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Exclusive: Poster Artist Graham Humphreys Talks Us Through His Incredible Career

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My good friend Graham Humphreys is arguably one of the most known and respected horror artists in the industry. Some of his most famous works include the stunning UK posters for the Evil Dead and Nightmare on Elm Street movies and the main promotional images for the annual London FrightFest Film Festival. Clive Barker described his art as “beautiful and transformative,” and I’m sure you’ll agree. When it comes to artists, Graham truly is one of a kind.

You’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet Graham, as he’s scheduled to appear at a ton of upcoming events over the next several months. Firstly, he’ll be at the London Tattoo Convention from September 22-24, and then at the Birmingham HorrorCon from 28-29 October, before showing up at Weekend of the Dead in Manchester, which runs from November 4-5.

Lastly, on November 11, he’ll be signing copies of the book The Art of Horror Movies at London’s Forbidden Planet Megastore from 12.30pm – 2.00pm, before delivering a talk on designing horror posters at the North By Northwest pub in north London on the same day. The talk will be held to raise funds for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, so it’s extra important to attend and give them some of your cash.

If you find yourself at any of the aforementioned events, be sure to spend some talk talking to Graham, because he’s a really nice guy. He was even nice enough to grant us the following interview, in which he discusses everything from the early days of his career to meeting Robert Englund. I’ve included images of some of his best posters throughout.

DC: You probably get asked this a lot, but can you give a brief overview of your incredible career drawing horror posters?

Graham Humphreys: Like most artists that work in the genre, my beginnings are rooted in my formative years where the influence of TV and the ephemera of model kits and themed magazines fed my imagination. It’s odd to consider how much was available before the internet existed, if you were canny enough to keep your eyes peeled! Armed with all the enthusiasm for horror and cinema, my college years provided the essential tools that brought me to London, which at the time (1980) would have offered the most potential for work.

Being freelance proved a hard slog, certainly financially, but I was determined to follow my chosen path, and thus within the second year found myself at the offices of the fledgling Palace Pictures. A couple of weeks later I was commissioned by Palace to work on a low budget horror film that was going to get a limited release, but would be fun to work on. This was ‘The Evil Dead’, the beginning of a career in the work that is most recognised of all my output over nearly four decades. The people at Palace were all enthusiastic genre fans themselves and always great to work with. I worked on a number of video releases for the company and a number of posters (including ‘Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn) and three years later the poster for ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’. So with two great titles behind me (nobody had any idea how enduring these were going to prove to be) I was established.

On the back of this small body of work I got more VHS cover commisions and poster work from other companies, though many felt my work was too coarse and simply not slick enough to be commercial. I tried to make the raw quality of my work it’s strength and persevered. Other notable work during this period would be for the Argento film ‘Creepers’ (the heavily cut UK release of ‘Phenomena’), ‘The Stuff’ and ‘The Return Of The Living Dead’.

Palace Pictures bit the dust just before ‘Nightmare 5’ was released. However I’d already formed a solid working relationship with film promotion company ‘The Creative Partnership’, to whom it fell to provide the poster for this last entry in the original ‘Nightmare’ cycle, thus I provided the illustrations for the teaser and quad.

Around this time I found myself offered he job of storyboarding ‘Hardware’ and then ‘Dust Devil’ with Richad Stanley. An area in which I had absolutely no experience, but in which it was felt I could work well because of my love of film. The fruits of this alliance resulted in my inclusion in the early development of ‘The Island of Dr Moreau’ and a resulting large body of storyboard work and numerous pre-production paintings. Some time after the Moreau crash, I worked with Richard on two further projects, neither of which disappointingly made it as far as pre-production.

With Palace gone I found myself working with Tartan Films, the natural successor to transgressive film distribution. During the ten year period (until Tartan also fell victim of recession and fical markets) my work for them was almost exclusively created in photoshop, providing countless video/DVD covers and posters, mostly adaptations of existing campaigns, but often generating new elements. Two examples: ‘Audition’ required a poster and DVD cover, but the origination was a poorly printed A4 flyer; not quite good enough to reprint, so I hired a vintage glass syringe, then bought a PVC glove (plus silicon spray) from the local sex shop and photographed the new hand/syringe and retouched the actor’s face to create the new version. For ‘Dark Water’ I borrowed a yellow raincoat and photographed a colleague, enlarging the hood to make it more like a child’s proportions, she provided the bag to which I added the detail from the original film – the new figure was added to the original background. The nearest we got to an illustrated poster was for ‘House Of A Thousand Corpses’, where unfortunately due to time and budget constraints an illustration was impossible. My photocomp tried to look as close to an illustrated poster as I could get without losing the integrity of the photographic elements.

