Category_Collecting, Category_Groovy Stuff, Category_Horror, Category_VHS, Category_Weirdness -

VHS Label Postmortem: V/H/S aka Video Horror Show is Exhumed, Examined and Preserved with Artist Justin Miller aka HauntLove!

The video mix-tape has been a staple in the VHS collector underground since the dawn of the culture, and analog-crazed entities like KING OF THE WITCHES and HORROR BOOBS VIDEO are currently keeping the anti-digital mix-tape march in step. But with the often transient nature of the archetypal DIY basement label, there are bound to be ephemeral entities that produce amazing analog artifacts and then expire, leaving a ghostly imprint with their limited slabs of video vindication. One such remnant is Justin Miller’s (aka HauntLove) now defunct VHS label V/H/S AKA Video Horror Show. With an acute attention to aesthetics and presentation, Video Horror Show functioned as an homage to the aged and charmingly battered essence of the analog experience, pushing forth occult, surreal and schlocky mix tape madness employed as visual backdrops for studies in obscure aural entertainment. And now, we exhume this still potent yet esoteric composite corpse of analog era inclinations and cult genre jams. Let’s pry the top off this bad boy and see what crawls out, shall we?

Just one of the many logos for Video Horror Show. Fuzzed out, man. Just the way I like it.

LM: When did you start Video Horror Show? What was the impetus behind starting it up? JM: Video Horror Show or V/H/S (named years before the movie came out, just saying…) was born in October of 2010. My buddy Dan and I were putting together an art show called Video Violence (which if I remember correctly you were a contributor of) The concept of the show was to turn the lobby of International House into a pop-up Video Store during the 24 hours of Exhumed Films Horror-thon. The pop-up shop featured VHS tapes with custom art by different artists from all over the place. I wanted to include a "now playing" aspect to the shop just like they had in real video stores but didn't want to just play a movie, I wanted something a little less linear, something people could just enjoy for an amount of time and then walk away as to not detract from the Horror-thon screening going on mere feet away. So, I decided to edit together some trippy clips from a number of different horror flicks, which was cool and all but now it needed some tunes to tie them all together. That is when I thought "I should hit up my bud Chris (Grigg)". Chris is the front man of the Black Metal band WOE and I couldn't think of anyone better to work with on the project. Chris loved the idea and was on board. He enlisted Matt Moore (WOE/ABSU) and the two of them descended into the darkness of his basement, worshipped the Dark Lord, and came back with SUFFER THE SHARDS OF THE LOST CULT OF SILENCE. The droned out Black Metal buzz of SUFFER THE SHARDS was a perfect fit to the horror mash up video; so perfect in fact that we decided to unleash it upon the world. I came up with a name for the label and BAM: Video Horror Show had its first release.

My entry in the Video Violence VHS Art Show Justin threw together. LA CHINGA!! IS DAT A JOINT, MANG?!

Why did you choose the video format for these projects? What is it that attracts you to the format? Choosing the video format for this was the easiest part about the project. The Video Violence exhibition was also based off VHS tape art and culture, so clearly this needed to be done on tape as well. VHS tapes are the perfectly imperfect, which I think is what attracts me to it the most. I like worn-out tapes with beat-up boxes and rental stickers all over them. I carry that concept over into screen printed posters I make also.

A look at the complete package for SUFFER THE SHARDS release. EVIL, man. EVIL.

How did you hook up with the bands you released? Friends, friends of friends, summon them from the blackest depths the unknown ether? I think each release was a little different. SUFFER THE SHARDS, like I said before, was made up of my good friend Chris and his band mate Matt… that one just sort of fell together. Our second release was with MASCARA. I got really into witch house at the time and was really into this dude. I hit up Shane, the guy behind MASCARA, and asked if he would be interested and he was down. PSYCHIC TEENS were also buddies of mine. I loved the stuff they were doing and they were into V/H/S. SIX TON ARMOR had seen some of the other stuff and approached me with Time is Now in a basically finished state. I was super into it and told them I was down to release it.

The package for the MASACARA release. Damn that blue is smooth.

Can you give us a rundown of what you released? How many tapes you did, the content, the packaging, etc? There were a total of 4 releases: SUFFER THE SHARDS OF THE LOST CULT OF SILENCE, MASCARA, PSYCHIC TEENS, and SIX TON ARMOR. The tapes contained many, many clips of horror and cult films mostly from the sixties and seventies. I compiled together all of the video content and designed and printed all of the packaging for each of the videos, except for the SIX TON ARMOR’s which they put together themselves… and I also printed the inserts and dubbed the tapes. Each release featured a colored VHS tape along with hand-screen printed and numbered inserts, housed in old-school clamshell cases.

