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.
Last month, it was my pleasure to introduce a group of my friends to Joe Dante’s The Howling, thanks to the recent Blu-ray from Scream Factory. The Shout! Factory imprint has been unearthing and remastering horror classics big and small for some time now, but in recent years, they’ve sought to provide fans with new cover art for these sometimes neglected masterpieces (and the occasional piece of trash).
Of the titles featuring new art, I found the disc for “The Howling” lacking, thanks, in part to it’s “more is more” approach and an attempt to sell the werewolf picture as something a little busier than what it is. Revisiting Dante’s film, I was struck by the lulls in the action, the times where viewers were allowed to absorb the Northern California weirdness that poor, menaced Dee Wallace Stone had to suffer through before the film transformed into a full-on werewolf extravaganza in the final act. Scream Factory’s art sells a lurid, grindhouse action movie while the actual film is more of a lurid, yet high-minded thriller.
While I appreciate the mystery of the original poster (and the art that MGM would later use for the VHS and DVD cover art), I feel no country captured the feel of “The Howling” better than Germany with its painted theatrical poster. Now note that I said “feel” of the film and not the actual content: tonally, this poster captures the mix of unleashed sex and violence in “The Howling,” which becomes, in its middle third, about Dee Wallace Stone’s trauma after being accosted by Robert Picardo’s serial killer werewolf in a porno shop.
Japan, yet again, relies on stills from the film, but the split images against the bright bursts of color (red-pink on yellow, red-pink on aqua) not only grab the eye but act as a shock to the system. While cleanly drawing attention to the nightmare monster in the center of the image, the colors add a layer of neon-colored anxiety, evoking the porno shops and urban freakouts of the city.
Finally, France and (I believe Mexico) sell “The Howling” as more of a straight-up monster movie–both are artfully produced pieces but bring to mind something like “Jaws” in their reliance on a great, big, toothy beast (okay, less so the Mexican art which is notable for seeming to have been created without the artist having seen the final monsters in the movie.
Check out our previous installment, “Horror Posters From Around the World: International Nightmares (On Elm Street)”.