I provided designs for almost the entire Tartan Asia Extreme range and worked on posters for such classics as ‘Old Boy’ and ‘Party Monster’ (one of the few that was entirely built from scratch). One last attempt to inject illustration into the Tartan output resulted in an illustration for ‘El Topo’, unfortunately this only saw the light of day in the form of a pullout poster for a magazine, though Alexandro Jodowrosky (who I was lucky enough to meet at a BFI screening) told me it was his favourite image for his film of all he’d ever seen – worth painting just for that!

With Tartan now gone, a chance enquiry by Arrow Video led to my first illustrated DVD cover in years, ‘Slaughter High’. Thus a new relationship was formed and a return to a new burst of illustrated covers. This combined with the wider exposure provided by social media, has given me the opportunity to paint more than ever. Aside from home entertainment, film posters and vinyl soundtracks have provided further platforms for the work. With the illustrated image firmly embedded in the genre, the work has been transcending the usual commercial channels and entering a more personalised era of limited edition prints and commissions. More to come…!

DC: I really love your FrightFest posters. Can you describe how you came to be involved with the festival?

GH: Although I’d met Alan Jones through a mutual friend back in the 1980s, it was my work with The Creative Partnership and in particular, company director and writer Christopher Fowler, that I became involved with FrightFest.

In fact, my initial involvement was in creating a logo for ‘Fantasm’ the genre film festival precursor to the FrightFest. The first FrightFest job involved creating the programme layout (intended to reference the amazing Scala Cinema monthly programme sheets). It was only later that Paul McEvoy suggested recreating a programme cover in the style of the EC comics. The hellish projectionist character (based on a childhood nightmare!) proved popular enough with the organisers to endure through the following years.

DC: You’re scheduled to appear at a ton of upcoming events. Can you give us an overview?

GH: This will be my second year at the London International Tattoo Convention at Tabacco Dock. Last year the organiser invited me to exhibit original artwork as part of a pool of other artists that would compliment the work of tattooists from all over the globe. Although I don’t design tattoos or have any myself, I was told that my genre work would fit well into the world of tattoo. Last year proved this to be absolutely true. I am proud to be invited back with some new work to display. In addition, people can buy prints and other items from my table, including some very limited edition screenprints; although for me it’s a chance to enjoy the company and chat to like minded folk – and of course, discussing own work if asked!

I’ll also have a table the Birmingham HorrorCon, 28-29 October and then at the Weekend of the Dead, a week later (a Romero themed celebration with amazing guests – including John Amplas, ‘Martin’ himself!) where I’ll also be interviewed with a Q&A.

Back in London, 11th November, I’ll be among the contributors signing ‘The Art of Horror Movies’ at Forbidden Planet, 12.30pm – 2.00pm. Then later that evening, delivering a talk on designing posters for horror films at the ‘North By Northwest pub (the Hitchcock themed venue at Angel, north London) at the ‘Day of Weird’, (an event raising funds for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation) with a lineup of Fortean speakers and plenty of ‘weird’!

DC: What do these events personally mean to you?

GH: It’s immensely humbling to be invited to exhibit work and even more to have a chance to meet the people for whom my work is intended.

As well as confirming that horror fans are among the warmest, most intelligent and humerous folk you’ll ever meet, despite the tabloid and evangelical elements that try to argue otherwise (they of course are among the precise opposite!) it’s important feedback for me and how I approach future work. All comments are welcome!

In addition, on the occasions I get to exhibit the actual paintings, it’s a chance for people to get a sense of how the images are created, to see the brush marks, the texture of the paper and a sense of the love that goes into the process.

At a time where digital techniques provide a fantastic alternative to the traditional methods, the absence of artifact (other than the printed image) leaves the viewer unable to access a sense of technique. As I work entirely in paint on paper, the originals are the physical evidence of the time that is spent on creating them.

One of the most rewarding aspects of these events is meeting people who tell me that they were inspired to pursue their own careers by seeing my work during their formative years. Just as I was inspired in my own youth. Although I‘m not in any way precious about what small achievements I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with, far more important is sharing a legacy which can be traced back to.. well, I’ll explain it on the 11th November!

DC: Earlier this year, you created a variant cover for the first issue of The Mummy: Palimpsest from Titan Comics. Is this a medium you would like to explore more?

GH: Indeed, yes. It was great to be asked to be involved.

However, the simple truth is that budgets seem to be very tight for this kind of work and I have to earn a minimum to survive. It means working so fast that the image suffers. With all respect to the publishers, who are themselves under financial pressure!

I’m increasingly aware that it is better to turn down a job that will only lose me money, than deliver something that I feel is substandard out of a sense of duty – it benefits no one. (It’s a common gripe among illustrators that some people that assume that the work is a hobby and that there is some mysterious source of income that allows us to work just for fun! If only!)

DC: I remember you telling me that Robert Englund told you that your poster for the first A Nightmare on Elm Street film was his favorite of the entire series. I assume that must have been quite a moment?

