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Thursday, March 28, 2024

Six Shot-on-VHS Horror Movies to Watch After ‘Frogman’

Nostalgia is a funny thing. From the unexpected resurgence of vinyl to modern-day flip phones, it’s pretty clear that the technical limitations of the past can often inspire the stylish trends of the future. One of my favorite examples of this is the ongoing analog horror craze, as I find it fascinating how many of the genre’s major creators appear to have been born after the decline of VHS tapes and eerie PSAs.

It’s almost like there’s a subconscious understanding that some stories are best told through fuzzy visuals and heavily compressed audio, which is why I appreciate flicks like Anthony Cousins’s Found Footage throwback Frogman, a cryptozoology-inspired scary movie that dares to incorporate lo-fi aesthetics into its storytelling during a time when most studios encourage filmmakers to make their projects look as generically slick and polished as possible. And if you also enjoyed Frogman and are on the lookout for more VHS-based gems, Bloody-Disgusting has got you covered, as we’ve come up with a list highlighting six shot-on-VHS classics for your viewing pleasure.

As usual, don’t forget to comment below with your own favorite analog thrillers if you think we missed a particularly spooky one. I’d also like to give a shout-out to Bloody-Disgusting’s own long-running V/H/S series, which won’t be included here for obvious reasons.

Now, onto the list…

6. Zero Day (2003)

School shootings are one of the scariest realities of the modern world, but the complicated political elements behind these tragedies mean that most genre filmmakers don’t even try to tell stories about them. There are a few exceptions, however, and one of the most notable is Ben Coccio’s Zero Day, a deeply uncomfortable Found Footage character study that explores just how far ill-intentioned teenagers might go to prove a point.

Inspired by the real-world Columbine Basement Tapes, in which the mass-murderers kept a record of their plans and motivations, Coccio’s film follows a fictional video diary where troubled friends Andre and Calvin discuss their homicidal intentions. Another case where the gritty visuals make the story hit even harder, I’d recommend this one for discerning fans of True Crime media.

5. August Underground (2001)

Out of all the movies on this list, Fred Vogel’s August Underground is simultaneously one of the most fascinating and the hardest to recommend. A simulated snuff film following the exploits of a degenerate serial killer and his deranged filmmaker friend, the low production value and amateurish visuals make this shot-on-video experience even more uncomfortable as you begin to question if it really is just a movie.

And while Vogel would go on to expand on this controversial production with a series of slightly more agreeable sequels that boasted improved visuals, none of the follow-ups can quite compare to the raw thrills of the original. Just make sure that you don’t accidentally pick this one for family movie night if you dare to give it a watch.

4. WNUF Halloween Special (2013)

Frogman VHS list

The only entry on this list produced after the decline of VHS-based media, this 2013 classic still holds up as a convincing masterclass in authentic period-piece horror. A simulated recording of a public access show gone terribly wrong, the WNUF Halloween Special should be on everyone’s spooky season watchlist – though I’d argue that it’s best enjoyed as a background conversation piece during Halloween parties.

From the hilarious yet extremely believable retro advertisements to the not-so-subtle hints of the satanic panic motivating the story, this is a delightful experience even if you weren’t alive back when this kind of TV was still on the air.

And if you like this one, don’t forget to check out the Out There Halloween Mega Tape, which was made by the same director.

3. The McPherson Tape (1989)

Originally made popular by bootleg copies circulating the underground VHS trading scene, there’s no discussing shot-on-video horror without bringing up one of the grandaddies of modern-day Found Footage, the legendary McPherson Tape. Also known as UFO Abduction, this homemade thriller follows a birthday party gone wrong as the Van Heese family is visited by extraterrestrials.

While the flick works better as a terrifying hoax rather than a proper movie due to its odd pacing and general lack of traditional story structure, it’s still a must-watch for Found Footage fans. Just be sure to track down the gritty original, not the 1998 remake, Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County.

2. Ghostwatch (1992)

Frogman VHS movies

The term “made-for-TV” used to carry some seriously negative connotations in the world of film, with most audiences assuming that this kind of classification meant that they were about to watch low-budget schlock unsuitable for the big screen. However, there were plenty of clever filmmakers that managed to turn the limitations of broadcast television into storytelling tools, and a great example of this is Stephen Volk’s excellent mockumentary, Ghostwatch.

Starring real TV host Sir Michael Parkinson and borrowing details from the infamous Enfield Poltergeist case, this controversial TV special attempted to do for hauntings what Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds radio adaptation did for aliens. And while we’ve seen scarier Found Footage ghost stories in the decades since Ghostwatch premiered, I’d argue that the chilling authenticity behind the production makes it well worth revisiting in 2024.

1. America’s Deadliest Home Video (1993)

Jack Perez’s pioneer POV thriller may not be that well known these days, but this obscure little gem is actually responsible for many Found Footage tropes that we now take for granted. Telling the story of an amateur cameraman who finds himself being kidnapped by a group of criminals during a road trip, this video diary from hell still holds up as a horrific example of grounded Found Footage.

While some questionable acting and convenient story beats sometimes break the carefully crafted immersion, America’s Deadliest Home Video stands out by not only being one of the first of its kind, but also by embracing its amateurish roots instead of being embarrassed by them.

Frogman, which actually was released on VHS, is now available on VOD outlets.

The post Six Shot-on-VHS Horror Movies to Watch After ‘Frogman’ appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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