These analog horror series are the most frightening shows the genre has to offer.
- Analog horror films and videos imitate the style of old VHS tapes, creating a creepy and nostalgic atmosphere.
- These films often incorporate cryptic messages, visual distortions, and bizarre imagery to unsettle viewers.
- Analog horror has gained popularity in the 2010s and continues to experiment with unique and intriguing ways to frighten audiences.
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First off, what is analog horror? They’re horror films, shorts, or videos in general done in the style of old VHS, Beta, or other pre-digital formats. Sometimes they can look like an old camcorder view of some phenomena like The Blair Witch Project. Most of the time, they look like old news broadcasts, informational videos, or local area warnings.
They became particularly popular in the 2010s, inspired by old horror specials like Ghostwatch or actual TV signal hijackings like the Max Headroom Incident. The combination of cryptic messages, visual distortions, and bizarre imagery can leave viewers’ skin crawling, particularly when they watch these famous examples of the genre.
Updated September 27, 2023 by David Heath:The Christmas creep seems to come in earlier each year, with stores breaking out the tinsel and the radio daring to play that Mariah Carey song already. Luckily, Halloween is still on October 31st, meaning the spooky season is almost underway to dilute the premature merriness for people who’d rather get a visit from the Addams Family than Santa and his elves.
There will be no shortage of options for horror once October gets started. There are the old classics like Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th, or the even older classics like Dracula or Frankenstein. Then there’s analog horror which, though it’s been around for a while now, still has some intriguing and experimental ways to freak people out. So, here are more of the best analog horror series around.
20 No Through Road
Created by Steven Chamberlain, No Through Road was originally a one-off short produced in 2009, but it caught on well enough for Chamberlain to produce three more episodes for YouTube across 2011-2012. They were supposed to be tapes of four 17-year-olds who were found dead in their car outside their hometown, which were then recovered by the MI6 before getting uploaded onto the internet.
They showed the boys taking a shortcut down a “no through road” by an abandoned farm. When they take a rest stop they find a perfectly preserved dead rabbit. It only gets stranger from there as they find events repeating themselves, and a hatted figure stalking them from the darkness. The series predates the term “analog horror,” but its VHS-style found footage and viral success really set the stage for the rise of creepypasta and the genre in general.
19 Archive 81
Archive 81 stands out because, in its original form, it was a podcast. Each episode follows an archivist called Dan (played by creator Dan Powell) as he’s commissioned to restore some old audio recordings of a woman named Melody interviewing the residents of a strange apartment block called the Visser Building. He also has to record himself from his isolated bunker for archival and legal purposes.
All sounds fair until Dan fixes up more of the tapes and learns more about Melody and the Visser Building. The residents are strange, referring to an odd song that has them under its spell. Dan gets more and more involved in the case until, like Melody, he goes missing. It’s an engaging mystery that shows how powerful sound can be in freaking people out. It did get a Netflix adaptation, but as neat as it is, it’s best experienced aurally rather than visually.
Edited video game commentaries, or “Let’s Plays,” have died down in popularity since the 2010s in the shift to long-form videos rather than short installments. But they managed to inspire this spooky tale about a man receiving an obscure PS1 game from the mysterious (and fictional) company Garalina.
Created by Tony Domenico, Petscop sees Paul play through the titular game for his YouTube channel. At first, it seems like a simple enough game about the “Guardian” solving puzzles to reclaim pets. But then it gets stranger as its new levels, puzzles, and figures seem to refer to attachment therapy, abuse, disappearances, and more. There’s more to Petscop than an odd video game.
17 Super Mario 64: CLASSIFIED
It’s not just The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask that can be creepy and dark. Nintendo 64 launch title Super Mario 64 has also inspired its odd urban legends, like how every cartridge is allegedly personalized to each owner. One person’s copy of the game will play better for them because it was designed for them specifically. It’s more of a joke, but Greenio’s YouTube series Super Mario 64: CLASSIFIED wonders what it would be like if it were true.
