The rise of VHS horror games

The introduction of VHS cassettes in the 1970s was a revolution in bringing horror closer to people. Two decades before, television became the primary medium for affecting public opinion, trumping newspapers and radio. This bore a generation eager to sit around a humming electronic box in their living rooms, allowing all kinds of foreign images to infiltrate their homes. But these broadcasts were typically newsreels and government-approved screenings—images under state control. VHS put more power to the viewer, who could decide what to watch and when, just by inserting a box-shaped pack of plastic into a tape player and letting its…

Universal Harvester

John Darnielle’s next novel is a horror story about fragmented video tapes

In the music he writes for the Mountain Goats, John Darnielle tells intensely specific stories. One song describes a breakfast of boiled peanuts the morning a parther leaves for good. Another, from the band’s most recent album, Beat the Champ (2015), mournfully describes a wrestling match in which the loser has his head shaved with a “cheap electric razor from the Thrifty down the street.” Darnielle’s first novel, Wolf in White Van (2014), is layered thick with references that situate it not just in a particular time or place, but inside a particular cultural niche, full of Conan the Barbarian comics and b-movie…


The beauty of Hayao Miyazaki and VHS glitches

The first time I ever watched Princess Mononoke (1997) was on a grainy bootleg from a relative. I was a kid, maybe nine-years-old, but the otherwise beautiful film’s terrible quality was ingrained in my psyche. Since I was only nine, its fuzziness didn’t bother me. It wasn’t until I was much older, and more appreciative of the crisp existence of blu-rays, that I was able to rewatch the film and re-fall in love with it all over again. Still, that first grainy take on the film rests as my first “true” experience with a Hayao Miyazaki film, and was my gateway…


In Printed Mars, space exploration is a creepy VHS home video

Welcome to the future! Truth be told, it’s pretty grimy. At various moments in time, this assessment could have been applied to both Mars and the VHS tape, which is convenient because Printed Mars is about both of those things. In Vladstorm’s game for Mac, PC, and Linux, your pixelated character wakes up in the midst of a rocky formation. Who are you? What are you doing here? You only know you’re on Mars because the planet’s name is in the game’s title. Very helpful. In an attempt to answer those questions, you go for a walk. There are objects…


Meet the VHS tape monsters of our wasteful future

French artist Philip Ob Rey’s latest project pitches sculptures “skeletonned with VHS film-rolls” against the grey skies of Iceland. His series of black-and-white photos and accompanying short films share haunting visions of a post-human world. It’s one in which primordial giants have arisen, tangled in the tape reels that remain of our lost culture, stumbling menacingly across a cold wasteland.  the unnatural waste of electronics that we leave behind  “V” HS Project, as Ob Rey calls it, comprises five series of photos: “The Lavas’ Whisper,” “Submarine Wings and Seeds,” “Thousands of Njord’s Feathers,” “Shadows of Bedrock Children,” and “Unknown Ashes…