FX’s “The Strain,” is a show that generated a whole lot of controversy before it even aired. As we reported here on Dread, a billboard advertisement for the series was pulled by the network in the wake of several complaints from disgusted passersby…
…who were quite horrified about the fact that the image of a woman with a worm coming out of her eyeball had become a part of their daily commute.
It certainly wasn’t the first time a piece of poster art for the kind of entertainment us horror fans love was targeted by angry citizens, resulting in it being banned and pulled from public display. In fact, it’s happened a whole lot more than you might think.
Today, we shine the spotlight on 17 other horror posters that were victimized in much the same way over the years, which we’ll present in chronological order. Read on for the full gallery, along with specific details about each incident!
One of the most infamously controversial horror films of all time is of course 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night, about an axe-wielding madman in a Santa suit. Naturally, the very idea of a killer dressed as Santa Claus pissed off a whole lot of people, leading to angry letters and even theatrical picketing. Amidst all the outcry, the film’s original distributor TriStar Pictures removed it from theaters and pulled all TV ads and posters, the latter of which depicted ‘Santa’ either going down or coming up a chimney with a big ole axe.
Years later, the film saw re-release from an independent company, with a much less controversial piece of art used to promote it – though it smartly played up the previous controversy.
One of my personal favorite posters of all time is this one for Jason Takes Manhattan, a fun play on the iconic ‘I Love NY’ art that it’s hard to escape from, when visiting the city. Unfortunately, the New York State Department of Economic Development wasn’t as into the art as most horror fans were, deeming it an infringement on the copyright of that original art, and forcing Paramount to completely replace it with a much less enticing – but similar – poster.
I suppose the art was a bit of false advertising anyway, considering the fact that Jason spends such little time in New York City. Yea, still mad about that.
As you can imagine, the folks at the MPAA aren’t exactly the biggest supporters of the Saw films, which have been promoted with a whole lot of gruesome imagery. Oddly enough, it was this fairly harmless poster for Saw 2 that pushed them over the edge, deeming the depiction of two severed fingers completely unacceptable.
After pulling the poster, Lionsgate replaced it with much the same piece of art, showing the same two fingers much more close up, which the MPAA was happy with – I suppose it wasn’t the fingers that bothered them, so much as it was the fact that they clearly weren’t attached to a hand, in the original art. Interesting to note that the original art was used on the cover of the film’s soundtrack.
Given the concept of the film, it should come as no surprise that 2007’s Teeth rubbed more than a few people the wrong way. For those that haven’t seen it, the film is about a young girl who quite literally has teeth in her vagina, which doesn’t exactly bode well for all the dudes who try to get it in. This UK poster, which visually depicts the oddball plot of the film, was rejected before ever making it out into the public, and only surfaced when Empire Magazine got a hold of it and gave it new life. Need. This. Poster.
Park Chan-wook’s exceptional vampire flick Thirst received some much deserved attention (any attention is good attention, in the movie world!) when South Korea’s Media Ratings Board banned the original poster for the film, due to its depiction of a priest in a sexually suggestive pose with a hot young lady.
As is the case with many banned posters, slight changes were made to the original art in order to get it past the ratings board, which saw the removal of Tae-ju’s legs, the covering up of her cleavage and the modification of Sang-hyeon’s hands. Still looks like they’re getting it on to me, but the minor changes did the trick, and the board approved the new art.
Long before “The Strain”’s billboard ads got under people’s skin and resulted in public outrage, 2007’s little-seen film Captivity had much the same effect, due to this particularly eye-catching billboard. The billboard essentially showed the complete process of being kidnapped, tortured and killed, which naturally didn’t sit well with too many morning bagels. Shortly after the billboards were posted in LA, as well as on taxi tops in New York City, both Lionsgate and the MPAA began receiving phone calls from uptight citizens, and it wasn’t long before the art was pulled. Producers of the film claimed that the billboards were put up by accident, and that the wrong art had been sent to the printer – likely story!
Writer/director Eli Roth was pretty damn thrilled when the MPAA approved this meaty poster for Hostel: Part 2, excitedly taking to MySpace to express that surprised happiness. Interestingly enough, it was the theater chain Century/Cinemark that objected to the imagery, describing it as “ruthless,” and forbidding staff from putting it up at their theaters. Who knew a photograph of meat could be so controversial?!
2007 also saw the release of The Hills Have Eyes 2, a totally unnecessary and pretty damn awful sequel to the previous year’s exceptional remake. Above is the original art that was supposed to be used to promote the film, which the MPAA rejected.
What’s most interesting about this case is that this modified art was soon thereafter approved by the board, depicting legs dangling out of the mutant’s death sack rather than an arm. Only explanation I can come up with is that the victim in the first poster looks alive, while the one in the second isn’t showing much of a sign of life. That’s the MPAA for ya!
2008’s Australian film Dying Breed was based on the real-life tale of cannibalistic killer Alexander Pearce, who was dubbed ‘The Pieman.’ Not only did the film force many locals to flee theaters, faint and even vomit, but so too did the poster art induce similar nausea, thanks to its depiction of a pie filled with all sorts of human parts. It was actually the agency responsible for putting up ads in bus shelters that decided it was too gross for mass consumption, refusing to display the art in public. Mmm. Meat pie.
Over in the UK, this poster for the Eli Roth-produced The Last Exorcism didn’t terrorize the public for very long, as the Advertising Standards Authority removed all traces of it in the wake of over 100 parental complaints. It was the fact that these posters were placed in close proximity to schools that resulted in the majority of the outcry, with many parents finding the art distressing, and feeling that the girl looked like she had suffered a sexual assault of some kind. Here in the states, a black & white filter was put over top the art, and nobody – to my knowledge – complained about it.
Though this Bereavement poster probably doesn’t strike you as one that would be on the list, the MPAA thought otherwise. Because of the depiction of a young child holding a large knife, they banned the poster outright, which led to the knife being Photoshopped out of the kid’s hand, and into the adult’s hand. Because adults killing people is okay. Kids doing it isn’t.
As is typically the case, the controversy did nothing but get more people to see a film that they probably otherwise wouldn’t have even known about. So thanks for that, MPAA!
Horror films don’t get much more controversial than the rape-revenge classic I Spit on Your Grave, and that controversy carried over to the 2010 remake. It’s of course almost impossible to think about the film without picturing the rear end of a knife-wielding woman, and so it was only natural that the remake’s poster looked much the same as the iconic original’s. I suppose it wasn’t much of a surprise when the art was deemed inappropriate and banned, and it seems to have been more an issue of the sexualization of a rape victim, than merely a matter of nice butt cheeks being unfit for human eyes. Consequently, the art for the remake’s sequel featured no butt cleavage, nor does early art for the upcoming third installment.
And finally, this skull-shattering Final Destination 5 poster allegedly corrupted the minds of several London children over in the UK, which led to mass parental outrage. Thirteen parents in total issued complaints, and three of the thirteen claimed that their children were visibly upset by the imagery. Though Warner Bros. tried to throw water on the fire, issuing a statement that the image “accurately reflected the content of the film, in an appropriate manner”, the Advertising Standards Authority wasn’t hearing it, and they issued a ban on the poster.
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