GH: In truth, although he told me (on the only occasion I ever really had a discussion with him – when he was in the UK to promote ‘Nightmare 2’) how much he liked my poster, it has only been through other people at conventions that I’d heard so otherwise. But of course, immensely rewarding to hear.

Feedback is not always forthcoming, although I consider it an important part of the process, I need to know when I’m not getting it right otherwise I can’t improve.

I could talk at length about why some jobs just don’t work or feel disappointing, but I can speak for most designers and illustrators in mentioning that we are all answerable to our clients and fulfilling their wishes doesn’t always result in our best work! It’s part of my job to advise on the basis of experience, but when someone else is coughing up the cash there’s a limit to how that advise might be received!

DC: In addition to your recent cover for the book Lost in the Shadows: The Story of the Lost Boys, and the artwork for the new Blu-ray edition of Justin M. Seaman’s The Barn, do you have anything else bubbling away?

GH: Yes, in fact more than I can easily handle. I’m in the very fortunate position of having plenty of work in the coming months. All jobs are confidential until public, so out of respect to my clients I can’t be specific, but there are some projects for Arrow on the schedule, some vinyl LP covers and a number of private commissions. My sincerest apologies to a couple of individuals who have been waiting literally years for a gap in my schedule! I’ve not had a holiday in ten years if that’s any consolation!

DC: As someone who has been immensely successful in the industry, do you have any advice for up and coming artists?

GH: I have been very lucky and I never forget that. There have been periods of terrifyingly insecure financial situations, a lot of self doubt and a close brush with insolvency. Mostly it is tenacity that has kept me going – and sticking to my art guns! Although we are discussing my genre work, there is a whole body of stuff that has kept me going through these years, completely outside of the world of film and Horror. I’ve worked on educational publications, produced many cartoons to lighten product information (photocopiers, road drills and even Mother Care), worked on illustrations for parenting magazines… and yes, the inevitable horse, dog and baby portraits.

My main advice is that you don’t turn down paid work on the basis of subject matter unless it compromises the dignity of your fellow human beings, particularly vulnerable ones. Prejudice will leave you penniless.

In fact, if you find yourself painting, for instance, an elderly couple raising a glass to retirement, or schoolkids waiting for a tram in a Cairo suburb, or a businessman watering a metaphorical pot of flowers (all real jobs) then it broadens your experience, which then feeds back into the preferred subjects.

If you want to be rich, be lucky enough to have born into wealth and/or work in the City. If you always want to be in consistent future-proof work, be an undertaker or plumber. If you want to be an illustrator/artist, be prepared to live in occasional poverty, keep an open mind and expect to work long hours without reward – if you can do that, then you’ll get to feel a sense of accomplishment that few jobs deliver (and hopefully make a living!)

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Vampire Hunter D: The Series Gets Writer For Pilot Episode

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It’s been a little while since we’ve heard news about “Vampire Hunter D: The Series”, the CG-animated series based on Hideyuki Kikuchi’s titular character. However, some new news broke today over at ANN as they’ve reported that Brandon Easton, who is writing the scripts for new Vampire Hunter D comics, has been tapped by Unified Pictures to write the pilot for the series. The pilot will be based on Kikuchi’s “Mysterious Journey to the North Sea” storylines, which make up the 7th and 8th titles in the book series. Unified is making this series in conjunction with Digital Frontier, the Japanese animation studio behind the CG Resident Evil titles.

Easton told the site, “I’ve had to manage the expectations of three entities: the creator Hideyuki Kikuchi, the producers at Digital Frontier and Unified Pictures, and ultimately myself. This means that you have to find new and exciting ways of telling a story that has a set of concrete rules that have been fully established by the novels.

Meanwhile, the studio has also announced that Ryan Benjamin is taking over as the artist and colorist on the Vampire Hunter D: Message From Mars series with Richard Friend inking the issues.

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Watching A Quiet Place’s John Krasinski Get Scared by Freddy on Ellen Will Brighten Your Day

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I was just researching the new Platinum Dunes horror-thriller A Quiet Place and stumbled across this video. It features the film’s writer-director and star John Krasinski getting scared by a man dressed as Freddy Krueger on “Ellen.”

It’s as much fun as it sounds, and I’m sure it will make your day. It sure as hell just brightened mine.

Give it a watch below, and then let us know what you think!

John Krasinski directs the film, which will be the opening night entry at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, TX. Emily Blunt stars alongside Krasinski, Noah Jupe, and Millicent Simmonds.

A Quiet Place will then open wide on April 6.

Synopsis:
In the modern horror thriller A Quiet Place, a family of four must navigate their lives in silence after mysterious creatures that hunt by sound threatens their survival. If they hear you, they hunt you.

