In 1980s video rental stores, shelves were filled with a brightly colored array of VHS box covers. These canvases served one purpose, to scream at the consumer…“RENT ME.” No other genre was better at grabbing a potential viewer’s attention better than horror. In a world where the shelves were stacked and the competition was thick, the box cover had a split second to pull you in, and when it came to horror movies, the more grotesque and frightening the cover, the more likely you were to rent it. Here are ten of the most mind-meltingly grotesque and frightening VHS box covers that graced the rental shelf.
Although the cover tries to draw you in with sex appeal, this post-apocalyptic 1987 sci-fi horror seals the deal with an Gieger-like creature that looks a little borrowed from ALIENS. But let’s be honest, the real reason for renting this film was those two buxom ladies on a pile of bones.
TRILOGY OF TERROR II
The Zumi doll is back, and this time he has a knife. Although not as good as the first film, that cover still made this 1996 made-for-cable sequel worth a rental once it made it to the video store shelf.
This 1971 exploitation horror features what appears to be an eye with a mind of its own. It’s almost centipede like in they way it crawls towards you. Wizard Video always had a knack for killer covers!
A group of teens engulfed in the arms of a mythical beast is the frightening focus of this 1987 low-budget horror flick. But actual movies, about several teens who spend the night in a museum only to be stalked by an evil genie, is just as schlocky as you’d think it could be.
GALAXY OF TERROR
Another cover that uses a little sex to catch the eye, this 1981 Roger Corman sci-fi horror film was the perfect visual sales pitch. Not only did it have the required box cover breasts, it also has an amazing flying skull mosquito beast!
THE NAIL GUN MASSACRE
Dangerously resembling a home improvement video, THE NAIL GUN MASSACRE VHS release made it look like a futuristic leather clad cyborg had gone on a killing spree after stopping by The Home Depot. This 1985 hardware homicide was a straight-to-video classic that perfectly suited the rental shelf.
THE DRILLER KILLER
Another hardware killer, turning DIY into homicide. I remember this cover being so gruesome that it looked like it could have been real. Abel Ferrara’s gritty New York tale from 1979 is an insane psychological joy ride through the mean streets of NYC.
No relation to the Hannibal Lector series, this one was also released as DEVIL HUNTER, but some video stores carried the more cannibalistic version. Whatever the cover, both featured a brutality that was extremely misleading compared to what was actually in the movie.
ALIEN PREY utilized a brutal, bloody cover that is sure to make you lose your appetite. The only downfall was that the alien on the cover looked like balding bridge troll.
From 1984 comes THE MUTILATOR! This highly memorable cover left many 80s kids mentally destroyed. Teens strung up on walls and a giant bloody fish hook! But the ante is upped even more when you flip the box over and see a medieval looking ax somehow enters the carnage as well!