Horror Discourse

VHS Video Cover Art – The Beginning of an Obsession

todayJanuary 7, 2024

share close
Some of my favorites from my VHS Collection (Mom n Pop documentary and Mahakaal both from Lunchmeat VHS. In the center is my copy of Pumpkinhead signed by Lance Henriksen)

Not too long ago, I was sitting in on a Zoom call that the Fangoria Subscriber Community admins hosted. It was an attempt to garner excitement for their new community and to give, all who desired, a chance to introduce themselves.  Many of those who were given the floor, discussed their personal backstory as to how their horror obsession began. As I listened in, I noticed that many of the members who chose to share their “origin” stories, were in the same demographic as I am… which is to say they were born early enough to enjoy the VHS era. Many of their stories were similar. I sat through three of four guys in a row tell the story about how his parents took him to the mom and pop VHS rental store and how he was in awe of the wonderful box art that he discovered there. The experiences were all very similar. Each of these people would rent a movie based solely off its cover, each of them would take the movie home, thus igniting an obsession. I only sat through a few because my “origin” story was very similar. I understood their excitement, love, and gratitude for the experience of the VHS rental shops.

Shot of my humble VHS Collection

Back in the days of the beloved independent video rental stores, I only had a few ways of figuring out what to watch. Fangoria existed, but it was rare that I ever got my hands on an issue. I had a couple friends’ older brothers that could give us some good recommendations, but those were always dubious since I never knew if they were messing with us. My method of choosing a movie almost always came down to how great the box cover was. It seemed like the VHS distribution marketing departments were well aware the power these works of art had on the consumers. More often than not, these covers served to amplify the more titillating portions of the films.

I think we all understand what I’m talking about, so it’s about time I got into the reason I decided to write this article in the first place.

Last Shot… I promise

I was perusing Amazon the other day, and something caught my eye. I noticed a coffee-table style book entitled VHS Video Cover Art. This book contains a collection of amazing full-size VHS cover art, front and back. After the forward and Introduction, each chapter of this volume presents some of the most unique VHS cover examples from a handful of genres, my favorites being Horror, Sci-Fi, and Action.

There were two things that really caught me by surprise when I found this book. Number one, it was published in 2015, yet it took me 8 years to realize it even existed. Number two, the author, curator, and presenter of this book is none other than Tom Hodge (The Dude Designs). I’ve been familiar with his work for many years. If you visit his website, you’ll notice that he has been busy creating cover art for dozens upon dozens of films. Seeing his work will make you realize that he understands and appreciates the kind of artwork that was found in the VHS rental stores all those years ago. I’ll never forget how I reacted to the first piece of art I saw that The Dude created. It was his cover art for Hobo with a Shotgun, from 2011. It was the first time, in a very long time that I was taken back to the days of the video store. The days where I was presented with all the eye-popping covers as a young man. When I saw the cover to this book as I was browsing Amazon, I instantly knew it was The Dude Designs. Though this book doesn’t feature any of his original work in its pages, rest assured that he’s gone through and chosen some of the greatest examples of amazing art that exists. Even now, as I look at his work, and the works featured in this book, I’m always astounded by what I see.

VHS Video Cover Art Cover

As a horror-podcaster and super-ultra-amateur writer (as you can tell), it always blows my mind when I see the talent and vision of real artists, whatever their canvas may be. I have personally enjoyed Tom Hodge’s art for many years, and this book that he put together gives me some insight into what sparked his interest. I will say that I’m, in no way, associated with Mr. Hodge outside of following him on Facebook. I am not being paid, or otherwise compensated for this article. I am just really so impressed with his art work, and the work that he put into this book. It’s beautiful from the first page, to the very last. There is art in this book that I’m very familiar with and some that I’ve never seen but is astounding. I was shocked to find that his hefty book cost just over $20 USD.

There is really nothing else I can say to describe how beautiful the collection of covers that have been assembled in this book really are. I’ve thought bout purchasing multiple copies of this book so I can cut them out and frame each entry. At any rate, if the old-school VHS art is in your wheelhouse, this is something that you need to own.

Here’s the marketing description… pick this one up, folks!

Video cover art is a unique and largely lost art form representing a period of unabashed creativity during the video rental boom of the 1980s to early 1990s. The art explodes with a succulent, indulgent blend of design, illustration, typography, and hilarious copywriting. Written and curated by Tom “The Dude Designs” Hodge, poster artist extraordinaire and VHS obsessive, with a foreword by Mondo’s Justin Ishmael, this collection contains over 240 full-scale, complete video sleeves.

It’s a world of mustached, muscled men, buxom beauties, big explosions, phallic guns, and nightmare-inducing monsters. From the sublime to the ridiculous, some are incredible works of art, some are insane, and some capture the tone of the films better than the films themselves. All are amazing and inspiring works of art that captivate the imagination. It’s like stepping back in time into your local video store.

EDIT: I caved and bought 3 copies of this book. One to have in the bookshelf, and two that if I ever wanted to cut out and frame the art, I could. I don’t know if I’ll ever do this, but I guess we’ll wait and see.

Written by: Mike Cadaver

Rate it