They take the form of VHS recordings of a broken demo build of Super Mario 64. Through each video, it gradually becomes apparent that Nintendo was hiding a very dark secret about the game’s creation, one that may threaten the world as a whole. The series is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, though that doesn’t stop it from being an eerie, unnerving watch. It also completed its run in January 2023, so viewers can now get the full experience on YouTube.
16 Surreal Broadcast
Inspired by older analog horror like Local 58, Red Diamond’s Surreal Broadcast is a series of videos set in the fictional county of Berksaut, Maine. “Araneae” goes from being a standard video on spiders to a warning about something lurking in the Berksaut Forest. “Radio” tells the viewer about how radio waves work before mentioning an anomalous broadcast that induces hallucinations in its listeners.
Then the “1989 Incident” shows a local TV broadcast warning viewers of a strange affliction caused by an animal bite, “their eyes are indescribable.” It only gets worse as the seasons go on, as more broadcasts get hijacked, more anomalies appear in the woods, and more people fall to the phenomenon. While it’s not as inexplicable as Local 58, it’s just as strange and disturbing as the viewer learns more about Berksaut and its woods.
15 Hi I’m Mary Mary
Created by a woman known only as ‘K,’ Hi I’m Mary Mary is perhaps the most similar analog horror to Skinamarink. The series follows a woman called Mary who’s trapped in her parents’ home all alone. She can’t escape or call for help as she can’t see anyone outside. All she has is a camera, a mysteriously replenishing stock of food, and online access where she can tweet and upload videos but can’t see replies or get contact from the outside world.
She records videos of her experiences in the hopes someone can see them and send help, as she’s only alone during the day. By night, she’s stalked by shadowy figures, a bizarre masked woman, and other mysterious phenomena. What’s happening to Mary, and why is it happening? Viewers can now find out in full as the 2016 series concluded in 2020 with 19 videos, alongside a related Twitter and Blogspot account.
14 Gemini Home Entertainment
Remy Abode’s Gemini Home Entertainment has been running since 2019 and has become a quintessential example of the analog horror genre. It has the hallmarks of the genre, from the retro presentation a la Local 58 to the cryptic, disturbing messages that involve possession, monsters, and the impending end of the world. They’re told through a variety of clips taken from the 1980s-1990s VHS releases from Gemini Home Entertainment.
On the face of it, they’re simple wildlife videos, or ones on storm safety, or the Solar System. However, when watched together, they reveal strange threats like shapeshifting Skinwalkers or the deadly Deep Root Disease. They’re connected by a mystery involving Regnad Computing, a campsite, and a cosmic entity known as ‘The Iris.’ The series is still ongoing, so only regular viewers can guess how it’ll all come together.
13 The Walten Files
Martin Walls must’ve been one of many people who was taken in by the lore behind Five Nights At Freddy’s, as his horror series The Walten Files also involves a Chuck E. Cheese-like animatronic restaurant. His story involves a man called Anthony coming across a set of videotapes from the defunct Bunny Smiles Company. They were behind the Bon’s Burgers restaurant, which mysteriously vanished in the 1980s.
It stands out from the crowd as it’s an animated series. Its main videos gradually reveal the mystery behind Bon’s Burgers, its animatronics, and its founders, Jack Walten and Felix Kranken. The visuals are crude, which adds to the disturbing atmosphere each video builds up, and lore that’s just as dark and bloody as its video game-based forebear.
12 Ben Drowned
Horror stories about cursed objects have been around for many years. Some became pretty famous, too, like Koji Suzuki’s novel Ring and its subsequent film, comic, manga, video game, etc., adaptations. They went on to inspire a multitude of horror microfiction stories called creepypastas, which featured cursed Spongebob episodes (‘Squidward’s Suicide’), online memes (‘Smiledog’), and video games.
