Haunted tape: Video, horror and nostalgia

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper will explore the use of VHS as a nostalgic artefact in recent horror media texts. This is part of a broader reappropriation of analogue media formats within the contemporary genre, itself reflective of recent wider trends in nostalgic media. Horror has, of course, always been quick to reflect the threats of new technology. Haunted, cursed, or dangerous media has provided fertile ground for horror narratives. But a recent raft of films, television, video games and podcasts use analogue objects to explore the malevolent possibilities of obsolete media in the digital age, or utilise analogue aesthetics such as glitches, static or other visual and aural signifiers of decay to enhance the uncanny, eerie representations of their stories’ various hauntings.

The horror genre and video culture have long been intertwined. Much existing scholarly work has explored the cultural contexts and the significance to the horror genre of video collection, distribution and reception (for example, Barker, 1984; Benson-Allott, 2013; Walker, 2016; Herbert, 2017). However, little has addressed how VHS itself now functions within the horror genre and its diegeses. Case study analysis of genre texts about videos and video collecting—including the films Videomannen (Söderström, 2018), V/H/S (Bruckner et al 2012), Rent-A-Pal (Stevenson, 2020) 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). This talk will explore how video is used as an object of terror, and how video aesthetics enhance the horrifying elements of genre texts. These case studies straddle a spectral past full of fading memories of VHS rental stores and 1980s horror, and 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.

In contemporary horror media, video is utilised in various ways: as an object of nostalgia to be collected, as a reverent nod to the genre’s past, to foreground 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.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2021
EventECREA 2021: Old Media New Persistence -
Duration: 10 Sept 2021 → …


ConferenceECREA 2021: Old Media New Persistence
Period10/09/21 → …


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