Examining the Uncanny Allure of Analog Horror
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Since the early 2000s, the Internet has been a popular medium for horror media, especially with the advent of “creepypastas” and online horror series. Creepypastas took on many forms: some were simply stories put on message boards, while others manifested in the form of videos and even video games. These stories are uniquely unsettling in their presentation, as they typically do not fully indicate they are fictional, blurring the lines of reality and imagination. Many creepypastas seek to twist a familiar piece of media into something dark and unnerving, ranging from spins on childhood classics like Squidward’s Suicide to leveling up an already troubling story as with NES Godzilla. Series like Marble Hornets and EverymanHYBRID utilized more visual mediums, with websites like YouTube supplementing their stories with footage. Other aspects of their story were told through alternate web pages, other YouTube channels, and even puzzles viewers had to decipher. The uniquely terrifying aspects of these new kinds of horror media on the Internet would cement their initial and continued fame, carving out the path for the emergence of a new genre: analog horror.
Analog horror is a subgenre of internet horror with a focus on presenting horrific and disturbing content through a VHS-themed aesthetic, often utilizing fake emergency broadcasts, VHS tapes, and old videos to tell their stories. Though a relatively novel subgenre of internet horror, analog horror has already found itself in the public consciousness through the unorthodox way in which it presents its content.
Analog horror was thrust into popularity with the premiere of the series “Local58” (2015) on YouTube, which centered around a fictitious TV channel of the same name, where each episode of the series is presented through the format of live TV broadcasts. The video “Contingency” shows a disturbing emergency broadcast in which the US government urges viewers to commit mass suicide after the US supposedly fell to an unnamed enemy nation. The video plays out as an abrupt interruption of regular broadcasting of the fictional Local58 TV channel, with a slowed-down, distorted version of the national anthem playing in the background amongst various visual glitches, replacing the calm and generic atmosphere that once filled the video. “Contingency” derives most of its horror, however, not from the distorted audio, but from its disturbing juxtaposition of the clean and innocent infographics and visuals that are presented throughout the video and the horrifying subject matter contained within them. The disturbing nature of “Local58” is further elevated by its flawless emulation of a VHS tape, with its videos being presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio with grainy video quality and muffled background audio. The horror of “Local58” is enhanced in this way as viewers are only barely able to discern between what is real and what is not, as the extraordinary content is presented in such an authentic way that it almost convinces the audience that what is shown in the video isn’t completely fictional. “Local58” and its impeccable use of its unique VHS tape format to unsettle its viewers in new and innovative ways gave rise to its success. The series’s success would help to cement the many tropes of analog horror moving forward, including its VHS-themed presentation, pseudo-realism, and copious usage of video and audio distortion to enhance the unsettling aspects of its videos.
Following the success of “Local58,” many new analog horror series, including “Gemini Home Entertainment” (2019), were created. Similar to “Local58,” “Gemini Home Entertainment” is a YouTube channel that poses itself as a company sharing various educational videotapes to the public, doing so through the many videos that the channel posts on YouTube. The plot of “Gemini Home Entertainment” follows a discreet alien invasion of Earth by the Woodcrawlers, an alien species capable of killing and replacing humans, after their home planet, the Iris, enters the solar system.
“Gemini Home Entertainment” exhibits many characteristics of analog horror that make it so captivating. Not only is the plot interesting, it is also elevated through its presentation, as the calm, almost educational segments of each tape are contrasted with the near-authentic yet supernatural imagery. The pseudorealism of the series gives it a certain uncanniness as clearly unnatural phenomena like the Woodcrawlers are shown to viewers through emulated video recordings and photographs that almost make them seem real. “Gemini Home Entertainment” also takes the analog horror genre a step further, as it branches out from just using VHS tapes to unravel its narrative into using mediums such as recorded home videos, letters, and even video games. The series shows itself as an established staple yet natural evolution of the analog horror genre, veering off from many of the narrative and visual elements of its predecessors while also demonstrating the strengths of analog horror.
Analog horror is still relatively new, with “Local58” only having been released in late 2015. With that, new projects such as “The Mandela Catalogue” and the “Monument Mythos” are continuing to be made to this day, while their predecessors still carry on producing content. The genre’s novelty and the burgeoning amount of series coming out of it make it bound to be subject to change in its tropes and in the ways in which it can present its horror, as shown with series such as “Gemini Home Entertainment” and the “Monument Mythos,” diverting from only using VHS tapes to also utilizing interviews, iMovie presentations, and video games to present their content. Analog horror has redefined the internet horror landscape, growing to be the dominant form of horror media on the Internet currently, as shown by the staggering amount of new analog horror series popping up. Its all-encompassing influence on the Internet is further emphasized by its popularity among internet horror fans, with most communities in recent times heavily discussing analog horror series among the many other present kinds of horror series on the Internet right now. The unique way by which analog horror mixes the online medium with other forms of visual media such as VHS tapes to produce novel horror concepts never seen before on the Internet solidifies it as more than just an Internet trend, but as a horror genre that is here to stay. The future seems bright for analog horror as it continues to enthrall viewers with a distinctive way of telling horrific and surreal tales.