Ben Drowned is a story about a haunted copy of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. The distorted music, glitchy movements, and the game’s already morose and creepy atmosphere made it an effectively unnerving early example of the genre. Created by Alex ‘Jadusable’ Hall, the story went on to be surprisingly influential, inspiring the GIFfany character in Gravity Falls, which was subsequently the inspiration for Monika in Doki Doki Literature Club.
11 Local 58
Speaking of creepypasta, Kris Straub initially made his name online with the story Candle Cove, which was about forum users recollecting a weird children’s show from their youth. In 2015, Straub would create a spin-off from this story, but he wouldn’t use text to do it. Combining animation, video, and a little distortion here and there, Straub would create Local 58, a series of videos purported to be from a public access channel in West Virginia.
They’d feature weird cryptic messages, like warning viewers against looking at the moon, showing dashcam footage of a car being chased by some creature, or an emergency broadcast telling citizens the US has been invaded and they should commit suicide to preserve the USA’s honor. It was weird, disturbing, and effective. Its fifth episode, ‘Station ID,’ would also give the genre its name, as it would state ‘ANALOG HORROR at 476MHZ.’
10 The Mandela Catalogue
Created by Alex Kister in 2021, The Mandela Catalogue is a series of 6 videos spread across a series of VHS tapes. Some of them play out like instructional videos, others like surveillance footage. But they all feature people in Mandela County, Wisconsin, succumbing to mysterious figures called ‘Alternates.’
They’re shape-shifting creatures that take the form of other living things, then stalk their targets before eliminating them and taking their place. They can be indistinguishable from a person’s loved ones, human, animal, or otherwise until they attack. The Alternates can also affect TV and radio broadcasts, warping the videos and changing their messages. Their uncanny looks caught on quickly, freaking viewers out across the web.
9 Marble Hornets
The Slenderman feels fairly played out nowadays, joining Jeff the Killer and Laughing Jack in the history books. But back in its prime, it was everywhere, with one of its best portrayals appearing in Marble Hornets. Playing across three seasons of 133 episodes, it followed Jay Merrick (co-creator Troy Wagner) as he tried to find out what happened to his friend Alex (other co-creator Joseph DeLage) during the filming of his student film “Marble Hornets.”
He looks through the leftover tapes and discovers Alex was being stalked by a figure he called “The Operator.” He becomes more obsessed with catching it in action until the figure makes itself known. Then it starts going after Jay too. It was intended more as an ARG (augmented reality game) with how it used YouTube in its plot as well as its uploads. But there’s no denying its influence on subsequent analog horror series, especially in Wagner’s other works after Marble Hornets‘ end.
The short web series Marble Hornets was one of the best adaptations of the infamous Slenderman creepypasta character. But once it ran its course in 2014, and its follow-up ARG Clear Lakes 44 stalled, creator Troy Wagner had to come up with a new project. In September 2016, that new project debuted as ECKVA.
It’s about an online investigator called S. Hawkins as he receives bizarre broadcasts from a defunct channel called ‘ECKVA.’ They display strange visuals, distorted cartoons like ‘Alis Pastry,’ and messages seemingly aimed specifically at Hawkins himself, as well as references to a drug called Preaxin that Hawkins used to take. While the videos can be seen online, it also has a tie-in website and e-books for fans to check out.
7 The Backrooms
The Backrooms started as a brief post on 4chan asking for images that felt ‘off,’ and they provided a photo of some dimly lit, beige, empty backrooms. An anonymous user described them as a space between realities that people could glitch into by accident. Once there, they’d be stuck in an infinite maze of dark and foreboding liminal spaces. It inspired video games, a Wiki, and a short film.
Kane Parsons recreated the story in January 2022 with The Backrooms: Found Footage, depicting a cameraman from 1996 falling into the rooms and searching for a way back to reality. It’s possible, providing one doesn’t fall victim to whatever else is lurking in the darkness there. Parsons has since produced 12 more follow-ups on his channel Kane Pixels on YouTube.
