The most important part of marketing a film is its poster as that is what sells the concept and the package of the movie to the majority of it's audience. It's truly a tricky thing to boil down everything you want to say about a film into one precise image but it's crucial as it could end up being the defining factor for what attracts an audience to the film or turn them away completely. Some are incredibly eerie, some totally insane and others down right atrocious, but no matter what they are theres no denying that horror film posters are some of the most memorable out there. So as part of our second 31 Days of Horror series, What Culture! have compiled the 10 most memorable horror posters in cinema history
10. DRAG ME TO HELL (2009)WHY ITS SO MEMORABLE: Whatever your opinions on the film itself, the poster artwork for Drag Me to Hell is quite simply unforgettable. Its not an overly ambitious or complicated image, but the picture of Christine literally being pulled into the depths of hell itself is effectively memorable. The image evokes action and movement in a way that draws viewers in: is she gasping for breath, yelling for help or screaming in agony (or even, ecstasy)? The expressive tag line is also clever, drawing audiences into the characters life before even seeing the film. Immediately viewers find themselves wondering why Christine is going to hell in three days, what she has done to make it happen and how she will try and prevent it from becoming a reality. Touching upon deep set religious fears the poster is one of the most mesmerising and successful of modern horror posters.
09. POLTERGEIST (1982)WHY ITS SO MEMORABLE: Simplicity is the key here. From the two tag lines, viewers immediately get a sense of unsettling tension and the lower of the two lines promise that theyll be in for a scare. The central image also cleverly takes an everyday, household item and suggests it is actually something unknown, turning it into something we should fear: is this the vessel that transports them here? The simple plain black background gives the white image an almost haunting look, which is also highlighted by the solitary child and her dropped teddy bear. Giving away absolutely no details of the plot, the Poltergeist poster intelligently attracts viewers through its intriguing tag lines and mysterious image instead.
08. HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959)WHY ITS SO MEMORABLE: Veteran horror director William Castle was famous for his gimmicks, amongst which were: a $1000 life insurance policies handed to audience members at the beginning of Macabre (1958) just in case they died of fright; seats rigged with buzzers to induce screaming from audiences during The Tingler (1959); and here, in House on Haunted Hill, a glow in the dark skeleton that hovered above audience members in the climactic moments of the film! This scheme to scare audiences is hinted upon in the poster artwork, which predominantly features a large, ominous skeleton. Risqué and rather explicit for the time, the poster is memorable for not only the image of a hanged woman, but also Vincent Price clutching a severed head (this was another Castle gimmick: the director had one prosthetic head that he tried to use on screen in the majority of his productions!). Every bit as vulgar and lurid as the film itself, this poster gives various hints (some red herrings) to the films plot and with its strong images is certainly one of the most memorable horror posters ever!
07. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)WHY ITS SO MEMORABLE: As grotesque and terrifying as the film itself, the poster for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an icon of horror advertising. Not many posters reveal the identity of the films antagonist, but the US one sheet for Massacre does precisely that to lure viewers in. Playing upon humanitys natural curiosity over things that arent quite right, the poster reveals enough of Leatherfaces hideously, freakishly disfigured face to whet audiences appetites. The image is quite simple, but entirely effective with its power to shock and disturb before even a centimetre of film has actually rolled. The combination of the three cleverly placed tag lines also helps to make the poster so noticeable. The largest (Who will survive) immediately captures attention with the gruesome prospect of dismemberment for the heroes. The smaller but prominently placed one about Americas most brutal and bizarre crime further entices, with suggestions that the film is based in reality. This is then confirmed in the by line under the title, confirming the truth in the narrative and cementing audiences interest in one of the most horrific and troubling horror films to ever be produced
06. CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED (1960)WHY ITS SO MEMORABLE: No matter what people will have you believe, there can often be something quite scary about children (or perhaps its just every mans fear of settling down and having them that makes this so?). The poster for Children of the Damned highlights this superbly to create one of the most disturbing images to ever be put to movie advertisements. The rhyming tag line is heavily featured and perfectly suckers viewers into the image and the mystery cloaking the narrative (which is not given away in the slightest from the image). The supremely white eyes literally begin to become hypnotising if any amount of time is spent staring into them and such note perfect marketing makes this one of the most effective and superior horror movie posters of all time
05. THE EXORCIST (1973)WHY ITS SO MEMORABLE: The striking image found here on the theatrical re-release poster for The Exorcist is transported from the original promotional material and remains as memorable as it did when the first release posters were hung in cinema lobbies. The image of a priest standing outside a house is not something that would usually capture an intense feeling of dread or fear, but here it does exactly that. With the bright light from the bedroom window bathing the figure in an almost religious light, the image speaks volumes of mystery and tension. What also helps make this re-release poster so memorable is the tag line duo found at the top of the poster. With the bold claim that the film is the scariest movie of all time and revelation that this is a never before seen version immediately hooks viewers interests. The film has become one of the most iconic horror films to ever be produced and the taglines here, coupled with the equally notable image, help make this poster a truly remarkable piece of cinema advertising. Like with many of the posters on this list the design has been kept simple, but is even more successful for refraining from overly complicated imagery. Instead, an image that is evocative of the whole tone and message of the film has been created and remains as unforgettable today as it ever was
04. HALLOWEEN (1978)WHY ITS SO MEMORABLE: The film is possibly one of the most atmospheric and intensely scary horror films to ever be produced and the poster manages to replicate this mood perfectly. The imposing image of a knife in the foreground of the artwork divulges that the film is a slasher, but the evil looking pumpkin behind it is an extremely clever red herring. Suggesting that the villain of the piece will be a maniacal pumpkin headed psychopath, the poster refrains from revealing the spine-shatteringly terrifying true image of Michael Myers and is all the more successful for this. ] Retaining some mystery for the film itself, the poster is more of an enigma than it is a piece of advertisement that reveals the narrative (or even who stars in the film). The simple tag line is similarly successful in shrouding the film in mystery and sparking interest within viewers, as they ponder over who exactly he is? Dark and ominous, this is certainly one of the most memorable classic horror posters around!
