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The Rise of Analog Horror: Why Has This Movie Genre Exploded in Recent Years?

Analog horror is a niche sub-genre of horror that has rapidly risen in popularity on YouTube.

Alex Kister/YouTube

Warning: This article may contain potential spoilers for certain web series.

Analog horror is a niche sub-genre of horror that has rapidly risen in popularity on YouTube. Creators combine film tools such as VHS tapes and found footage, then add disturbing images and encrypted messages. The genre weaponizes your nostalgia and irrational fears, bringing a new definition to horror. But how?

The Mandela Catalogue

Perhaps the wider known analog horror web series, The Mandela Catalogue, available on YouTube, follows the idea of aggressive doppelgängers. Alex Kister, the creator, uses a wide range of media, including public service announcements and phone call transcripts, to build up the fictional world and the terrifying phenomenon occurring within it. The idea of seeing some strange identical version of me standing at the end of my dark hallway is admittedly stupid, but it didn’t stop me from avoiding that area of my house past sundown.

However, the scariest episode is criminally overlooked. Published on the 10th of June 2021, ‘overthrone‘ features an old religious cartoon: The Nativity, part of the Beginners Bible series. This style really resonated with me, considering it was a large part of my childhood. This fondness played perfectly into the genre’s goal, as a distorted voice replaced the cheerful audio, and an edited image of the angel Gabriel was the main focus of most of the video.

The edited angel Gabriel as shown at the start of the video ©Alex Kister/YouTube

Yet what was even more terrifying- and admittedly clever- was when I turned the captions on to try to understand the distorted voice. This led to subliminal messages appearing, adding a new layer to both the video and the series.

The usually sweet feeling of nostalgia being spiked with fear was uniquely disturbing.

Five Nights at Freddy’s VHS Tapes

Another popular addition to the analog horror side of YouTube is the videos made based on the famous franchise Five Nights at Freddy’s. These videos are mostly commercials or found footage of the animatronics, such as maintenance reports, once again including disturbing imagery.

Instead of the creepily quiet audio that other series- such as The Mandela Catalogue- use, the FNaF VHS tapes often go back to the traditional horror tactics of loud noises (or silence) to accompany jump-scares and distorted images.

Despite this being overused in modern horror movies, it works well in this context. As discussed, analog horror plays on nostalgia by incorporating small, unsettling differences. An example is memebear’s ‘[CANCELED] Learn_Your_Colors.mp4,’ which shows a commercial of one of the FNaF characters teaching children colors. Many of us are familiar with this kind of media, with childhood figures such as Barney offering similar types of lessons. The character in question, a chicken called Chica, proceeds to list the colors they will be discussing. Only when she mentions “purple” the sound cuts out and the image is replaced with the photo of a man, referencing the antagonist of the franchise, nicknaming ‘the purple guy.’ Even though this side of the subgenre would attract fans of the original franchise, anyone viewing would be unsettled.

The scarily realistic model of Chica ©memebear/YouTube

The Success

This is where analog horror has succeeded, leading to its current rise in popularity: it’s not only easily accessed, given that most videos are uploaded to YouTube, but it is genuinely creepy for every viewer. Whether the plot is completely original or taking inspiration from elsewhere, the subgenre and the content creators working within it have added a whole new and terrifying experience for everyone.

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