Dead Media: VHS nostalgia in the contemporary horror genre

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper explores VHS as a nostalgic artefact within contemporary horror media texts. Analysis of three case studies about videos and video collecting— the films Videomannen (Söderström, 2018) and Beyond the Gates (Stewart 2016), and the podcast Video Palace (Rock, 2018)—will demonstrate how this trope of dead media in horror underlines character and filmmaker subcultural capital. It also emphasises the continued significance of VHS within horror fandom, and reiterates its potential illicitness (e.g. through piracy) and controversy (e.g. through censorship in the ‘video nasties’ era).

Much scholarly work has explored video collection, distribution, reception and culture (for example, Barker, 1984; Benson-Allott, 2013; Walker, 2016; Herbert, 2017). However, little has addressed how the now dead media of VHS itself functions within the horror genre and its diegeses. This occurs as both a nostalgic object within narratives, and as an aesthetic which enhances the horrifying elements of genre texts, for example through the use of glitches, static or other forms of degradation. In contemporary horror media, video is utilised in various ways: as an object of nostalgia, as a reverent nod to the genre’s past, to forefront a gritty analogue aesthetic, or to engage with the horror of repetition, recycling, and recording—areas which are ever more relevant in our hypermediated world.

These case studies straddle a spectral past full of fading memories of VHS rental stores and 1980s horror, while underlining the malevolent possibilities of dead media in our digital world. The texts utilise the video motif to engage with key genre themes of death, loss and aging through representations of characters obsessed with an obsolete media form.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Jan 2021
EventGenre/Nostalgia: A film and TV studies conference - University of Hertfordshire
Duration: 5 Jan 20216 Jan 2021


Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Dead Media: VHS nostalgia in the contemporary horror genre'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this