I’ll never forget the first time I walked into Suspect Video with its pitch black walls and more movies than I had ever seen in one place. I originally visited this cozy vault of cinematic plentitude in 1999 and twelve years later I have returned. Not much has changed, the store looks just the same, which is absolutely perfect.
Located at 605 Markham Street, just west of Bloor and Bathurst, tucked into the south west corner of the famous Honest Ed’s building, Suspect is unassuming but has become a Toronto landmark. Luis Ceriz has been the owner and operator of Suspect Video since its inception in 1991. Ceriz, a graduate of Ryerson film school says with a laugh, “I actually found video stores to be boring.” So he and a friend decided to open a store their way. They also thought it might help them get more distribution for their own films but, “We never quite got around to doing that,” Ceriz grins.
Suspect was so successful they opened a second location on Queen Street West in 1996, but this location would meet a tragic fate. Ceriz received a call early in the morning that his store was one of the buildings engulfed in flames in the massive Queen Street fire in February 2008. The news revealed the awful truth, “My wife and I were coming down from the corner, through the smoke and, yeah, its right there.” The six alarm fire destroyed everything, sparing not a single DVD. They have since recovered emotionally and financially, but would they open another location again? “I don’t think so,” sighs Ceriz.
That suits him just fine, allowing him to interact with the customers more, something he missed when in the back office of the second location. “We still get a lot of people coming in who have been coming for fifteen, twenty years now…I’ve seen kids grow up,” he muses.
For access to Suspect’s library of over 35,000 titles you need two pieces of ID and either a credit card or a deposit. Prices for renting are $4.50 for a 2 day rental (new release) and $3.50 for a seven day rental. Box sets range from $4.50 to $7.50 depending on the size of the set. As for specials, Suspect has just started a two-for-one Tuesday for all of its regular movies.
Suspect is no slouch in the genre department, carrying everything from standard fare to music DVDs, international films, animation and even adult titles. Hot renters right now are The Social Network , The Walking Dead Series , 4-Lions , the cult smash The Room and the soon to be cult classic Birdemic . One of their best renters of all time has been HBO Original Series The Wire , “We couldn’t keep it in stock, it was insane.”
THE INSIDE SCOOP
Any advice for renters new to Suspect? “Ask questions… Be prepared to dig through some stuff and be here for a while,” Ceriz advises. Besides movies, Suspect brings some of film’s fan favorites into the store for signings from time to time, notable guests have included Italian writer/director Dario Argento, John Cryer ( Pretty In Pink ) and even Peter Jackson, though Ceriz admits, “This was before Lord of the Rings .” Follow Suspect on Facebook to get up-to-the-minute updates. You never know when your favorite personality might be dropping by.
Suspect carries movie memorabilia, graphic novels, action figures, movies for sale and whatever oddities Ceriz and the gang think are neat, like the vampire-inspired Tru Blood beverage and even Garbage Pail Kids cards. They boast an eclectic selection of film oddities like the Something Weird Titles , Lost and Found Video Night Titles , and Apocalypse Pooh , which Ceriz reefers to as, “The Grandfather of the mash-up.” Mixing the visuals of Winnie the Pooh with the audio of Apocalypse Now . “For a long time it was our most popular title.”
WHY CHOOSE TO GET OFF THE COUCH
TFS just featured an article about the pros and cons of Netflix, so I wanted to know what Ceriz thought of the provider and if he felt threatened by the service? “They don’t carry a lot of the stuff we carry.” Not to mention that their monthly cost does not include the price to stream the movies through your local provider. “We have had a lot of customers who’s initial $8 Netflix membership ended up costing them an extra fifty or sixty dollars.”
So what films does a video store owner consider the cream of the crop? “Anything Stanley Kubrick.” Ceriz admits. ” The Shining and Clockwork Orange especially. It depends on my mood,” which can result in viewings of Brazil , the Evil Dead Trilogy and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure . “I love Head , so to speak,” Ceriz smiles, referring to the experimental film staring the Monkeys, co-written by Jack Nicholson.
Suspect offers a selection of staff favorites, and for only $1 you really have no excuse not to indulge your adventurous side. Finally, if your favorite flick has yet to be brought out on DVD, Suspect still has a whole library of VHS for just such an emergency.
Suspect Video first opened my mind to the vast scope of cinema, and my visit with Luis Ceriz reminded me of the awe and wonder I felt when I first discovered the fantastic little shop in the heart of the Annex.
The Place: Suspect Video
Find It At: 605 Markham Street.
Call “˜Em: (416) 588-6674
On the Web: www.suspectvideo.ca
Size of Selection: 35, 000
Needed to Rent: 2 Peices of ID and credit card or deposit
Cost to Rent: $4.50 2 day, $3.50 seven day. $4.50- 7.50 box sets. Two for one Tuesdays (excepting new releases) and one dollar staff pics.