03. THE MUMMY (1932)WHY ITS SO MEMORABLE: The poster for this early horror movie classic simply hits all the right notes. The overbearing image of the decomposed Boris Karloff as The Mummy is both grotesque and captivating. Reminiscent of a fine piece of art, the attention to detail in the image (particularly in the Karloff section) is immense and the graphics literally come alive with texture. Karloffs portrayal of The Mummy is one of the most iconic in cinema history and the poster for the film is equally as recognisable. Produced before censorship became overbearing in 1934, the poster manages to blend an element of provocative sexuality with the seductive image of the exotic Zita Johann in the foreground. The blending of sex and horror has been rife within cinema since the first movie camera began rolling film and The Mummy poster is a perfect example of how advertisers capitalised on this amalgamation. The snappy tag line also helps to attract viewers, with its promises of the horror from the walking dead and its reminiscence of the Frankenstein film Universal produced the year before. Combined with the exotic and bold colour scheme, the poster whisks viewers off into the very depths of Ancient Egyptian terror!
02. JAWS (1975)WHY ITS SO MEMORABLE: This is possibly a slight cheat, as Jaws is not strictly regarded as a horror film in the conventional sense of the genre. However, the poster does play on fundamental fears within viewers to attract them to the film and what has ultimately made this one of the most iconic movie posters of all time. The threat of the unknown is the basis for the posters central image, with the unaware bather oblivious to the danger lurking below her. The image of the shark is large and prominent and from its angle there is no doubt that an attack is the only thing on its mind! This heightens the notion of horror within the narrative, which is further enforced by the tag line exclaiming that the film is a terrifying motion picture based on a terrifying novel. Coupled with the small statement that the film may be too intense for younger children, the whole structure of the advertisement plays up the horror angle of the film. Essentially, the image and poster design is very simple, but it sticks within viewers minds precisely because of this unfussiness. Often imitated but never duplicated, the Jaws US one sheet is one of the most memorable horror posters to ever adorn a cinema wall!
01. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)WHY ITS SO MEMORABLE: The poster for A Nightmare on Elm Street is predominantly memorable for the fact that its image is both striking and grotesque. The artwork is detailed and expressive with a hint of surrealism thrown in to entice moviegoers even more. Centring on lead character Nancy, the poster is both revealing of the narrative and also successful at not giving too much away. The artwork could suggest that the horror is psychological and all inside Nancys head, but the terror captured within her eyes by artist Matthew Joseph Peak suggests an unnerving reality. The poster cleverly hints at antagonist Freddy Kruegers image with the inclusion of the knife blade hand, but his face is not revealed, leaving some surprises for the film itself. Intensely detailed, viewers will notice a small, green, snake like head in the image and it is this attention to detail that helps make the poster so memorable. The gripping tag line also helps attract audience attention with its mysterious and unnerving claim. Together, the horrible imagery and enticing tagline help make the poster for A Nightmare on Elm Street stick in viewers minds and enjoy a longevity of popularity with horror fans. NOTEABLE MENTIONS: PSYCHO (1960) EYES WIHOUT A FACE (1960) THE BIRDS (1963) FRIDAY 13th (1980) INSIDIOUS (2010) If you have any suggestions of your own, please leave us a comment below, as wed love to know!
We need more writers about 31 Days of Horror! Get started below...