago. Initially we started by selling vintage VHS tapes that we would find at flea markets and video stores at our shows, but we found that there was never enough supply to meet the demand and we were constantly on the hunt for new inventory so we decided to bring in some DVDs from Hong Kong to supplement our sales. At first we sold them at the shows, on ebay and had a bare bones website that you couldn’t even check out through – you literally had to email us and we would give you a total and paid us by money order or paypal (though not many people used paypal back then). From there things snowballed into imports from all over and then domestic titles came later.

What inspired the name, was it any cult movie in particular?

Our name and logo both pay homage to Bava’s Danger Diabolik. Of course the spelling of diabolik is confusing to some. We get dee-obbo-leek all the time.

Who designed your logo and your signature eye image?

Initially I created the logo but came along and gave it some finesse and that is what we use to this day. He also created our signature eye image and does much of our print work as well including the Black Metal inspired t-shirt we just released.

What made you decide to focus on small labels and foreign titles for the bulk of you inventory?

Its impossible to compete with the bigger online shops, so we decided from the beginning that we needed a niche and horror, cult, exploitation, arthouse, etc, are what we know so that is what we focus on. Even so, we don’t carry everything that comes out in those genres. We have to be selective to keep our inventory light and keep things moving out the door. Over the years we have found that some things, like Asian Horror, just don’t sell anymore so we don’t bring in as much as we used to. Plus we have learned that certain labels charge too much to us, but charge much less to places like Amazon so we just don’t bring in their products at all anymore.

How to you manage to secure such hard-to-find titles? Do you have contacts in these other markets; Europe, Asia, etc.?

Yes, we have to have contacts in every country from which we procure titles, otherwise it just isn’t cost effective and even then with shipping and customs, it sometimes makes titles just too expensive. We have had to really limit what we bring in from Japan because they are too expensive and we used to have distributors in Brazil and Spain, but they went out of business and we have never really been able to fill those voids. We basically have a network of people around that part of the world that we buy and sell to so we keeping things moving all around.

Do you ever take fan requests for finding a film?

Of course. It is impossible for us to keep up on every new release so we often have to rely on people to let us know something is out there that we were not aware of but we can only get what is available.

Are any of the titles you sell bootlegs?

We don’t knowingly sell any bootlegs. Bootlegs are a frustrating problem for us because we will do a convention and the vendor next to us will be selling what we are for $10 because he made them on his computer at home and its hard for a person with a limited budget to make that choice. We have had vendors buy from us at shows, make copies and then put them out on their table.

Speaking of which, how does the distribution of bootlegs and torrents impact your business?

Torrents are another frustrating problem because there is literally nothing you can’t find on the internet in 10 minutes. But as long as people still want a physical product, we can continue to stay in business. I still love to buy CDs and Vinyl, but I am not blind to what is happening in that marketplace. We are also frustrated by Netflix and to a much lesser extent Redbox. I can’t imagine why a small label would want to sell their product to a company that is basically going to lend out their disc and make money off of it forever. It de-values the entire industry.

What has been your favorite find(s) as far as cult, foreign, or indie films go?

We have so many favorite films, we are always so happy to find releases of great titles. Just to name a few: Messiah of Evil, Criterion’s Equinox, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders and recently Santa Sangre and Lorna the Exorcist. Its really amazing that titles that were treated so poorly back in the VHS days are now released with such care (though that isn’t always true of everything).

How important is customer service to you and how do you go out of your way to emphasize that part of your business?

I personally answer 100% of the emails and I try to get back to people as quickly as possible. We are a small company, so it is hard to compete with certain things, but customer service is something that we are always trying to be the best we can. We won’t take back an opened and watched movie, but we try our best to make sure everyone is happy and that everyone has answer to their question/problem ASAP.

What are a few other small businesses you admire?

We love small businesses and even in my personal life I try to spend my money with smaller businesses. We are particularly fond of Aquarius Records, Crucial Blast Records and Finders Keepers records and of course there are countless small labels such as Mondo Macabro that we love to support and promote.

Are there any exciting new additions to Diabolik DVD that fans can expect in 2011?

We don’t often know about new releases until they are announced, but after Synapse’s Vampire Circus Blu-Ray we are very excited about their other upcoming Hammer films. I think the film we are getting the most requests for right now is A Serbian Film – so we are looking forward to an Uncut, English friendly version of that as well.

Artwork © Christopher Davis/Artskull

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Rondal is a full-fledged horror fan and die hard "strange kid" who tackles each day with Red Bull-induced vigor with a side of unadulterated violence. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Strange Kids Club, a virtual clubhouse of adolescent enthusiasm in addition to being Co-Editor of Fuel Your Illustration and an occasional contributor to the video game blog, StartFrag.

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