When it comes to movie posters, the horror genre is the one holding all the cards. Throughout history, there have been countless brilliant, shocking, crude, creepy and entertaining posters which evoke as much emotion as the film that they are advertising. Iconography from the horror genre lends itself well to the poster medium, and there are many heavily stylized posters which stand out and grab your attention, whilst there are also many minimalist designs that are particularly haunting and evoke a sense of dread. Here are 12 fantastic designs which will adorn the walls of horror buffs around the world.
12. The Blair Witch Project
The woods have always been a great setting for horror, and this is brilliantly used in this poster as well as the film, The Blair Witch Project. Black takes up the majority of the image, but at the top we see the tops of bare trees which evoke a sense of evil and unknown in the woods below. In the bottom half is the now-iconic (and often parodied) face of one of the fear-struck main characters with a light shone on her face. In the middle of the poster, there is the creepy stick figure which they find in the woods with the text describing the premise and how “a year later their footage was found.” The Blair Witch Project is one of the key found footage films which are now immensely popular, and this makes it a powerful tagline that was highly original at the time.
Anyone that has seen Dario Argento’s Italian horror Suspiria will know what a stunning and artistic film it is, which is reflected in this fantastic poster. The film is famed for its stunning use of vibrant colors, but here it is the classic horror palette—red, black and white. It is still a very artistic piece with an interesting use of space, with most of the focus being at the top and bottom of the poster with little in the middle. Against a black background, the top shows the director’s name in white next to an image of a white ballerina (the film stars a ballet student) in a striking pose, and there is red blood trickling down her body which spills into a large puddle below her and near the middle. In the bottom half, the title of the film in white, wavy text balances the image.
10. The Slumber Party Massacre
Sex is a common theme in horror, particularly in the slasher subgenre. The Slumber Party Massacre was written to parody this and created by author and feminist Rita Mae Brown, which sees a lot of humor contained within the film. This is also evident in the poster, which shows a man with his legs wide apart, and in between his legs we suggestively see his weapon of choice—a large power drill. Also through his legs, we see four beautiful young women in their underwear staring up at the man with one of the girls sprawled out on the floor. It is a heavily sexualized and tongue-in-cheek image, much like the entire film, but it is not actually too dissimilar to the posters for many of the slasher films throughout the ’80s which usually follow the pattern of an assailant hunting scantily clad women with a phallic weapon.
9. The Thing
Many consider John Carpenter’s The Thing to be the greatest horror film of all time, and this is largely through the use of the antagonist being an unknown entity that can take the appearance of anyone. This sees extraordinary levels of paranoia and fear amongst the characters, which is palpable throughout. This fear of the unknown makes it challenging to make into an image, but they do a stellar job with this stunning poster. The film captures the setting of the film, the Antarctic, well through the icy shades of blue and the silhouette of one of the researchers. Where his face is, a tremendous amount of light is being emitted which heavily contrasts the silhouette. White, icy text beneath this reads the title of the film, and a black border adds further contrast against the whites and blues of the image.
8. Silent Night, Deadly Night
There has always been something creepy about the thought of Santa Claus coming down your chimney whilst you sleep at night, and this has been taken to the next level for the poster for the 1984 slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night. The advertising for the film caused plenty of controversy which saw the film panned, but it has since gained a cult following and many now see this as a comical poster. The poster shows a snow covered roof and chimney against a black night, with Santa’s arm hanging out of the chimney as he descends down. In his hand is a large axe, making it an alarming and shocking image. The title of the film sits beneath this, with “Deadly Night” written in dripping red text. It also features two brilliant taglines—“He knows when you’ve been naughty” and “You’ve made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas.”
There is an old school Hammer Horror feel to this fantastic poster for the 1985 science fiction horror comedy classic Re-Animator, and this is through both the use of color and the drawing style of the menacing looking doctor. With a black background, the doctor sits at his desk with a test tube in one hand that contains a mysterious orange liquid which seeps out into the top right of the poster, whilst there are also other colorful beakers on his desk. The most shocking part, however, and not the first thing you notice, is the head that sits directly in front of him on the desk. The tagline in the top reads “Herbert West has a good head on his shoulders…and another one on his desk.” This striking poster has a particularly intriguing and bold image, and also perfectly matches the tone of the film itself which is now considered a cult classic.
