TBT: Breaking Down Old Horror Movie Posters
Here at Modern Horrors we recognize and celebrate that the genre we all know and love has evolved in such strange and unpredictable ways. But that doesn’t mean we don’t look back from time to time and enjoy what used to be. So today we’re looking at some posters of yore to see how effective their messaging was. A good horror movie poster toes the line between showing and telling. We usually get a victim being… victimized, an antagonist, some cheesy font along with some wince-worthy tagline. Although, to be fair, not all taglines are created equal, and some are so good that they lift an otherwise mediocre poster to greatness. But to be clear, most do not. Anyway, let’s take a look at some classic movie posters and see what we think.
The Prowler is a pretty typical horror movie poster as far as cliches go. Although perhaps it’s the oversized moon in the background or our lovers embracing, but is anyone else getting a Moonlighting vibe? But instead of Bruce Willis holding Cybill Sheperd we have Bruce’s better acting cousin, the prowler, dragging his victim from or towards that house in the distance. I’m guessing it’s the former because our victim was a bit too comfortable and safe for our prowler’s liking, and he wasn’t going to stand for that. It’s almost romantic actually, perhaps it’s hinting at their connection. The tagline “it will freeze your blood” is a bit dry for my taste though.
So what we have here seems less like a poster and more like a challenge. The tagline of “Who will survive and what will be left of them?” almost dares the viewer to witness the horror within. We also get the menacing figure of Leatherface and his weapon of choice, a chainsaw that looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in years. A female is being attacked, but we can’t entirely see what’s going on in this scene, and there’s the rub. Walk away from this poster and keep your sanity intact or satiate your curiosity, see the movie and develop a new phobia. You decide.
Next up, something a bit different:
At this point it would be silly for me not to mention the elephant in the room. Women in peril. Horror movie posters are riddled with ladies in danger. This goes back to the concept of final girls, and the idea that women are the more vulnerable sex. Unfortunately, it’s something we’ll have to get used to. While thankfully, some modern horror films eskew this tradition, it’s still prevalent in the genre. With that said, on to the next one:
I remember seeing this poster as a young kid and finally understanding what true terror was. In the distance, under a dark and cloudy night is one of the scariest houses in horror, with its iconic red door, that house embodied a lot of evil to me as a kid. But hey there’s hope! If you look closely you can see a light on upstairs? Maybe we weren’t doomed after all. Maybe someone finally managed to stay awake when you asked them to! Huzzah! Also, while plenty of horror movie posters have our victims running away from the threat, here we have our four would be heroes stepping up to the challenge to take on Freddy and not be cut to ribbons. “If you think you’ll get out alive, you must be dreaming.” is so good and obvious though. The Nightmare on Elm Street series was always about messing reality, and this poster showcases that better than any other in the franchise. If you couldn’t tell this one is my favorite.
I can’t say modern horror movie posters have come that far along since these movies were in theaters, but horror as a genre certainly has, and it’s always fun to see how movies thought the most effective way to engaged with their audience was.