Jerry Smith Looks Back at His Favorite Scary Movie Posters

I love movie posters. Though the art of a good one-sheet seems to be saved for limited prints and homage prints these days, growing up, a film’s artwork was everything. Spending many hours staring at every poster adorning my local theaters and video stores, there was something so special about being entranced by a film, before seeing a single frame (the days of an entire film being spoiled by social media and fourteen trailers/teasers to trailers/teasers to teasers to trailers was non-existent then). 

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I thought it would be fun to highlight a few of my personal favorite posters. This is in no way a definitive “Best Ever” list; it’s very much a subjective group of one-sheets that I’ve always loved. So, before casting your “But what about…” comments, sit back and think of your faves–and by all means, let us know what they are!

1.) Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Jerry Smith Looks Back at His Favorite Scary Movie Posters

My favorite poster of all time, Dwight H. Little’s Halloween 4 is not only a film I have watched more than any other film but a great example of a poster being used to captivate its audience without showing a single piece of art from said film. Some fans love to cry foul about Halloween 4’s mask not being the classic one found on the one-sheet and rightfully so. That gripe is warranted, but from a visual perspective, this one makes sense. Fan outcry regarding a Myers-less Halloween III is put front and center, with “The Shape” being well…right in your face. 

2.) Jaws (1975)

Jerry Smith Looks Back at His Favorite Scary Movie Posters

Without a doubt, the most iconic piece of film poster art of all time, Roger Kastel’s art for Jaws might be a pop-culture staple, but it’s also absolutely terrifying. Showing the mystery and danger of what lies beneath the water, the larger-than-life look of the shark is exaggerated to giant levels, showing us that this predator is one for the books. It’s simple but impactful and deserves the iconic status it has always held. 

3.) Flatliners (1990)

Jerry Smith Looks Back at His Favorite Scary Movie Posters

John Alvin’s work has always stood out to me and his art for Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners is just one of the many reasons why. The film, dealing with a group of medical school friends playing chicken with the afterlife (and unleashing their own personal demons) is a great one, and the mystery of what comes after we die is right on the page with this one-sheet. Taking the ensemble approach and adding some eerie lights and disoriented vibes to the art, Alvin’s poster really sinks its hooks into you, asking: “Are you ready to take this leap?”

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4.) Daniel Isn’t Real (2019)

Jerry Smith Looks Back at His Favorite Scary Movie Posters

I’ve always loved Jock’s art (his The Dark Knight Rises art was the first Mondo print I bought) and what he did for Adam Egypt Mortimer’s Daniel Isn’t Real is without a doubt, my favorite thing the artist has done. A film that means a LOT to me on a personal level, Daniel Isn’t Real’s story of a mentally frail young man finding solace then danger in his imaginary friend is put on display on the one-sheet. The battle between Luke and Daniel that the film revolves around is really addressed in the art. It shows how infinitely impossible it can feel to defeat your mental illness–and how it feels like it’s taking you over. 

5.) The Exorcist III (1990)

Jerry Smith Looks Back at His Favorite Scary Movie Posters

After the disappointing reception (rightfully so) of John Boorman’s The Exorcist II, the mythos of what made William Friedkin’s The Exorcist so impactful was brought back with William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III. Having written both the novel and screenplay of the first film and the Legion novel that would become The Exorcist III, Blatty flirted with hiring John Carpenter to helm the film, before deciding to direct it himself.

The question of “How do we get people in seats?” is answered directly on the poster, with Lt. Kinderman standing at the top of the infamous stairs from the first film. His look conveys the sentiment: “I know something is about to happen.” That sense of dread that The Exorcist III tastefully gives is right on the one-sheet, making it one of my favorite posters around. I have this print right above my work desk in my office and it always inspires me!

6.) The Lost Boys (1987)

Jerry Smith Looks Back at His Favorite Scary Movie Posters

It’s impossible to even articulate how iconic the art of John Alvin is. The late artist’s work is known around the world. And his painting for The Lost Boys is about as photo-realistic as possible, for good reason. A combination of early photo collage with painting added to combine the two, this poster is a great example of how mixing various forms can add to one cohesive look. While also feeling like you’re looking at something that oozes cool. As a kid, seeing this one at my local theater meant I 100% had to see the film opening night. The way Alvin painted the characters from the film places them in a way that makes you want to BE a member of the vampire group. They look like the most badass crew around! The way the red contrasts with the black and white characters is such a good touch as well. What a classic poster!

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7.) Mandy (2018)

I cannot gush enough about Christopher Shy’s phenomenal art for his Mandy poster. The film itself is a cornucopia of visual beauty. And Shy’s art for the film makes just as big of a wave. There’s an “everything AND the kitchen sink” vibe to the art and it works. The film is so unique that you NEED a poster that pays justice to how bonkers of a ride the drug-fueled tale of revenge is. The use of color works well with it; the pinks and reds and purples go together to make something very striking and gorgeous. Plus, there’s Nicolas Cage looking confused and pissed, directly in the middle! When is that ever a bad thing?

8.) Making Contact (aka Joey) (1985)

Full disclosure: I have not seen this film in YEARS (closer to decades if I’m being honest). That said, Drew Struzan’s art for the film is something that has not left my head since childhood. I walked past the VHS of Making Contact (also called Joey in some areas) so many times, nervously scared and excited at the same time. I finally begged my dad to rent it. And, of course, I loved this odd film. It’s about a sad boy trying to communicate with his deceased father. And unintentionally unleashing a demon that possessed a doll. Making Contact was an early Roland Emmerich film. That “outside the box” approach to the film is also in Struzan’s art. The magic and mystery bring you right in and stays with you for quite some time. 

9.) A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Matthew Joseph Peak’s art for the first five A Nightmare on Elm Street films are almost as iconic as the films themselves. And his poster for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is just another example of that. There’s a ghostly vibe to his art, an ethereal approach that makes something evil into something profoundly beautiful. Featuring Freddy Krueger pulling himself apart, while Alice’s eyes stare directly into the person looking at the poster. The dream-like art was enough to make a then 7-year old Jerry want to start his Elm St. journey with an opening night watch of this gem. 

When we think of A Nightmare on Elm Street, our first thoughts tend to go to Robert England, Wes Craven and/or Heather Langenkamp. And with good reason. But Peak’s art for the first few films really drew audiences in and this one, in my opinion, is the best of the bunch.

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10.) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)

Going for more of a dark comedy route with Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. The poster art for the film embraced the tonal shift. Paying homage (or parodying, you be the judge) to The Breakfast Club, the characters of TCM 2 recreate the now-iconic John Hughes film poster with their own wacky take on the crew. This one was impossible to pass up on video store shelves. And, to be completely honest, the poster art for TCM 2 is what made this fan discover and fall in love with the very disjointed but entertaining series. 


What are some of YOUR favorite horror movie posters? Make sure to let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!



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