Many middle-aged genre movie fans carry with them fond memories of video stores and the films contained within them. Of course, while the films themselves were an important factor in creating such memories, the one single thing that many of us lament most is the incredible VHS cover art that filled the shelves of our favorite video stores. The nostalgia is certainly heightened by the fact that VHS cover art (and poster art in general) has all but become a lost art form since sometime in the mid-‘90s with Photoshop and the birth of floating head posters.
Thankfully, however, there has been a small resurgence in the art form over the years, and this very much coincides with the rise in popularity of VHS as a niche collectable as spearheaded by nostalgic movie fans. This all comes into play with the coffee table book VHS: Video Cover Art: 1980s to Early 1990s. Curated by independent art director, designer, and artist Tom “The Dude Designs” Hodge – who has done some amazing retro-style poster art for films such as Hobo with a Shotgun, The Innkeepers and Wolfcop, among others – the book is born out of both love and appreciation for VHS artwork, specifically for movies that are a little more off the beaten path.
Outside of three pages dedicated to a forward by CEO of Mondo, Justin Ishmael, and an introduction by the book’s curator, Tom Hodge, VHS: Video Cover Art: 1980s to Early 1990s is entirely dedicated to VHS cover art for rare and obscure films. The collection contains over 240 full-scale, complete video sleeves, which mixed with the ample 12” x 9” size results in a book that is simply gorgeous to look at and handle. Outside of the VHS art itself, each sleeve features the film’s title, alternate titles, distributor, release date, and, if applicable, the artist who actually created the cover art, all of which is located at the bottom of each page.
The book is broken down into six different film genres: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi, Comedy, Kids, and Thriller, and what might be the book’s biggest strength is the fact that many of the films on display are quite obscure. Look, I consider myself a seasoned cult movie fan, and yet I came across a slew of movies featured in this book that I haven’t heard of, which resulted in myself writing down a number of titles to check out ASAP. This really speaks to the power of the artwork and the overall packaging of these films; the fact that these VHS sleeves are still able to elicit a level of excitement from someone such as myself is proof positive that the people putting out these movies knew exactly how to target their audience. Nothing says great marketing tactics quite like being able to pique our imaginations and, more importantly, our curiosities even 20-30 years later.
VHS: Video Cover Art: 1980s to Early 1990s is an opportunity to go back and study VHS covers in a way that is quite similar to how many of us did as we were growing up and perusing video stores. However, this time around, and because each VHS cover is literally right at the reader’s fingertips, it’s much easier to not only take in the madness that all of these films convey, but to also analyze and appreciate the artwork and intricate detail that goes into each and every piece. It’s just as easy to flip through every page of this book and find excitement in the initial impact of each VHS sleeve as it is to sit back and take a few minutes deeply analyzing everything that goes into it all. And therein lies the beauty of a book of art; you can enjoy any way you see fit at any given moment.