10 Most Iconic Horror Film Posters
Noisecreep is honored to have Life of Agony and horror comics creator Alan Robert join our family! Starting with this piece, he’ll be contributing a column he’s dubbed Alan Robert’s Severed Heads. In the column, you can expect buckets of blood, tons of gore and everything else from the horror realm!
From Alan Robert:
So here’s the thing. Most people who know me have come to accept that I’m a complete horror movie junkie. They’ve also welcomed the fact that I seriously enjoy creating demented-looking, blood-soaked horror comic books on a regular basis. However, what most folks probably don’t know about me is just how big an impact the movie posters I grew up on had, and still have, on my own artwork. Like the great Hannibal Lecter once said, “We begin by coveting what we see every day.” And that’s just what I did. I started out by drawing horror movie posters on my high school notebooks… you remember the old denim canvas loose-leafs? Yeah, well, mine were covered.
Halloween is right around the corner so I figured it’d be perfect timing to share some of my favorite iconic horror movie posters. It was no easy task to narrow ‘em down to just ten, but I think that all of these picks are cuts above the rest (pun intended). Now, there’s a distinct difference in my mind between “classic” posters and “iconic” posters, so for the purpose of this list we’ll just focus on the “iconic” ones. When I think of a poster being visually iconic, it’s usually an image so powerful and memorable that it can often transcend the film itself. Maybe we’ll focus on “classic” posters in a future column. One more disclaimer… this list does not necessarily represent my favorite horror films, per se, just the most influential poster art.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
In retrospect, I’m actually pretty surprised that they didn't put a recognizable Freddy face on the poster. Maybe with the first film, they wanted to build up Mr. Krueger’s mystique by including this more abstract version of his face? Either way, this birds-eye depiction of Nancy lying awake in bed is absolutely hypnotic and beautifully painted by an artist named Matthew Joseph Peak. Matthew painted the first five 'Nightmare' film posters, so it’s no surprise why they all have a similar look and feel. Matthew is also the son of one of the all-time greatest movie poster artists, Bob Peak, known for classics such as 'West Side Story,' 'Camelot' and 'Apocalypse Now.'
The Evil Dead (1981)
Even without seeing the film, this fine-detailed painting immediately draws you in. The simplicity of the color palette along with its tilted, off-center layout was strikingly unique for it’s time and immediately memorable. The bold contrast between the over-saturated blue against the spotlit figure gives the piece a lot of depth, too. Check out the emphasized “V” and the “A” of the Evil Dead logo… they reinforce the arm positions of the victim, adding an even more peculiar balance between the two visual elements. I have to admit that it wasn’t until today, while rehashing these posters, that I noticed the quote up top was from the master of horror himself, Mr. Stephen King.
A headless Statue of Liberty looms over a burning New York City beneath a blanket of green hues. Ominous and beautiful, all at the same time, the 'Cloverfield' poster is bold, mysterious and completely stands on its own. It reminds me of the last shot of the classic Planet of the Apes film where Charlton Heston witnesses the bust of the Statue of Liberty buried on the shore of a beach. That image certainly echoes through my mind whenever I see this poster. Perhaps that’s what got me so excited about the film? The visual connection it had to one of my old favorites? Either way, I saw 'Cloverfield' on opening day because of this poster. And like many others, I hopelessly searched the Web days before hand to try to find a sneak peek of the monster.
It certainly wouldn’t be 'Halloween' without Michael Myers. But, shortly before that whacky William Shatner mask made audiences shiver all across America and a slasher legend was born, it was up to this poster get them in their seats. Back in ‘78, the filmmakers made the clever decision to abandon Myer’s unrecognizable mask for the poster art in exchange for a far more popular visual icon, the jack o’ lantern. When that ultra-sharp blade sits adjacent to the pumpkin head it creates the illusion of movement. The fire burning in the eyes becomes the focal point of the piece and adds a violent expression to a killer’s face, which we never see.
The Howling (1981)
The clever thing about this image is that it screams “werewolf movie” without ever showing one on the poster. Beautifully illustrated like most horror film posters of its time, the photo-realism really seals the deal for me. Again, it’s the simplicity of the concept that makes it so strong. Now that I look at it with fresh eyes, the tagline is actually kind of weak in comparison. You’d think they could’ve come up with something better than that, eh?
Hands down, 'Jaws' is one of the most undeniable, most memorable movie posters of all time. It takes the most terrifying visual of the film and plasters it right on the poster, plain as day. The simplicity of the color palette along with the finely detailed illustration made this one immediately recognizable and imitated countless times. The sheer size of the shark as compared to the unknowing woman swimming above has kept me, and many others, out of the ocean for a long, long time.
In our modern world, where giant flat screens are almost always seen mounted high upon our walls, this lonely image of Carol Ann clutching a furniture-sized television screen filled with white noise would never work. But in 1982, the simplicity of this image was, and still is, eerily effective. Minimalistic, yet haunting, this one image visually connects the most memorable scene of the film and capitalizes on the heavily marketed “They’re here” tagline.
Salem's Lot (1979)
An outline of the vampire hovers over a moonlit house utilizing minimalist color and very basic line-work. A powerful, iconic visual, which I feel, trumps the actual movie.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
The image of giant eyeballs peering out of a decaying skull captured the tongue-in-cheek tone of this great film to a tee. Hands down, one of my favorite movies, the 'Evil Dead 2' poster art was just as over-the-top as the film itself.
Children of the Corn (1984)
The frightening silhouette of a raised sickle against a flat red background will be ingrained in my mind forever. This poster art was very influential on my own artwork over the years, especially with my latest comic series 'Killogy,' where the use of silhouettes against flat color runs rampant throughout the book. I actually just today noticed the subtle outlines of children hiding in the cornfield.