Art of Horror Movies

Aug. 30, 2017
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The essays in The Art of Horror Movies chronicle the genre from its first stirring in the silent shorts of Georges Melies through the torture porn of the present day. But while the art of filmmaking and acting is alluded to, the coffee table book’s subjects are the illustrations that fill every page.

Primarily a history of the lobby cards and posters that advertised the genre, The Art of Horror Movies shows that those artifacts are, like the films they represent, a mixed terrain whose lowlands of unconscionable schlock rise through foothills of mediocrity to peaks of artistry. Over time fashions in commercial art have come and gone (and returned—not unlike cycles within the horror genre itself). The bad and the mediocre posters usually traffic in the obvious and the literal, cluttered with grimacing monsters, screaming women, the men who will rescue them and fonts that shiver in fright.

The good and the great, on the other hand, are generally sparer in content, more allusive and with stronger visual signs. Many of the best tend to be European and leap for attention from the book’s crowded pages. Among the most striking are the running rat-like being in a German magazine ad for Nosferatu (1922); the Cubist face on the Swedish poster for a British picture starring Claude Rains and Fay Wray, The Clairvoyant (1935); the lurid but palpable violence and terror in the Spanish The Horrible Sexy Vampire (1970); and the surreal French poster for Videodrome (1983), featuring Debbie Harry and a gun-clutching fist emerging from a television.

British horror writer Stephen Jones edited The Art of Horror Movies with an eye toward encompassing the scope of a genre that—like many of its monsters—refuses to die.

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