VHS had its day, but it has since been phased out of existence by the more pristine DVD format. And while it’s hard criticise this evolutionary step, there are some aspects of the VHS format that make me nostalgic for the days of old. I miss watching questionable trailers for bizarre films I’ve never heard of before the feature, I miss the snap, crackle and occasional hiss the tapes would emit, but above all I miss the insane artwork that adorned many of the VHS boxes.
As a kid I spent hours trawling through my local video store’s impressive library each and every week, refusing to leave until I had a pile of movies that was stacked well above my head. But within that sanctuary of mine there was one section that I passed with trepidation. A no-go zone located off to the side where it appeared only sickos and weirdos would lurk; the horror section. A strong statement considering my fondness for the genre today, but as a kid Gremlins was the scariest thing I had ever seen, so imagine the impact the sight of various slasher icons and slobbering ghouls that were splashed all over those VHS covers had on my fragile mind. Yet despite the horrors that awaited, I would often muster up just enough bravery to study the covers of these horror classics. Picking up the beaten, torn copies of A Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th, bewildered by the nightmarish images plastered on the front.
Those grotesque images that served as cover art may have scarred my younger self, but as the years progressed I grew increasingly captivated by them. Far from acting as cheap attention-grabbers, those pieces of artwork were exactly that, art. Some of these designs were sleazy, some were plain gross, while some were impressive and detailed enough to warrant being framed and hung on your wall.
So in preparation for Halloween let’s take a trip back down memory lane and take a look at 15 of the greatest horror movie VHS covers. I’m not sure if anyone else’s enthusiasm for this list will match that of my own, but never the less I had a ball putting this article together. Enjoy!
C.H.U.D. is a creepy little creature feature that sees monsters living underneath New York city start emerging from the darkness below and terrorising random citizens. The creatures are the key to the film’s success and for the most part they’re rightfully kept hidden. So while the front cover of the VHS for C.H.U.D. features an alluring peek at the horrific beings, all one has to do is flip over to the back to see it in plain sight. Say what?!? Besides that oversight the artwork for C.H.U.D. is effective and the tagline cheesy fun. C.H.U.D. is under the city!
14. April Fool’s Day
The background of the artwork for April Fool’s Day looks like it’s from the sequel of The Breakfast Club. The foreground however is all business. The girl with the knife behind her back is obvious, but it’s the noose shaped hair that’s the real kicker. A great double dose of menace. Too bad the film is terrible…
Critters is a great energetic little alien invasion/monster film from the 80′s. The cover is plain and simple. It’s a Critter revealing his big, toothy grin. Good for biting I hear. It’s a perfect example of the hand painted wonders that modern posters/DVD covers are sorely lacking.
That disembodied hand haunted my dreams as a kid. Who or what did it belong to? And how long until it come knocking on my front door? Fantastic artwork that really captures your imagination. Also the tagline is one of my favourites. Ding dong you’re dead.
11. I Spit On Your Grave
The cover for I Spit On Your Grave always disturbed me as a kid. The shot of the half-naked female was too raw, too real. The bloody hand gripping the blade of the knife only emphasising the nihilistic nature of the film. But what really makes this cover is the tagline. This woman has just…cut, chopped, broken and burned four men beyond recognition… but no jury in America would ever convict her. Taglines don’t get much more hardcore than that. Also look to the back for a glimpse of the most disturbing castration scene ever filmed. Shudder…
I couldn’t find the full VHS spread for this one, but the poster will do. At first glance the cover for Ghoulies looks, well, preposterous. They don’t come much sillier than this. But as a kid this was the stuff of a nightmares. Are you telling me that there are little goblin people waiting in the toilet to jump out and attack me? Aw hell naw! Plus once again it’s the tagline that’s the icing on the cake. They’ll get you in the end! How much more do you want to traumatise children?
9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Ok, so there are plenty of great covers for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but this one stands out thanks to the great hand painted artwork. There’s no mucking around here, Leatherface is front and centre, chainsaw in hand and victim at his feet. Great stuff. The reverse of the cover highlights nothing but horrifying money shots from the film. No wonder people still wrongfully maintain that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the goriest films of all time.