A glance at the artwork for the PSYCHIC TEENS release. Splattered with ghostly (Haunt) Love.

Yeah, you did some really dope stuff with Video Horror Show, man. I really dig the hollowed out VHS cassette with a membership card inside. Can you describe everything that went into the creative process on these? Did you do all the video editing, too, or… ? I was really psyched on the membership package and it was a great way to help fund the upcoming projects and at the same time give those that bought into the membership a little bit extra. It was a bit of a pain to put them together, since each tape needed to be gutted and a few pieces broken off so the cards would fit and the whole thing would close back up properly, but I think they turned out pretty cool in the end. The creative process was pretty fluid. I would take some films and just sort of try and reflow the film in a much shorter fashion, almost like a trailer but still re-contextualize it to have it almost tell a different story than the original film intended. They normally ended up a much more trippy version of the original content. The cover art would always then just riff off what I created for the videos.

A roll of images featuring the club card and the VHS case housing. Limited to 10 pieces. Damn, this is groovy.

Can you tell us a little bit more about HauntLove and what do / did with it? HauntLove is my poster-making alter ego, I suppose. I’ve been using that name since school when I took it on as what I would write on walls with. Later I stopped doing that, but my real name is pretty generic so I decided to carry the name over to my print making. I thought it was a pretty fitting name for the work I was doing. Currently most of my work revolves around Philly’s Exhumed Films, a group that screens horror films and other cult goodies on film at International House Philadelphia. I’ve been going to their screenings for the past 12 years or so. After coming out to their screenings for a long time I befriended the group and in 2008 I was asked to do my first poster for their screening of Malatesta's Carnival of Blood. . After that, I’ve been sort of the official/unofficial resident poster maker. I also dabble in the gig poster game as well as other design shenanigans. Are you a VHS collector yourself? If so, what are some of your favorite titles in your collection? I sadly have to admit I’m not much of a VHS collector. I use to have a small collection back in the day but since have parted ways with most of it mostly to make way for DVDs. I am a collector though, but my drugs of choice are cameras (film) and records. I do have some tapes floating around still though like Mr. T's Be Somebody or Be Somebody's Fool, some old graffiti tapes, and some random horror. My prized tapes are actually a few tapes with custom covers from the Video Violence show I did like a Welcome to the Doll House tape my wife, Jill Ginsberg, made.

Does this really need a caption?

What do you think of all the VHS love that’s currently happening? The rabid collectors, the documentaries, etc.? I’m pretty cool with the VHS resurgence that’s happening, although as a designer I wish some of the people took a little more pride in the cover art that they are putting out with the tapes because some of the releases don’t look so hot. It’s cool that VHS is getting love… I think for a lot of us in the horror game, VHS and video stores had a pretty deep impact on us. Rabid collecting is always a bit of a mystery to me when people are willing to pay $$$ for something that was never supposed to cost even close to that much. My thrill is finding stuff at a flea market or yard sale and nabbing it for a good price. I can’t get behind grabbing something off eBay and not having to really look for it if it’s going to be so much money. That just seems like a little bit of a lazy form of collecting but that’s just my personal thought on it… no disrespect if that’s someone’s deal. Why do you think it’s important to preserve VHS? I think it’s important if only for the box art. VHS box art is so amazing. It’s also just a piece of so many people’s childhoods that it would be a bummer if it just stopped being. Video Horror Show is now defunct. What caused the cessation, and do you think you’ll ever release tapes again? Yes, V/H/S is in a deep sleep right now… will it reawaken? That’s a question no one can answer right now. Time was really the nail in the coffin. It takes a lot of effort to run a normal label, and then add on top of that one that had to have 15 to 30 minute videos made for each release… basically, it became a major time drain. With a full time job, family, print making, and a label, one thing had to take a dive. The last hired, first fired I guess. I do have an unreleased project sitting on my hard drive though… A short that I shot with a friend of mine. It’s called Memory Rites and was only screened once, before a screening of Possession here in Philly. It was shelved because I was unhappy with the final editing and needed to go back and do some cutting down and new music. So you never know, maybe that will pop up sometime in the future… Anything else you’d like to share with the Videovores out there? Yea… be somebody or be somebody’s fool.

Man, it would be too groovy if Video Horror Show rises from the grave for that last tape. If you want to see some more magnetic tape mixes from Justin and his killer brand of creativity, hit him up RIGHT HERE and get a full on look at the history of Video Horror Show. But as the tape reels keep turning, there are other labels popping up all the time keeping that mix-tape tradition alive, setting forth collected clip tapes that reflect their analog obsessions in order to share it with the Videovores out there that care to taste the endless buffet of visual vittles fringe film has put on the table. Keep collecting, keep watching and feed that VCR everyday.

Josh Schafer

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