The old and strange appeal of VHS: Video Cover Art

VHSCoverArt

VHS tapes, while outdated by all accounts, have had a rebirth of love and affection by many. Like the vinyl format, these physical forms of consumption have found their rightful place in the digital world. There are hardcore collectors and even conventions now dedicated solely to these tapes.

In his article ‘VHS: YES!’ for March’s issue of Fangoria, Josh Hadley looks at the various movie releases that are still stuck in ‘analogue limbo.’ Hadley writes, “It is estimated that less than hald the movies ever released on VHS have seen some digital equivalent since, which means there are more than a half-million estimated titles once out on tape currently languishing in distribution purgatory.”

All those VHS tapes are around somewhere forgotten and alone. Enter  Thomas Hodge‘s VHS: Video Cover Art, a book dedicated solely to the art of a distant time – hell bent on bringing back the respect for the artists of a lost craft. Those movies that are hidden away in the folds of time are resurrected here in a most enjoyable way.

Here each page contains full illustrations of the cover art of movies spanning various genres: from horror and sci fi to action and comedy. Each and everyone is both wonderfully strange and fantastic. It’s almost unimaginable to think of a DVD having this much effort being put into it like these VHS covers. The modern day exception probably being the work that Hodge does himself (he did the poster work for movies like The Heat and Hobo with a Shotgun).

So let’s talk about the art. Oh the art!

Hodge states in his introduction that he specifically chose the movies based on art alone, not necessarily choosing the most popular titles, though there are a few familiar titles spattered here and there. This was probably a smart decision. Though blockbuster titles are missing, there are still many familiar faces like Jackie Chan and Linda Blair. Some of the standouts are wall-art worthy. Of course some of the greats are among the most ridiculous.

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie is known for being one of the most horrendous films ever made, and the cover seems to promise the ridiculousness the movie serves. And the tagline: “Out of the garbage pail and into your heart!” Or there is Cellar Dweller who seems to deliver one of the most terrifying man-beasts to grace a movie. Many of these are a bit exploitative, but that’s probably a large part of what is seared into the brain of any child who roamed a tape rental store in the 80s or 90s. These covers were meant to be seen and many certainly leave a lasting impression.

The art, of course, is only half the fun. Since the entire slip is shown, readers will get to enjoy the wonderfully cheesy copy writing that adorns many of the back covers of these movies. This is definitely a book that can act as something to savour or quickly flip through – depending on what suits the mood.

The book keeps it brief. Other than the forward and a brief introduction from the author/curator, there is very little text to talk about here, but the covers are exciting (as well as hilarious and explicit) enough to be a great coffee table book. One of the great things about this book is that Hodge is clearly passionate about his subject because the amount of time this must have taken to curate this project must have taken an age.

This book will definitely appeal to the VHS fanatics, but it will also be perfect for anyone who loves a bit of nostalgia for the days of video rentals. VHS: Video Cover Art is great fun. But if anyone decides to dig up some old tapes, remember: be kind and rewind.

VHS: Video Cover Art is set to be released May 28th.

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