First off, what’s analog horror? They’re horror films, shorts, or videos in general done in the style of old VHS, Beta, or other pre-digital formats. Sometimes they can look like an old camcorder-view of some phenomena like The Blair Witch Project. Most of the time, they look like old news broadcasts, informational videos, or local area warnings.


Related: The Analog Horror Trope, Explained

They became particularly popular in the 2010s, inspired by old horror specials like Ghostwatch or actual TV signal hijackings like the Max Headroom Incident. The combination of cryptic messages, visual distortions, and bizarre imagery can leave viewers’ skin crawling. Particularly when they watch these famous examples of the genre.

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9/9 Ben Drowned

Horror stories about cursed objects are about as old as objects themselves. Some got pretty famous too, like Koji Suzuki’s novel Ring and its subsequent film, comic, manga, video game, etc., adaptations. They went on to inspire a multitude of horror microfiction stories called creepypastas, which featured cursed Spongebob episodes (‘Squidward’s Suicide’), online memes (‘Smiledog’), and video games.

Ben Drowned, a story about a haunted copy of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, by having videos of the scenes in question. The distorted music, glitchy movements, and the game’s already morose and creepy atmosphere made it an effectively unnerving early example of the genre. Created by Alex ‘Jadusable’ Hall, the story went on to be surprisingly influential, inspiring the GIFfany character in Gravity Falls, which was subsequently the inspiration for Monika in Doki Doki Literature Club.

8/9 Local 58

Speaking of creepypasta, Kris Straub initially made his name online with the story Candle Cove, which was about forum users recollecting a weird children’s show from their youth. In 2015, Straub would create a spin-off from this story, but he wouldn’t use text to do it. Combining animation, video, and a little distortion here and there, Straub would create Local 58, a series of videos purported to be from a public access channel in West Virginia.

They’d feature weird cryptic messages, like warning viewers against looking at the moon, showing dashcam footage of a car being chased by some creature, or an emergency broadcast telling citizens the US has been invaded, and they should commit suicide to preserve the USA’s honor. It was weird, disturbing, and effective. Its fifth episode, ‘Station ID’, would also give the genre its name, as it would state ‘ANALOG HORROR at 476MHZ’.

7/9 The Mandela Catalogue

Created by Alex Kister in 2021, The Mandela Catalogue is a series of 6 videos spread across a series of VHS tapes. Some of them play out like instructional videos, others like surveillance footage. But they all feature people in Mandela County, Wisconsin, succumbing to mysterious figures called ‘Alternates’.

Related: Most Iconic Video Game Shapeshifters, Ranked

They’re shape-shifting creatures that take the form of other living things, then stalk their targets before eliminating them and taking their place. They can be indistinguishable from a person’s loved ones, human, animal, or otherwise, until they attack. The Alternates can also affect TV and radio broadcasts, warping the videos and changing their messages. Their uncanny looks caught on quick, freaking viewers out across the web.

6/9 ECKVA

The short web series Marble Hornets was one of the best adaptations of the infamous Slenderman creepypasta character. But once it ran its course, and its follow-up ARG (augmented reality game) Clear Lakes 44 stalled, creator Troy Wagner had to come up with a new project. In September 2016, that new project debuted as ECKVA.

It’s about an online investigator called S.Hawkins as he receives bizarre broadcasts from a defunct channel called ‘ECKVA’. They display strange visuals, distorted cartoons like ‘Alis Pastry’, and messages seemingly aimed specifically at Hawkins himself. As well as references to a drug called Preaxin that Hawkins used to take. While the videos can be seen online, it also has a tie-in website and e-books for fans to check out.

5/9 The Backrooms

The Backrooms started off as a brief post on 4chan asking for images that felt ‘off’, and they provided a photo of some dimly lit, beige, empty backrooms. To which an anonymous user described them as a space between realities that people could glitch into by accident. Once there, they’d be stuck in an infinite maze of dark and foreboding liminal spaces. It inspired video games, a Wiki, and a short film.

Kane Parsons recreated the story in January 2022 with The Backrooms: Found Footage, depicting a cameraman from 1996 falling into the rooms and searching for a way back to reality. It’s possible, providing one doesn’t fall victim to whatever else is lurking in the darkness there. Parsons has since produced 12 more follow-ups on his channel Kane Pixels on YouTube.

4/9 CH/SS

CH/SS isn’t as well documented as some other entries on this list. It popped up shortly after the debut of Local 58, and its creator is known only by the alias of ‘Turkey Lenin III’. Yet it’s also one of the more influential entries. Alex Kister cited it as an inspiration for The Mandela Catalogue, and some call it the first analog horror. They take the form of a series of instructional videos and adverts for a government-sponsored mental health organization during the 1980s or so.

Related: Log Off: Underrated Horror Movies About the Internet

Then they only get more bizarre as they hint at espionage, deception, and supernatural forces, with obscure Russian dialogue and strange beasts. There were also ARG elements like download links and in-character Twitter accounts to pull fans into the void. Though even without them, the videos are a creepy experience.

3/9 Somnium Dreamviewer

First appearing in January 2022, Somnium Dreamviewer is a product by Somnium Technologies. It allows users to print images from their dreams. They just hook the device up to their head before they sleep, dream, then print the images when they wake up. The tech is quite advanced for the 1980s, but it has drawbacks.

The subsequent videos record how Somnium Technologies operates, inducts new employees, and deals with legal action over their device causing violent nightmares. If that wasn’t shady enough, they come under the view of the FBMI- Federal Bureau of Metaphysical Intelligence. There’s more to Somnium Technologies, their machine, and its side effects.

2/9 The Smile Tapes

Who’d have thought ophiocordyceps unilateralis was so significant in media? The creepy fungus that turns ants into zombies inspired the mutants in The Last of Us and its sequel, and this analog horror series by Patorikku from 2021. Set in the 1990s, the tapes chronicle a new drug called SMILE made with a similar but unidentified fungus.

It runs through the black market, where its users become increasingly prone to manic episodes, violence, uncontrollable laughter, and increasingly wide smiles. The series is split into volumes, covering the drug’s origins, its victims, and the lethal incidents caused by its users. Especially once the more potent ‘Variant C’ begins to spread and produce stronger, more dangerous ‘Smilers’.

1/9 Winter of ‘83

Most of the time, Lewis ‘Linkara’ Lovhaug celebrated April Fools’ Day by doing some gag video for his series Atop the Fourth Wall. For April 2022, he released a series of mysterious videos instead. Inspired by Local 58 and other analog horror series, Lovhaug decided to give the genre a go himself. His series covered the disappearance of an entire town’s population over the course of winter in 1983.

All that was left after the snow melted were some human remains, wrecked buildings, and a collection of video and audio tapes. There are adverts, council meetings, TV signal hijackings, and amateur footage of locals falling victim to something roaming in the snow around town. The series is less inexplicable than the others on the list, with main characters and a story arc. Yet it still displays the weird video distortions, messages, and conspiracies behind the scenes that will intrigue viewers until the end.

More: Ghost in the Machine: Famous Video Game Creepypastas to Chill Your Bones

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