Original Posters VS Remake Posters: Is the future of the horror poster doomed to mediocrity?
It seems like the only thing mainstream Hollywood is interested in when it comes to horror these days is going the lazy man’s route of trying to reboot pre-established franchises with built in fan bases, rather than (gasp!) attempt anything that hasn’t already been seen a thousand times before. What makes it even worse is that they also water down one of the most iconic aspects of the horror films themselves - the posters. Just like you’ve heard old folks say about everything from cars to kitchen appliances: “They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.”
Films from top:
Maniac (1980) VS Maniac (2013):
I think we can pretty much just start with the fact that the poster on the left is showing us a cold-blooded murderer, while the one on the right looks more like someone took a happy snap of a guy they caught playing his flesh fiddle in the back of the department store warehouse. The pretty pink and blue lighting and neon title make this look more like the poster for a Broadway musical than for a horror movie. These days, it seems like the marketing agencies are more interested in covering posters with unnecessary text rather than come up with indelible images that will haunt audiences for decades.
Text reviews are neither scary, nor effective. You want to get me into the theater, then spook me - don’t bombard me with snippets of what some guy behind a desk thinks of the movie, and don’t reduce the otherwise-effective tagline to a small blurb at the bottom that nobody’s gonna notice.
Mother’s Day (1980) VS Mother’s Day (2010):
This offender tried to take a Troma movie and make it serious, and you know that’s pretty much like trying to turn lead into gold. The poster on the left makes me curious - it’s got that marvelous hint of dark, campy fun to it. The poster on the right just has some broad givin’ me the stink eye while someone in the design department had a field day with a Photoshop grunge brush in the background.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) VS A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010):
The poster on the left is more vague, and smacks of the fantastic nature of a killer that can pursue you in your dreams. Nancy’s wide-eyed look of terror mirrors what we’ve all felt at some point in our lives, lying in bed at night - afraid that the “boogeyman” is lurking under the bed. The poster on the right is nicely lit, but it’s pretty much just hurling the character at you.
"Here you go, here’s bacon face. Have an eyeful."
Wouldn’t want to go building suspense or anything before the film even starts. Better just throw the image right out there so you can get nice and desensitized to it beforehand.
The Evil Dead (1981) VS The Evil Dead (2013):
In the poster on the left, they brilliantly rotated the image slightly to throw the viewer off balance (something director Raimi also does in the film itself). This poor young woman is being helplessly dragged down into a hell we’re left to imagine for ourselves. In the poster on the left, we have a textual assault over what more or less just appears to be an unfortunate lass whose monthly blood flood arrived unexpectedly, and who’s stuck hobbling home in the rain in menstrual misery while one of her friends instagrams the fuck out of it.
Friday the 13th (1980) VS Friday the 13th (2009):
The poster on the left squarely asserts upfront through its design that the protagonists are in the territory of a killer (whose vague outline does not assert gender one way or the other - a key point in the original film). Meanwhile, the poster on the right unashamedly declares,
"This is a remake..sort of! Okay, not really, because here’s fully-grown Jason, and to be honest, this film might as well have been called Friday the 13th 2½.”
Fright Night (1985) VS Fright Night (2011):
Do I even have to say anything here? The glorious artwork in the poster on the left presents a fantastic fog of frightening fiends setting upon an average house that has been made to look more isolated to capitalize on the terror in being the only one that knows of the horror that lurks next door. The poster on the right might as well be about one young man’s struggle to become a suburban lumberjack.
The Last House on the Left (1972) VS The Last House on the Left (2009):
While I mentioned previously that too much text can break the effectiveness of a poster, it can also make it - it all depends on how it’s presented. The poster on the left capitalizes on sensationalism and ballyhoo, which were key marketing tactics during the golden age of exploitation cinema. In assaulting us with text surrounding a simultaneously chilling and serene image of a girl leaning against a tree, it greedily holds back the potential uneasiness, which only makes the viewer all the more uneasy, as it leaves them to imagine the horror surrounding it for themselves. My only issue with the original poster is the fact that the girl pictured is not Mari, but is in fact her friend Phyllis. However, despite this, I like how powerful, blunt language is utilized to perfection here, like a hard slap across the face. The poster on the right, however, presents its text as though talking to a child - calm, clean, and sanitized. We can imagine what kind of depraved madness may take place inside that house in the background, but despite the over-reliance on contrast, it’s really no more threatening than arriving at your grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner (which, granted, can be potentially horrifying, depending on the eating habits of your extended family).
Night of the Demons (1988) VS Night of the Demons (2009):
Just look at Angela on the left there. She is quite a sight - from her unique crow’s foot tiara, to the carefully painted talons she has for fingernails. I can only imagine what kind of party results from an invitation that arrives in mid conflagration, especially from a host with a smile more suited to charming sharks than humans. Meanwhile, the poster on the right literally looks like a design you would expect from a $2 bargain bin Wal-mart discovery. Someone literally just zigzagged the fuck all over the bottom of the text with the smudge tool in Photoshop, and then haphazardly slapped a few dead tree silhouettes, a coupla jack-o-lanterns, and some cigarette-smoke-meant-to-pass-for-fog all over the bottom of a picture of someone’s half-assed idea of a house party, without even the slightest attempt to make it look like the same location.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) VS The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003):
The poster on the left presents us with a young lady in a very grim scenario, along with three chilling taglines, each one just as effective as the last. We can only wonder: Will she survive? Will she even have enough body parts left to escape if she does? We’ll just have to buy our tickets and see for ourselves. Meanwhile, on the right, someone on the design team shat grunge effects all over what could have been a nightmarish image…..if they hadn’t shat grunge effects all over it.
It literally looks like Leatherface is trying to take selfies with a cheap webcam he got for free by subscribing to Entertainment Weekly.
The Thing (1982) VS The Thing (2011):
While I rather like the poster on the right, the problem is that it doesn’t quite know what movie it’s promoting. It’s trying too hard to be Michael Bay when it should be David Cronenberg, and that’s just misleading. If you’re going to remake a film where the tension is built from internal conflict (very internal), it’s probably not the best to try and sell it as though it’s a more expansive, “out there” kind of film. The poster on the left understands this. It also understands that even though the titular creature is of alien origin, the inner machinations of the human mind in times of stress can be just as dangerous, and just as frightening.
It’s a sad state of affairs that genuine heart has been so ruthlessly replaced by diluted dreck that gets filtered ad nauseam until deemed “appropriate” for movie-going audiences to handle. It’s as if they’re concerned more about what is safe rather than what actually works, and frankly, my friends, that kind of thinking just doesn’t make for good horror.