Video Store Nostalgia

As film and television markets move increasingly toward streaming services, fans have wider and wider access to horror fare. For the most part, this is a wonderful thing — you don’t have to live in New York or Los Angeles to be able to see the newest indie horror sensation, and your viewing schedule isn’t restricted to just the movies that you own or whatever you can find playing on SyFy at 3:00 A.M. As horror becomes easier to find, though, I have noticed a growing trend of nostalgia for the days when horror was the dirty little secret located at the back of the video store (no, not the section behind the curtain, fiends — this is a family blog).

When horror was harder to find, running across an obscure slasher flick at Family Video made you feel like you had struck gold. It’s still incredibly fun to find a “What the hell is this? I MUST WATCH IT NOW” movie on Shudder or Netflix or whatever other streaming services you may have, but you don’t get quite the same feeling of discovery and accomplishment that you did when you walked out of the video store clutching your movie emblazoned with this sticker:


That sticker is a big part of the wave of nostalgia I’m seeing; in fact, I have a magnet on my fridge and pajama pants with that image all over them. (Fright Rags is my jam.) But that sticker alone did not guarantee a good time at the video store (again, not talking about the section behind the curtain). No, to find a really good horror movie, I also had to employ one of Jessica’s Laws of Horror: the Law of Scanners. It states that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can and should judge a horror movie by its cover. In that spirit, and in honor of the days when I had memorized every single horror title on the shelves of my local video store but always looked through all of them anyway, I present to you my favorite horror VHS covers.


The law’s namesake: Scanners. I fell in love with all of these covers long before I was allowed to watch the movies themselves, and this image intrigued me the most. What the hell was happening in this movie to make Michael Ironside look like that? I had to find out.


Happy Birthday to Me. You know how much I love holiday horror, so I try to watch this one on my birthday every year. I am obsessed with ’80s slashers, and that shish kebab image is one of my favorite examples of ridiculous gore.


Holiday horror again! I saw April Fool’s Day for the first time at a fourth grade sleepover. I have a noose tutorial bookmarked so I can cosplay this and hang a Big Fun Barbie in my house.


I feel like I talk about Sleepaway Camp all the time, but I can’t help it. It’s just that good. I think part of my fascination with this image was that it was ominous but also very vague – the other covers show at least one of the characters doing something that at least hints at the plot, so what was Sleepaway Camp hiding? Besides my favorite crazy horror mom?


Slumber. Party. Massacre. How could I resist that title? It made me cackle with glee every time I saw it, which explains why the other kids’ moms kept them far away from me.

These were my childhood favorites, but there is so much amazing horror art out there that I’m sure you have a whole different set of movie covers that make you long for the days of VCRs. Tell me about it in the comments, or let me know on Instagram! Come see me at @wewhowalkherewalkalone.


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