6. The Wicker Man
This brilliant piece of art perfectly encapsulates the twisted, shocking and horrifying nature of the 1973 classic British horror, The Wicker Man. The poster depicts the troubling final scene where a ritualistic sacrifice is made inside a giant wicker man statue, which is visible at the top of the poster with birds circling around it. There are then several figures dressed up as part of the May Day celebration, and then in the center we see the terrifying silhouette of Lord Summerisle (with his wild hair and hands in the air). The gold and black color scheme works fantastically, and the use of light and dark makes it a striking yet disturbing image. Anybody that has seen the film will recall just how shocking the final scene is, but those that have not will find this poster particularly intriguing as it depicts a surreal and menacing scene.
An iconic image and one of the most famous horror films of all time, the poster for Jaws perfectly depicts the horror of the film. The top of the image contains the title of the film in bold red lettering against a white background, and just below this you see the image of a woman swimming across a body of water. Below this, taking up about three quarters of the image is beneath the surface, where an enormous shark with its teeth on display is swimming upwards directly towards the woman. The fear of what lurks beneath is key to the film, and this is perfectly captured through the off-balance image and the size of the shark. It is rare that an image so perfectly captures the essence of the film, but this is achieved using a relatively simple image and bold lettering.
4. Friday the 13th
Another great piece of art for an iconic horror, the tone of the film is masterfully captured in this striking poster. As established, the woods are a classic setting for horror and in this poster we see a group of teens stood in the woods next to a hut, with the sky a brilliant blue beneath black clouds and a full moon. This image is contained within the outline of somebody’s torso and legs, and in one hand this person is holding a bloody knife. Not only does this make it a visually intriguing and striking piece, but it also portrays that these teens are trapped and this unidentified person is coming after them. The rest of the poster is black with the stylized text of the film at the bottom, and the tagline “They were warned…They are doomed…And on Friday the 13th, nothing will save them.”
3. The Exorcist
Yet another legendary horror film with an iconic poster, this image for The Exorcist evokes a sense of foreboding evil, and this is cleverly achieved through light and dark. Interestingly, it flips the two though, so that the huge amount of light shining out of the window onto the street represents evil, whereas the priest stood outside is silhouetted stood against the light. Everything else is dark, except the text at the top of the poster which simply shows the novelist, the title of the film in purple text and the director underneath. At the time, The Exorcist was the scariest film of all time and proved to be immensely influential. It may feel dated when watching it now (1973 release), but you cannot deny its brilliance and this is aided by this powerful image which captures the essence of the film—good versus evil.
Often with horror, simple is best and this is why many of the very first horror films are still the greatest. This is certainly the case with the immensely important and influential 1922 horror, Nosferatu and its poster. The poster features a white background with the shadow of a staircase and Count Orlok creeping up the stairs in what is an iconic scene from the film. His creepy long fingers and nose make for a troubling image and although dated, it is still a terrifying and brilliant scene. The details and title of the film (in yellow) are underneath this image against the black shadow for what is a very simple, yet incredibly effective poster which depicts one of the most famous scenes in the entire genre’s history. For any true horror buff, this is a must-own poster as it influenced every horror that followed.
1. The Evil Dead
One of the most famous horror films and posters ever, this striking image is a key part of horror history. The deep blue of the sky contrasts heavily with the brown, near black, earth, and then in the center is the shocking image of a young woman desperately reaching to the sky with a hand from below the earth wrapped tightly around her neck. The slight angle of the ground, film title below the image, and quote (from none other than Steven King) above the image gives it a stylish and intriguing look. The grey and jagged font also stands out and balances the poster with text both above and below the image. The Evil Dead is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential horror films ever created, and it is fitting that it has such an iconic and striking poster which is a fan favorite.