As director John Landis says in his introduction, the images on film posters must not just inform, but also entice. And that’s just what the majority of the reproductions do here. Seeing the plethora of rare and familiar posters presented throughout the book definitely makes the reader desperate to track them down. Even for films that one has seen numerous times. Divided into nine chapters that cover the various periods of celluloid terror, The Art of Horror Movies not only provides the promised visual history, but also a brief but highly informative written account of the decades' standout films. Each chapter is written by a preeminent voice in the genre, so we have Sir Christopher Frayling covering the silent era, for example, and the ever debonair Kim Newman offering his unique take on the most visually arresting decade, the sixties. Surprisingly, it’s living legend Ramsey Campbell who has drawn the short straw to dissect the new millennium’s output, but he does it with style and aplomb, reeling off a shopping list of movies to track down, and in the process highlighting some that are usually criminally overlooked in other studies of the genre.
The recent posters lack the visual flair of the earlier examples, with the exception being the likes of Akiko Stehrenberger’s strikingly beautiful take of Xan Cassavetes’ Kiss of the Damned or the Art Deco approach of Gilles Vranckx for The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears. Almost every other poster of the past decade or so has been derivative or formulaic (having said that, it is pointed out that the former was influenced by the Ted Coconis poster for Massimo Dallamano’s 1970 adaptation of Dorian Gray. Compare the beautifully painted images that accompanied the releases of films in the forties and fifties to the cut-and-paste Photoshop examples of today and it’s easy to choose which you’d sooner see.
As well as the vintage reproductions, there are many ‘tribute’ images by more current artists, in various different styles and using an equally diverse medium. They are of varied quality, too, but each has its own merit and audience. It’s interesting comparing these interpretations to the original exhibition posters, which were often created before the films were ever projected, and sometimes before they were even made. Hindsight, or familiarity, brings a new viewpoint and quite often spotlights a completely different perspective of the original movie.
If you’re a horror movie fan (and if not, why not?), a lover of cinema in general, or just like looking at stunning images, this book is for you. A potted history of the genre and some of the most beautiful film posters ever created, what’s not to love?
THE ART OF HORROR MOVIES: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY / EDITOR: STEPHEN JONES / PUBLISHER: APPLAUSE THEATRE BOOK PUBLISHERS / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 30TH