Stark and haunting. The image of the hand grasping the knife next to the sinister jack-o-lantern is one of the most famous posters in the world of horror, if not in any genre. It’s an immediately eye-catching image that is backed up with a killer tagline, The night he came home. If you were unfamiliar with the film upon its original release then that tagline coupled with the striking image would have immediately caught your attention.
7. Return Of The Living Dead
This isn’t the first time I’m going to cheat in this list. These two covers for The Return Of The Living Dead are so great I couldn’t help but to include them both. The first is an effective design that perfectly sums up the punk rock, take no prisoners nature of the film. The second is simply an awesome piece of retro art, emphasising the over the top, cartoonish nature of the film.
6. The Video Dead
I have yet to see The Video Dead (I hear it’s horrible for what it’s worth) yet this VHS cover left it’s mark on me as a youngster. It’s a revolting zombie bursting out of a television set, what’s not to love? I did try to hire this once when I was still a tiny tot, but my parents intervened by simply silently handing the film back to me with disgusted looks on their faces. Oh the woes of being young…
5. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2
When A Nightmare On Elm Street was initially released, audiences were blown away by the new horrific movie maniac it introduced who was able to claim his victims in their sleep. I can only imagine how disappointed those same people were when A Nightmare On Elms Street 2 hit cinemas. The most unintentionally gay horror film ever made, A Nightmare On Elms Street 2 has to stand as one of the worst sequels ever released. On the upside this cover art for the film is phenomenal. That is besides Freddy’s goofy looking face…
4. A Nightmare On Elm Street
One of the most iconic images of all time is plastered on this cover for A Nightmare On Elm Street. The sight of Nancy staring wide-eyed directly at the viewer while Freddy’s glove hovers over her head is incredibly creepy and unnerving. Also one of the greatest tag lines of all time: If Nancy doesn’t wake up screaming… She won’t wake up at all. Timeless. Plus as an added bonus (cheating!), I’ve included a rarer alternate cover. Not as good as the original but still very moody.
3. Friday The 13th
Recorded in SP mode you say? All right! In all seriousness this cover for Friday The 13th is a stunning classic. The design manages to both simultaneously please the eye and provide a clear indication of exactly what’s in store for the viewer. It’s such an effective piece of artwork that it’s almost too classy for such a cheap slasher film.
2. Evil Dead 2
This has to be one of the most iconic posters/VHS covers ever put together. The crusty skull with its full eyeballs is instantly disconcerting, but the fact that it seems to be gazing into your soul while bearing a toothy grin makes the image even more disturbing. But while the iconic image on the font cover would be enough to capture a passerby’s attention, the back cover showcases enough insane carnage to ensure whoever picked the film up would be walking out the door with it. It even has a bonus image on the spine of the cover! So much awesome going on right here.
1. Evil Dead
And so finally we arrive at my favourite VHS cover of all time. In my younger days I used to watch Army Of Darkness, the third film in the Evil Dead series, relentlessly. I would pop the film in my VHS player, watch it from start to finish and then instantly rewind it and watch it all over again. But despite my fixation with Army Of Darkness, I was unaware that there were two films that came before it. Put it down to my young ignorance and my lack of exposure to the world of film at the time. However one day while browsing through a regular old video store, that all changed.
I was trawling through the store’s collection, looking for nothing in particular when I saw it. That chainsaw. The almost black blood. The screaming girl. The demon hands. And of course, the title. The Evil Dead sprang out at me like a blinding light in a darkened room, dazzling me with its combination of creativeness and plain gruesomeness. I was transfixed, hypnotised by the mesmerizing sight before me, and right then and there I could tell that Evil Dead and I were going to get along just fine. All I can say to summarise is that no other artwork, be it VHS cover, DVD cover or movie poster has ever floored me quite like the Evil Dead design initially did.
And that’s it folks, those are what I consider to be 15 of the greatest horror movie VHS covers. But what do you think? Did I miss any? Do you disagree with any of my choices? Have your say in the comment section below.
Comments | Leave a comment 5
From Around The Web
Like this post? Stay tuned!
Sign up to receive the latest updates by email, for free!
Leave a Comment
Your reply will be added to the comment above (Below any other replies to this comment) -