Analog Horror is a web-based subgenre of horror films which engage directly with viewers from a second person perspective and are typically created to mimic the presentation of mass media of the 20th and early 21st centuries. An offshoot of found footage, Analog Horror generally encourages viewers to immerse themselves in faux-informational media which presents fictional events under the guise of being real. Analog Horror media primarily takes the form of short films which introduce viewers to a given topic before derailing and shifting focus to surreal and often eldritch subject matter. Many prime examples of Analog media are created as anthology series, featuring self-contained vignettes connected through shared themes, settings, and mythos. Analog Horror shorts are often (but not exclusively) hosted on video sharing sites such as YouTube.
The term Analog Horror originates from Local 58, a web series which is widely considered to be a pivotal work within Analog Horror and a pioneer (if not the point of origin) of the genre in its current form.
Arguably, Analog Horror's origins can be traced back to Orson Welles' 1938 radio dramatization of The War of the Worlds. While void of Analog Horror's prominent sense of nostalgia for vintage media presentation, Welles' adaptation set the foundation for immersive horror which presents fictionalized events with a veil of legitimacy.
The earliest known example of web-based horror made to imitate mass-media came in the form of the EAS Simulation trend of the late 2000s and 2010s. As the name suggests, these YouTube uploads were created by amateur film-makers to mimic the look, sound, and tone of Emergency Alert Broadcasts, and often featured scenarios which were decidedly unordinary or unprecedented in nature (i.e. nuclear war, alien invasions, and giant monster attacks.) While these videos often presented their subject matter at face-value with minimal dramatization and lacked the pseudo-analog aesthetic which would become a staple of the genre proper, they demonstrate a clear departure from traditional found footage horror, and a shift toward the modern notion of Analog Horror.
In 2015 multimedia artist and film-maker Kris Straub began the horror anthology web series Local 58, which solidified many of the stylistic trappings and conventions of the genre that would become commonplace in subsequent works. Set in Mason County, West Virginia, the series centers around the eponymous (fictional) local television station WCLV-TV Local 58 and presents viewers with a number of loosely connected broadcast oddities dispersed throughout the mid 20th century and into the contemporary era. Three initial entries titled Weather Service, Contingency, and You Are On The Fastest Available Route were hoasted on a website owned by Straub between 2015 and 2016 before being uploaded to YouTube by Straub before being moved to a channel solely dedicated to the series in Fall of 2017. Since then a total of 5 more installments have been produced: 3 traditional episodes and 2 shorter videos which seemingly serve as non-diegetic promotional material for the web series. Many of the series' episodes are connected via references to a bizarre and horrific event first seen in Weather Service, in which The moon exhibits a bizarre and mind-altering effect on individuals who make visual contact with it.
Local 58 is widely considered to be a genre-defining piece of Analog Horror media which cemented the genre's format and inspired many subsequent works. The series set a precedent for similar works which derive horror from the corruption of consumer media by an outside entity.
Channel 7 and Tempest Films
In June 2018 filmmaker Aiden Chick uploaded the first installment of his anthology series Channel 7, titled Alpha Alert. The initial short would go on to spawn 20 subsequent installments before being compiled into a feature-length compilation. Channel 7 is notable for being one of the first projects inspired by Local 58 to find its own degree of widespread success, netting over 800,000 collective views and over 13,000 subscribers.
After the series finale of Channel 7 Chick would go on to follow the series up with a successor titled Analog Archives. Spanning 9 installments, this series was set in the same fictional world as Channel 7 (dubbed the "Tempest Universe") and expanded on the breadth of media formats portrayed throughout its 9 installations. Across its run Archives drew inspiration from educational programming, emergency news bulletins, televised religious services, and advertising. The series concluded with an upload titled Summer 64, using original footage from a fictional Fifth generation video game to create a narrative seemingly inspired in large part by online horror stories prominent within online gaming and fandom communities.
Gemini Home Entertainment
Originating in November 2019, the Gemini Home Entertainment anthology series is widely celebrated for taking a more interconnected approach to Analog Horror storytelling and is widely considered to be one of the most ambitious projects to come out of the genre to date. Gemini's installments emulate the style and content of informational VHS tapes and feature overarching world building elements hinting at the videos' shared universe and recurring campground setting being home to a body of interconnected eldritch entities. Notably the installment LETHAL OMEN coincided with the release of a free-to-download first person horror game of the same name, intended to be analogous for the product "advertised" in the episode itself. This game featured explorable areas containing information which would add greater context to the series mythos, giving Gemini a small degree of overlap with the Alternate reality game genre.
Presentation and Style
Analog Horror generally emulates the form of professional media (as opposed to amateur footage) created or presented using dated or obsolete technology. Formats commonly portrayed within Analog Horror include Emergency Alert System broadcasts, instructional VHS tapes, Television advertisements, station hijackings, documentary footage, recorded surveillance footage, and local or public access television programming. The genre is occasionally compared to the feeling of experiencing an abrupt weather bulletin late at night on an old CRT television. For this reason there's a degree of overlap between the audiovisual style of Analog Horror and that of Vaporwave and related media.
Many Analog Horror installments feature extremely limited production, forgoing traditionally shot footage in favor of imitating graphic-based elements of retro media production. This includes station ID screens, scheduled programming bumpers, and commercial or documentary footage which employs text and/or voiceover accompanied by product shots, limited footage, or still images. While some notable Analog Horror series such as Local 58 and Gemini Home Entertainment feature some ambitious and more production-intensive episodes (such as Local 58's Show for Children or Gemini's aforementioned LETHAL OMEN) others play into this limited style of production, with Local 58's debut episode notably being made primarily using cleverly edited stock footage. Due to the perceived simplicity of some earlier Analog Horror videos to gain traction, the genre has attracted many amateur film-makers.
Post-Local 58 entries to the genre are typically centered around horror scenarios which are supernatural in nature, with many prominent creators of Analog Horror content placing focus on cosmic horror through the use of eldritch events or lifeforms. Analog Horror works are typically period pieces, and are as such are often created to evoke past decades of the mid to late 20th century. Nostalgia often plays a clear role in the tone and atmosphere set by Analog Horror, with many entries in the genre framing an unusual or anomalous event through the lens of a time where technology was more limited and traditional mass media (such as television and radio) were more prominent as methods of acquiring information about an ongoing event or crisis.
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