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They’re Right Behind You: The Advent of Analog Horror

Analog Horror
Image: Hollow / Youtube

Youtube has seen the birth of a unique form of horror – one that I think isn’t easily replicable by other sources of media. It’s inherently linked to how a website or video streaming service works. So what is analog horror, and why does it work?

You Weren’t Meant to See This

Analog horror is a genre on the Internet that uses the structure of websites and online posting to its advantage. It’s a sort of alternate-reality game, where the commenters and viewers play along and enter the same “world” as the characters. Sometimes it’s old VHS footage of horrific government plans that weren’t meant to be seen after the 1970s, other times it’s a man on Twitter posting news footage of the Sun disappearing from the sky. The aim of this series isn’t just to scare you. Sometimes it asks the viewers to figure out the story with them.

Analog Horror
Credit: LOCAL58TV / Youtube

One of the most famous analog horror series and the one that I personally think kicked it all off is Local 58. The creator was actually responsible for the Candle Cove creepypasta (internet scary story), and he took the concept of finding weird TV channels into this show. The most famous of these is Contingency:

LOCAL58 / Youtube

Almost all analog horror series minimize their use of spoken dialogue. They want you to read and listen to the ambient noises to experience the terror yourself, as a viewer. You are involved in this just as much as any other character. Ever since Contingency, similar “leaked” tapes or plans have been a staple of analog horror series. While they do put their own unique spins on the concept, nothing really compares to Local 58 because of it being the first on the scene.

Near-Impossible to Replicate

Alex Kister / Youtube

This is the best form of found footage horror in my opinion. I say found footage because stuff like Paranormal Activity turned the genre into normal horror movies filmed with phone cameras. With stuff like The Mandela Catalogue, Local 58, and especially The Sun Vanished, you end up finding these videos and posts yourself.

From a certain point of view you could say these are basically just another form of ARGs (alternate reality games), and I would say both yes and no. They’re ARGs in the sense that you, the viewer, are directly a part of the story, but almost all of them are the viewers responding to what they find. The most famous exception to this is The Sun Vanished.

The combination of the specific style of content publishing and the amount of time it takes for the story to unfold (sometimes months!) means that it’d feel weird to condense it all into a game or feature film. The same dragged-out, the tense feeling would not work as well.

It’s the same “in-between” feeling you get in liminal spaces. One example of this is The Backrooms, which is now an analog horror series that’s being made by Kane Pixels on Youtube but started as a single post on 4chan. This type of horror is an example of less is more, but that also means that you can’t explain what’s happening or come up with an effective story that plays out.

Analog horror is going onto the internet and looking into an abyss. The abyss you stare into doesn’t just stare back – this time, it actively attacks you.

Written By

I'm a University of Southern California alumni. I have a Bachelor of Sciences in Business of Cinematic Arts and a minor in Cultural Diplomacy. I enjoy playing video games, reading comics and manga, and watching anime and movies. I love writing about topics surrounding the film and television industry, and the meanings behind many successful stories.

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