Standing in the video rental store as a child, staring up in awe at the towering shelves full of row after row of dark, disturbing and sometimes cleverly absurd VHS horror movie covers is where it all began for me. All the blood, skin, sex and death. The evolution of horror film poster design as we know it today began in the 1970s and reached its renaissance in the 80s with masterpieces such as Evil Dead, Piranha, Fright Night, The Gate, the artwork for the Italian zombie films of Lucio Fulci, and of course the endless parade of slashers featuring scantily clad teenage girls being chased down and brutally slaughtered by all sorts of deranged maniacs.
Horror of the early 90s saw some iconic posters such as Dead Alive, Army of Darkness, the Night of the Living Dead remake, etc. Until Scream came around and ruined everything with the new trend of promoting movies based solely on the faces of the fresh young meat cast directly from popular television shows.
The rise of James Wan, Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and the rest of the Splat Pack at the beginning of the new millennium paved the way for a new horror revolution, reclaiming the glory of the 80s with a new brand of terror and gore. Of course, the poster art reflected this by reaching new depths of creativity and unsettling imagery.
Here are some of my favorite, most inspiring horror movie posters:
Night of the Living Dead (1990)
I have no idea why this 1990 remake of George Romero’s classic, groundbreaking zombie flick has been so despised. The zombies are scarier, the gore more brutal, the quality is altogether better, but otherwise it is the same movie. And the poster is beautiful – zombies slowly creeping up on a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.
James Gunn’s Slither is everything you expect from a great creature feature, including the obligatory key art featuring slimy, parasitic slug things squirming toward an unsuspecting woman in a bathtub, covered only by bubbles.
Human Centipede 2
While I found Human Centipede 2 to be mundane and disappointing, this initial one-sheet is shear brilliance. It just doesn’t get any better than the pale white skin of a woman with a gigantic centipede posing as her landing strip. The later one-sheet features the twelve-person human centipede in black and white looking like a spine.
This is pretty much exactly what I imagine is just below my feet in the dark depths of any body of water larger than a puddle…and even then, it can’t hurt to be cautious.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Guillermo del Toro has a way of weaving imaginative fairy tales with just enough darkness to make it dangerous, reminiscent of the Henson movies that shaped my childhood like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.
Alone in the Dark
The perfect example of a great poster for a slasher film.
You can’t look at this poster without an insatiable craving to see what The Pit is about. Never looked at my teddy bear the same after this movie.
The original Fright Night is definitely one of those iconic VHS covers that turned kids like me in the 80s into desperate horror fiends.
Though I’ve never seen the movie, these posters for Frightmare are shining examples of 80s horror poster art.
Friday the 13th
I spent a lot of time wandering alone through the woods when I was a kid. This terrified me.
The retro 80s horror feel of the Innkeepers poster is the only reason I watched this movie. Same goes for…
House of the Devil
An interesting throwback to the horror film poster art of the 70s.
Grindhouse: Planet Terror
The Grindhouse films from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez reminded the world what was great about low-budget exploitation horror flicks, but the re-creation of the over-the-top, worn out old poster art with a hard dose of radiation, steroids and other chemicals has become highly coveted.