The Most Deranged Horror VHS Cover Art

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Let’s have a moment of silence for the granddaddy of commercial video stores: Blockbuster first opened its doors in 1985 today. Whether you rented films at your local mom and pop shop, or ventured to the chain that has been steadily fading into obscurity, movie memories were made in the aisles of those stores thanks to the visual impact of DVD and VHS cover art. VHS has been making a comeback, with multiple documentaries and limited-edition videotapes being produced in recent years, and the format reminds us of the heyday of horror cinema. With Halloween around the corner and outrageous VHS box art on the brain, we hunted for some of horror’s most deranged cover images — the gory, creepy, and bizarre artwork that beckoned to audiences from the shelves of video rental stores everywhere. Travel back to the days of VHS, below, but be warned that some images may be upsetting to horror newbies.

The Mad Butcher

Otto was locked away in the loony bin, but now he’s ready to return to work. The cover for Guido Zurli’s gets right to the meat of the matter.

The Slumber Party Massacre

A murderer with a penchant for power tools wields his in the faces of these teen girls on this phallic cover.

Silent Night, Deadly Night

The posters, artwork, and television ads for Charles Sellier’s Silent Night, Deadly Night, featuring the movie’s killer dressed as dear old Santa Claus, pissed off parents around the world. The PTA tried to ban it from theaters.

Chopping Mall

B-movie god Jim Wynorski featured a bag of body parts on the cover of Chopping Mall’s VHS.

The Driller Killer

A famous video nasty, Abel Ferrara’s Driller Killer earned its title, in part due to the explicit cover featuring a real-life man gushing blood and screaming in pain as an unseen lunatic drills into his skull. The image caused an uproar aimed at the Advertising Standards Agency. This was one of those VHS boxes that frightened children walking the aisles of video stores.

Frankenhooker

The image on the Frankenhooker VHS isn’t particularly weird. It does, however, feature a talking component. When people pushed a button on the box, the reanimated hooker’s famous line from the film was heard: “Wanna date?”

The Corpse Grinders

No one can ever say that horror filmmakers didn’t utilize the image of a meat grinder to its full potential.

Invasion of the Blood Farmers

Insane farmers harvest humans for their blood. The cheery rainbow logo hovering over a morbid scene seals the deal on this cover.

The Nest

Flesh-eating cockroaches and horribly suggestive cover art that will chill anyone from New York City to the bone.

Happy Birthday to Me

When the distributors changed the cover art of J. Lee Thompson’s slasher Happy Birthday to Me, featuring a boring knife in a cake, fans went nuts, urging the company to use the gory original artwork.

Color Me Blood Red

The legendary Herschell Gordon Lewis was known as the Godfather of Gore, and the VHS cover art for his 1965 film about an artist who uses human blood to paint his canvases is not for the squeamish.

Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2

Just a little necrophilia on these Jörg Buttgereit VHS covers.

Cannibal Holocaust

We just voted Ruggero Deodato’s infamous Cannibal Holocaust one of the greatest grindhouse movies in cinema, and the cover lives up to the film’s extreme reputation.

The Beyond

Goremeister Lucio Fulci brings one of his murder sequences to the cover of The Beyond VHS.

Goremet, Zombie Chef from Hell

Another real-life gore cover for a film about a cannibal cook.

Three on a Meathook

William Girdler’s movie desperately wants you to know that meathooks can be sexy, too.

Brain Dead

Sure to make your brain hurt just looking at it.

Phenomena

Creepers by Italian horror master Dario Argento was the title for the American version (truncated) of the director’s Phenomena, starring Jennifer Connelly. This bizarre image is the Stefon of VHS covers and has everything: a disembodied head, a razor-wielding chimpanzee, and a creepy house.

Maniac

Another image that was burned into the minds of young horror fans everywhere, the cover for William Lustig’s sleazy, gory Maniac delivers on its title.

Squirm

Is there anyone who actually likes worms? And worms slithering out of your showerhead are doubly disgusting. Jeff Lieberman’s Squirm, an MST3K favorite, gave audiences the creepy-crawlies just by looking at the VHS box.

I Spit On Your Grave

Rape-revenge horror classic I Spit On Your Grave drew viewers with its outrageous taglines: “This woman has just cut, chopped, broken and burned five men beyond recognition… but no jury in America would ever convict her!”

Slugs

The art for Juan Piquer Simón’s Slugs goes straight for the gross-out.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

Why yes, that is famed chainsaw crazie Leatherface and his cannibalistic family posing in the style of the Breakfast Club group photo. The sequel to Tobe Hooper’s horror classic, starring Dennis Hopper, is over the top in every way — and the VHS box art captures the film’s bizarre combination of humor and horror.

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things

A pictorial of cause and effect: playing with dead things gets you eaten by zombies.

Roller Blade

B-horror/post-apocalyptic sci-fi from the 1980s at its finest: roller-skating nuns in thongs (led by a Mother Superior figure called “Mother Speed”), a hot tub baptismal, oodles of nudity, metalhead thugs, bad dubbing, and hand puppets. The cover is a fantastic teaser.