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Interview: Director Jeff Burr Revisits Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

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Director Jeff Burr was gracious enough to give us here at Dread Central a few minutes of his time to discuss the Blu-ray release of his 1990 film Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. Recently dropped on 2/13, the movie has undergone the white-glove treatment, and he was all-too-happy to bring us back to when the film was being shot…and eventually diced thanks to the MPAA – so settle in, grab a cold slice of bloody meat, read on and enjoy!

DC: First off – congrats on seeing the film get the treatment it deserves on Blu-ray – you excited about it?

JB: Yeah, I’m really happy that it’s coming out on Blu-ray, especially since so many people bitch and moan about the death of physical media, and this thing made the cut, and it’s great for people to be able to see probably the best-looking version of it since we saw it in the lab back in 1989.

DC: Take us back to when you’d first gotten the news that you were tabbed to be the man to direct the third installment in this franchise – what was your first order of business?

JB: It was fairly condensed pre-production for me, and there really wasn’t a whole lot of time to think about the import or the greatness of it – it was basically just roll up your sleeves and go. It was a bit disappointing because a lot of times in pre-production you have the opportunity to dream what could be – casting had already been done, but certain decisions hadn’t been made yet. A very condensed pre-production, but exciting as hell, for sure! (laughs)

DC: R.A. Mihailoff in the role of Leatherface – was it the decision from the get-go to have him play the lead role?

JB: No – I totally had someone else in mind, even though R.A. had done a role in my student film about 7 years earlier, and we’d kept in touch, and I’d felt strongly because I’d gotten to know him a bit that Gunnar Hansen should have come back and played Leatherface, which would have given a bit more legitimacy to this third movie. He and I talked, and he had some issues with the direction that it was going – he really wanted to be involved, and it ended up boiling down to a financial thing, and it wasn’t outrageous at all – it wasn’t like he asked for the moon, but the problem was that New Line refused to pay it, categorically. I think the line producer at the time was more adamant about it than anyone, and Mike DeLuca was one of the executives on the movie, and he was really the guy that was running this, in a creative sense. I made my case for Gunner to both he and the line producer, and they flat out refused to pay him what he was asking, so after that was a done “no deal” I decided that R.A would be the right guy to step into the role. Since New Line was the arbiter of the film, he had to come in and audition for the part, and he impressed everyone and got the part. He did an absolutely fantastic job – such a joy to work with, and he was completely enthusiastic about everything.

DC: Let’s talk about Viggo Mortenson, and with this being one of his earliest roles – did you know you had something special with this guy on your set?

JB: Here’s the thing – you knew he was talented, and I’d seen him in the movie Prison way back in the early stages of development and was very impressed with him, and he was one of those guys that I think we were really lucky to get him on board with us. I really believe that The Indian Runner with he and directed by Sean Penn was the movie that truly made people stand up and notice his work. Every person in this cast was one hundred percent into this film and jumped in no questions asked when it was time to roll around in the body pits.

DC: It’s no secret about the amount of shit that the MPAA put you through in order to get this film released – can you expound on that for a minute?

JB: At the time, I believe it was a record amount of times we had to go back to the MPAA after re-cutting the film – I think it was 11 times that we went back. What a lot of people don’t realize is after Bob Shaye (President of New Line) had come into the editing room and he thought that it was very disturbing, and cut out some stuff himself. He thought that it would have been banned in every country, and it was banned in a lot of countries but so were the previous two. It was definitely on the verge of being emasculated before even being submitted to the MPAA, and I would have thought just a few adjustments here and there – maybe a couple of times to go back…but eleven? It was front-page news in the trade papers then, and I think that the overall tone of the film was looked at as being nasty. The previous film (Chainsaw 2) had actually gone out unrated, and with the first film being so notorious, I think it was a combination of all of that, and now even the most unrated version of this would be rated R – that’s how far the pendulum has swung in the other direction.

DC: Looking back at the film after all this time – what would be one thing that you’d change about the movie?

JB: Oh god – any film director worth his salt would look back at any of their films and want to change stuff up, and with this being 28 years old, I can look back and say “oh yeah, I’d change this, this and this!” You grow and learn over the course of your time directing, and this was my third movie and my first without producers that I had known, so the main thing that I’d do today would be to make it a bit more politically savvy. I had always thought that they wanted me to put my vision on this film, and that wasn’t necessarily the case, so maybe I’d navigate those political waters a little better.

DC: Last thing, Jeff – what’s keeping you busy these days? Any projects to speak of?

JB: Oh yeah, I’ve got a couple of movies that I’m working on – I’m prepping a horror movie right now, and then I’ve got a comedy film that I’m doing after that. You haven’t heard the last of me! I’ve had a real up and down (mostly down) career, but I still love it – it’s what I love to do, and it’s still great that after 28 years people still want to talk about this movie, and are still watching it – that’s the greatest gift you can get, and I thank everyone that’s seen it and talked about it over all these years.

BUY IT NOW!

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