Monday, September 28, 2015

Type and image in 70’s horror posters

Type and Image in 70's Horror Posters

Thinking about current movie horror and how it doesn’t seem to a very interesting time for the genera, I figured I’d look back to some poster designs of older classics.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Huge condensed black and red type draws your attention immediately; your eye is drawn to the top of the first tagline, being the largest type. The tagline and title (all caps and red, being the most important in the end) frame a strong illustration of an impending murder, and the second tagline, in a similar shorter typeface. Under the title, the third tagline is a thinner version of the second tagline’s type.

The words themselves try to fill you with gruesome tension, “what will be left,” “bizarre and brutal,” “what happened is true.” After your eyes travel the poster, they return to the title in bright red, and the image interacting with it. It tells you what will happen, you are left to imagine how.


Bold, capitalized, tracked out, sans serif title followed by a strange hatching egg, and a smaller condensed tagline. Below is a strange metallic ropey floor and reflection of light from the egg. The entire poster tells you very little and places you in a strange environment. The title appears to drift in the vacuum of space, but the reflection of light makes the lower end feel contained and claustrophobic.  The smaller, tracked in type reflects this.

This poster, like the movie itself, takes the approach not telling you enough and letting you use your imagination. All you know is that you are in space, there is an alien, and you will scream. You are left to wonder just what will hatch from that egg.


Strong, thick, blood red type that almost feels like it curves like the waves in the ocean. It lives as a part of the illustration of the impending giant shark and seems to foreshadow the violence of when he meets the woman swimming above. The tagline, read second, sits in the frame of the title and art. Its curved serif font feels reminiscent of the book origins it describes. The names of the three main actors, with the title are more important then the past posters, along with the following credits, maybe because this movie is more on the blockbuster end of horror.

The poster is short and simple; a big shark attacks, based on the book. It encompasses the fear people feel of what is in the water and how defenseless they are there.


The first tagline brings you in with asymmetrical, capital type that seems to be not be kerned correctly, to it’s advantage. It comes off as off putting and wrong, like something in the uncanny valley. It’s followed by before and after photos of Carrie, one happy, one violent. The title waves and fades strangely like fog or a ghost. It’s warped, uneven and dirty. A small second tagline, same font as the first, gives you some more info, followed by the major credits.  All the major type is orange set on black, giving a sort of Halloween look to the poster. It is likely also referencing her orange hair, while the dirty darker spots call back to the gore.

This poster took the interesting approach of showing you the big ending scene, but, assuming you didn’t read the book, all you know is that Carrie goes to prom, and she can (and does) do something horrific. The poster shows a glimpse of the horror, and invites you to find out how we get here.

The Exorcist

The title is listed bold, capital, and with a slight serif. The purple against black gives off a twilight time feel. The producer and director are listed above and below in a thin, tall modern sans serif. “Directed by” is only half the height of the name, making it secondary. The image below is a man on the street at night, illuminated by light from a window. Below, a tagline of the same font as the director and producer, smaller and not in caps. The tagline gives context to the image, he is at the house, something from inside the house is projecting on him ominously, but we can’t tell what

This poster sets the mood, and gives you an idea and feeling of what is going on. It feels dark, cold, and strange. The strong white feels ominous as we anticipate what is in that house.

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