CH/SS isn’t as well documented as some other entries on this list. It popped up shortly after the debut of Local 58, and its creator is known only by the alias of ‘Turkey Lenin III’. Yet it’s also one of the more influential entries. Alex Kister cited it as an inspiration for The Mandela Catalogue, and some call it the first analog horror. They take the form of a series of instructional videos and adverts for a government-sponsored mental health organization during the 1980s or so.
Then they only get more bizarre as they hint at espionage, deception, and supernatural forces, with obscure Russian dialogue and strange beasts. There were also ARG elements like download links and in-character Twitter accounts to pull fans into the void. Even without them, the videos are a creepy experience.
5 Somnium DreamViewer
First appearing in January 2022, Holly Fernwright’s Somnium DreamViewer is about a product by Somnium Technologies that allows users to print images from their dreams. They just hook the device up to their head before they sleep, and then print the images when they wake up. The tech is quite advanced for the 1980s, but it has its drawbacks.
The subsequent videos record how Somnium Technologies operates, inducts new employees, and deals with legal action over their device causing violent nightmares. If that wasn’t shady enough, they come under the view of the FBMI- Federal Bureau of Metaphysical Intelligence. There’s more to Somnium Technologies, its machine, and its side effects than people thought.
4 The Monument Mythos
Created by Alex Casanas, aka Mister Manticore, The Monument Mythos combines analog horror with alternate history. In it, James Dean lived on to become the 37th US President, Martin Luther King Jr. survives his assassination, and strange things happen around American monuments. Immigrants keep disappearing in the area around the Statue of Liberty, an “infection” afflicts people near Mount Rushmore, and a family trip to the Grand Canyon goes wrong.
This strange, new timeline is told across three seasons, each with 11 episodes worth of eerie audio & video recordings, detailing just what’s happened to the “United Zones of America,” what’s at the heart of its monuments, and their connection to older ones elsewhere like the Sphinx and Great Pyramids of Egypt. Whatever it is, it certainly isn’t pretty.
Also created by Mister Manticore, Cornerfolk preceded The Monument Mythos by a month but was ultimately absorbed by it as its kind of sequel. Just as The Backrooms warned of spots where people could no-clip out of reality and into a space between spaces, the Cornerfolk were figures who lived in the “corners” where dimensions overlapped and met with each other.
Across its two episodes, CORNERFOLK and CORNERGIRL, the series showed cameraman Riley Tillon capturing a Cornerfolk on camera. He documents his research on them, growing more and more obsessed with the creatures until he learns how to find their “Cornerworld” and enter their space. What lies in the Cornerworld? Watch the videos, and The Monument Mythos, to find out.
2 The Smile Tapes
Who’d have thought ophiocordyceps unilateralis was so significant in media? The creepy fungus that turns ants into zombies inspired the mutants in The Last of Us and its sequel, as well as The Smile Tapes, an analog horror series by Patorikku in 2021. Set in the 1990s, the tapes chronicle a new drug called SMILE made with a similar but unidentified fungus.
It runs through the black market, where its users become increasingly prone to manic episodes, violence, uncontrollable laughter, and increasingly wide smiles. The series is split into volumes, covering the drug’s origins, its victims, and the lethal incidents caused by its users. Especially once the more potent ‘Variant C’ begins to spread and produce stronger, more dangerous ‘Smilers.’
1 Winter of ‘83
Most of the time, Lewis ‘Linkara’ Lovhaug celebrated April Fools’ Day by doing some gag video for his series Atop the Fourth Wall. In April 2022, he released a series of mysterious videos instead. Inspired by Local 58 and other analog horror series, Lovhaug decided to give the genre a go himself with Winter of ’83. His series covered the disappearance of an entire town’s population over the course of a winter in 1983.
All that was left the following spring were some human remains, wrecked buildings, and a collection of video and audio tapes. There are adverts, council meetings, TV signal hijackings, and amateur footage of locals falling victim to something roaming in the snow around town. The series is less inexplicable than the others on the list, with main characters and a story arc. Yet it still displays the weird video distortions, messages, and conspiracies behind the scenes that will intrigue viewers until the end.