Rooted in the chromatically aberrated aesthetic of newscasts, television shows, and VHS tapes of the 1980s and 1990s, analog horror has become a huge trend on YouTube. An evolution of the creepypastas and ARGs that have dominated the internet for well over a decade, some of these series showcase genuine artistic merit worthy of a Sundance premiere.
While horror from YouTube's pioneering days typically involved cursed internet URLs or haunted Nintendo 64 game cartridges, these stories tell tales of cosmic horror and creatures from horrific alternate realities, and they're perfect for those who find modern Hollywood horror to be trite.
A surreal horror series created by cartoonist Kris Straub, Local 58 consists of nine short videos, the first of which was uploaded in October 2017. It tells a very loose and confusing narrative portrayed as a collection of broadcast hijackings, most of which suggest that something sinister is occurring on the moon.
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Key episodes hint at a horrific lunar power potentially destroying the United States, though the true narrative could never be put so concisely. It's the perfect series for lore hunters who love to dissect every frame of a piece of media and craft their own theories.
The Mandela Catalogue
A collection of eleven videos split into two seasons, The Mandela Catalogue is a story centered around the concept of fear and how it can be used to control the masses. The first episodes seem to delve into religion and how religious institutions have the ability to use fear to manipulate followers, and later episodes explore television and media, implying that these can also be effective tools to instill fear in a populace.
This is, of course, speculation; the narrative is far too obfuscated to make any definite conclusions. That said, The Mandela Catalogue warps and distorts—literally and figuratively—familiar faces and scenarios into something truly terrifying.
Petscop isn't a clear-cut example of analog horror, though it shares many of the characteristics of the genre and helped to popularizethe new wave of retro-inspired internet short films. A collection of twenty-four videos made out to be a let's play of an unreleased PlayStation game, Petscop slowly merges nostalgia with horror in a way that burrows in the minds of those who fondly remember '90s gaming.
The series is much more than a parody let's play with a horror twist, of course. It features strong themes of abuse, neglect, and revenge, and some consider it to be something of an allegory forthe extremely controversial practice of rebirthing therapy.
A single-episode example of analog horror, Cornerfolk concerns a man who believes strange entities to be using his home as a sort of nexus when passing through dimensions. He claims that these beings are the only species capable of this inter-dimensional travel, but his obsession grows to the point that he attempts to travel with them to their "corner world."
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Cornerfolk is far from terrifying, but it serves as a great example of the creativity and versatility within the genre. Cornerfolk is scarcely more than a slideshow, but it's imaginative enough to keep viewers engaged even when the primary subject is something as mundane as the corners of a person's house.
Mostly known for bright, stylistic animations, YouTuber Gooseworx surprised their subscribers in 2018 with an off-kilter video titled "The Blue Channel" which appeared to be a static-laced recording of a television displaying nothing but the color blue. Things got much stranger, however, in 2021 when the video "Blue_Channel: Thalasin" debuted.
A parody of an old paid programming commercial, the video concerns the fictitious drug Thalasin that's said to allow users to induce certain emotions on demand. Yet, things go from strange to downright disturbing when the segment switches to a version of the medication intended to "expand the emotional palette."
The Walton Files
YouTuber Martin Walls' The Walton Files debuted in April 2020, and it's since been heralded as one of the very best examples of analog horror on the internet. With well over an hour of content on offer, it's one of the most extensive series in the genre, and it bewilders and horrifies audiences with a strange, convoluted narrative about a restaurant chain with some dark, disturbing secrets.
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The Walton Files borrows pretty significantly from ideas and concepts popularized by the Five Nights At Freddy's game series, though Martin Walls' videos arguably take more sinister turns and are much more subtle in their approach.
This House Has People In It
Released in 2016 as part of a selection of avant-garde horror films produced in part by Adult Swim, This House Has People In It is an esoteric short film that sees a series of odd occurrences transpire during what should be a normal birthday party in a suburban household. Most of the weirdness comes in the form of blink-and-you'll-miss-it Easter eggs, but even less discerning viewers will find the film to be utterly horrifying.
Purported to be footage captured by a home security system, the film prompts viewers to visit the AB Surveillance Solutions website, which bridges the gap to a wider ARG. While it's not often explicitly cited as a work of analog horror, This House Has People In It definitely helped to set the stage for later viral YouTube series.
Said to be a sequel to Marble Hornets, an internet ARG series that began in 2009, ECKVA is a garbled series of recordings captured by someone known as S. H. Hawkins. As horrifying as they are mysterious, these video clips are said to have originated from the abandoned ECKVA broadcasting studio.
As is the case with most analog horror series, much of ECKVA is vague and difficult to interpret. The primary draw comes from its unique presentation, with episodes sometimes straying from the typical blurry faux-VHS format to include high-def found footage or segments of animation.
Popularized in 2019, The Backrooms could roughly be described as a piece of internet folklore surrounding an alternate dimension comprised of anomalous architecture made horrific by its uncanny nature. While it began as little more than a creepypasta, the concept proved to be fertile ground for amateur filmmakers on YouTube.
Plenty of accounts have uploaded what they purport to be found footage from The Backrooms, but no series is more celebrated than the one developed by YouTuber Kane Pixels. Incredibly well done and wildly imaginative, it's arguably more intense than most of the horror productions released by major studios today.
Gemini Home Entertainment
Beginning in late 2019, Gemini Home Entertainment is almost beyond description. Nearly as notorious as Local 58, the series often said to have kicked off the analog horror trend, Gemini Home Entertainment tells a terrifying tale of parasitic human-like creatures, otherworldly invaders, and cosmic horrors far beyond human understanding.
Made out to be a collection of VHS tapes, Gemini Home Entertainment is eerily authentic, and woe befall anyone who might be tricked into thinking these are real films. The series concluded in 2021, and it's an absolute must-watch for those who enjoy this sort of lo-fi horror.
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