Homemade Horror: 5 Gross Out Shot-On-Video Shockers


The shot-on-video (SOV) horror subset of the genre has grown in stature over the years. That’s mostly due to a committed group of fans that find a certain amount of charm in the DIY spirit of forgotten filmmakers. Video distributors in the 80s realized they could repackage these horror home movies to fool rabid fans roaming the video store aisles looking for new discoveries. Today, you could argue that horror fans are getting fooled all over again by 4K transfers of SOV movies that, by the mainstream’s standards, are pure and unadulterated schlock.

There is, however, a real passion behind some of these films from the VHS era and collectors are finding the diamonds in the rough. The hipster contingent of the community can sometimes champion these films undeservedly. But if you’re patient, you can find some surprisingly ingenious practical and visual effects within these generally unwatchable entries in homemade horror.

After a great deal of anguish and countless reels of videotape, here are five gory shot-on-video standouts featuring some really solid effects work.

1. Cannibal Campout

Directed by Jon McBride in 1988, Cannibal Campout has a wondrous amount of guts. The plot solely exists to get to the effects sequences that feature a healthy fixing of rednecks eating pig parts drenched in red food coloring. There’s even one scene where a shaken girlfriend has her face shoved into her boyfriend’s entrails. McBride also made Woodchipper Massacre. By the title alone, it sounds like it should be just as graphic as Cannibal Campout. Weirdly, there are only a couple of deaths involving said woodchipper. Stick with Campout to deliver a copious amount of SOV gore.

2. Polymorph  

You may recognize J.K. Bookwalter’s name. He was at the helm of the Sam Raimi-inspired zombie opus The Dead Next Door, a film that grows in esteem every time I rewatch it. With what is arguably one of the best zombie movies ever made behind him, Bookwalter went on to make Polymorph. It’s a backwoods fantasy horror film that feels like a hundred movies in one. A shape-shifting alien parasite crash lands in Ohio and begins to morph and take over the bodies of a bunch of coke heads. There’s more slime on display than blood shown, admittedly. But there are definitely some memorable gunshot squib wounds and a considerable amount of 90s CGI cheese. Bookwalter’s follow-up to Dead Next Door, Kingdom of the Vampire, lacks the bizarro quality that Polymorph has in spades.

3. Video Violence

Gary Cohen’s 1987 SOV contribution, Video Violence, is trash horror at its finest (and most disturbing). The loose plot centers around a mysterious snuff tape found on the shelves of a video store. The owners investigate to try and find who the culprit is. Unfortunately, their entire customer base is only interested in porn and slasher films. So, the underground world of snuff films looks right at home on their store shelf. It’s either a red flag or a cause for celebration that Video Violence is one of the most successful SOV movies of all time. Unintentionally, the low-rent video quality adds to the believability of the gore. There’s a real sense of unhinged mania in Video Violence that gives certain scenes a real sense of danger. Imagine Eating Raoul for the VHS generation, not the Criterion intellectual crowd.

4. Something of Mine

Directed by Keith Randall Duncan in the early 90s, Something of Mine probably takes the trophy for the most blood on the list. The end credits feature a long list of Blood Wranglers who, most likely, wore that distinction proudly. With a story that’s weirdly reminiscent of Spider-Man: No Way Home, a cat named Rondo Catton (a knowing nod to character actor Rondo Hatton) accidentally interferes and alters the spell during a demon summoning ritual. As a result, a reanimated corpse starts taking body parts. The gore effects are top-notch considering the minuscule budget and it’s surprisingly witty in parts. There’s a great gag involving an eyeball, too. Set at a frat house Halloween attraction, it’s a fun addition to any 31 Days of Halloween list if you’re looking for something a little more obscure.

5. Forever Evil

The latex heavy 1987 SOV shocker, Forever Evil, may have the most creature effects of any regional indie I’ve ever witnessed. Mirroring (ok, copying) the setup for Evil Dead, a group of friends heads out to a remote cottage for the weekend. When they discover one of their friends with her stomach ripped out, they all try and stay alive when the supernatural element comes knocking. To be transparent, Forever Evil should have a trigger warning before the makeshift title card comes up. In the film’s most provocative effects sequence, there’s a cemetery scene where a character named Holly reaches into her stomach and forcibly pulls out a demonic baby. The effect is executed incredibly well but it’s understandably problematic in 2022.

Have any favorite Shot-on-Video films of your own? Let me know on Twitter!



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