I have been interested in art my entire life and ever since I was in grade school I knew that I wanted to be a designer (well, that or a comic book illustrator, but that dream faded shortly after high school started). Alongside art, cult and horror films became another heavy passion of mine. It was only natural that these two things would cross paths, make love and give birth to an obsession of the grotesque and sometimes beautiful images of monsters, killers, busty vixens and awful/amazing typography that is horror movie poster art. Bringing you to the present, I am now a designer and a screen printer who designs and prints cult and horror posters of my own for many of the Exhumed Films screenings. So in the spirit of the season and the upcoming Horror-Thon, I am going to present you with ten of my favorite posters. Keep in mind, however, this is a list representing the poster art solely and not the film the poster was originally made for. This is not my list of favorite horror movies, in fact there are one or two on this list I haven’t even seen or I’m not that fond of, as well as some I am very fond of. I am also sorry that the Evil Dead poster or Halloween poster that you see as being so iconic didn’t make my cut, but most of the big-name horror titles bore me when it comes to their poster art, and I like my stuff a little more on the weird side. So here is my list in no particular order:
1. Squirm – This poster was illustrated by the great Drew Struzan. Struzan has painted some of the most iconic posters you know and love. From Star Wars to Indiana Jones to Back to the Future and much, much more. A true legend in the field, but with all the heavyweight films he has illustrated, my favorite of his will always be for 1976’s Squirm. The image is disgusting and creepy, but beautifully painted. I even love the type treatment for the title. The poster creates a very fitting mood to accompany the film. I own an original copy of this one in my personal collection.
2. Birds/Psycho (Czech poster) – This is probably one of my favorite posters of all time. Designed by one of the masters of Czech poster making, Zdenek Ziegler, I can’t explain how much I love this poster. This man was legendarily prolific and honestly, it’s pretty damn hard to pick just one of his posters to feature in my top ten because I could probably fill a good chunk of this list with just his pieces alone. When he came to the US in the ’80s to visit he was blown away by the piss poor quality of poster design here in the States and compared to what him and his contemporaries were doing overseas in places like the Czech and Poland he was rightfully disappointed. The passion and creativity of Ziegler and others like him were on a completely different level. His posters make you want to watch even the most mundane film simply because of his artwork. He created a few posters for Hitchcock aside from this double-billed Birds/Psycho and all are pretty amazing. For me, there is just something completely disorienting and disturbing about this poster. While on a recent vacation to Prague, I had the chance to see an exhibition of Ziegler’s work at Terry’s Posters. Seeing this print in person was mind-blowing; the internet-sized images will never do it enough justice. If I had to pick a single poster maker that has really influenced me it would be this guy.
3. Rosemary’s Baby – Designed by Philip Gips and Steve Frankfurt for Young & Rubicam (if you watch Mad Men you will hear that name dropped more than a few times). While there is some great debate about who did what here, it is known that Steve Frankfurt and Philip Gips really changed and revamped the way Hollywood marketed their films. This poster is as beautiful as it is unsettling – a true icon in the world of Hollywood posters.
4. Trog – Honestly this poster is just kind of cool… I haven’t actually seen this film but this poster makes me want to see it. This is something I would hang on my wall. It’s nothing innovative, but man it’s just really cool looking. The color, the type, the cheesy cut out stills. Maybe it reminds me of something I would make, or at least wish I had made.
5. La Vampire Nue [The Nude Vampire] – This poster was illustrated by Phillipe Druillet, who created posters for Jean Rollin’s first three films. Druillet produced posters for Le Viol du Vampire [Rape of the Vampire], La Vampire Nue [The Nude Vampire], and Le Frisson des Vampires [Shiver of the Vampire]. It was tough to pick one of the three but in the end The Nude Vampire won out. The erotic poster art depicting the pixie-like lesbian vampire nymph is a perfect match for Rollin’s film. In this age of played-out vampire movies with drab or family-friendly poster art, these are a more than welcome change for the eyeballs.
6. Legend of the Werewolf – I am unsure who designed this poster and it’s probably in one of my poster books, but alas they are all packed away in neat little boxes at this time because I just moved. What I do know is this poster is a visual killer. The neon green and orange against the black pops and draws you in. The distorted type treatment for the title is fantastic. This poster is for a film made in 1975 but if you cropped it to a 12″x12″ I would swear it was the cover for a punk record from the ’80s.
7. Night of the Living Dead (UK) – Fear, that deadliest of all emotions clutching at your heart the… This is a powerful poster, the image is striking, haunting, chilling. The type jarring. This poster is a thing of great design, simple but effective. One day I will hang this on my wall… I want your skull, I need your skull.
8. Dorian Gray – Okay, here is another poster for which I have never seen the film. I have always wanted to watch 1970’s Dorian Gray, but have just never gotten around to it. The poster, however, has always fascinated me. The detail is just mesmerizing.
9. El Buque Maldito [The Ghost Galleon] – This poster is for the 3rd in the Blind Dead series. It is really just plain evil. The Knights Templar never looked so good while throwing a beautiful maiden overboard a burning ship, all in the name of the Devil!
10. Army of Darkness (Japan) – I am going to end this with a wild one. I love this poster – it is just so bizarre it’s too good to leave out. This one was created for the Japanese release of Army of Darkness. Really though…what is going on here? Bruce Campbell soup, toothbrushes, hangers, dolphins… But hey, don’t question it, just sit back and enjoy the pop art goodness.
Thanks, Justin! Check back later today for the debut of Justin’s fifth and final poster in a series of five prints that showcase favorite films from past Horror-Thons, a CINEDELPHIA EXCLUSIVE.