How do other countries see the homegrown horrors we create on celluloid? When “A Nightmare on Elm Street” debuted in Japan, did horror fans on the other side of the world get to see the art of painter Matthew Joseph Peak? Or when Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” finally made its way through the tangle of draconian censorship laws in the U.K., were audiences greeted with the original, jarring image of Leatherface going to work on one of his victims–or something stranger?
Throughout the month of October, we’ll be looking at the iconic cover art and posters for some of our favorite horror films–as they were seen around the world.
First up, we’re taking a look at the horror franchise that created my obsession with terror on film, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” In the U.S., fans of the series might be more familiar with gloved villain Freddy’s nocturnal adventures thanks to the work of Matthew Joseph Peak, who created the key art for the first five films in the long-lived series.
Starting from the very first film, Peak’s work was hallucinatory, yet vivid, unsettling and beautiful in a way that posters from other franchises weren’t at the time. Wes Craven’s first film (and the increasingly unworthy sequels) garnered artwork that seemed inspired by fantasy covers, bizarre abstractions of the series’ increasingly odd plots, with a hint of violence from Mr. Krueger himself.
In Japan, the VHS and laserdisc releases of the first film eschewed Peak’s artwork entirely, drawing on stills of star Robert Englund in full costume as well as one of the brief, surreal flashes from that movie juxtaposing a statue in prayer with a centipede snaking its way out of its mouth. The VHS box art for the third film, “The Dream Warriors,” uses a photo of Freddy that was used in some of the U.S. print ads, eschewing any and all scenes from the second most visually-arresting film in the series.
The Thai release of the same film wasn’t so shy about spoiling some of the oddball scares of “Elm Street 3,” borrowing one of that film’s most iconic sequences featuring star Patricia Arquette being devoured by a serpentine version of Freddy. Here in the States, print versions of the same image went out in newspaper ads and trades featuring a photo of the same scene, but this painting seems as lurid if not more so than the source scene (even if the second Freddy in the shadows seems a bit redundant). The first “Nightmare” similarly nabbed some beautiful art which borrowed from the motif of Peak’s first poster, adding hints of some of the horrors to come in that film (I’m kind of partial to this mass teaser-style approach to posters from this period).
Finally, we come to this French poster for “Elm Street 4” (quitting while the series was still ahead, in fact), which gives us an almost gleeful Freddy, No additional comment to add here–I just love how much fun he seems to be having in the image.