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.
I’m finally at a place again where I can appreciate a good vampire story. Remember, before our current glut (or maybe infection is the better word) of zombie movies, vampires were the played-out monster du jour, this wave spawned by a particularly sensitive strain which emerged from the imaginary woods of Forks, WA.
Not to say Stephanie Meyer’s teen melodrama wasn’t a legitimate type of vampire fiction – who does or does not get to enjoy their preferred brand of blood sucking freak is not my place to say – but there was something imminently bloodless about Edward and Bella’s romance, something that films like Park Chan-Wook feature-length stab at the genre, “Thirst” (2008), ultimately filled.
In fact, the last few years have seen me revisiting cinematic interpretations of vampires from around the world and – for the purposes of this piece – how they’re realized in the posters that supported their release.
I let my crankiness take sway when describing “Twilight” as melodrama, but “Thirst,” from the director of “OldBoy” and “Lady Vengeance” was no less so – it merely reveled in the tropes of the vampire story in such a gleeful way that to some audiences familiar with Park’s earlier work, the outright comedy of it felt jarring. This first poster sells “Thirst” as a bloody soap opera, a tryst between an undead clergyman and an innocent housewife (which is about half of what that film is, and this is excepting the spousal abuse, wall-crawling, ghosts, and immolations that follow).
Sticking with Asia, we head over to China for two very different entries that nonetheless put a local spin on old Nosferatu. 1979’s “Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires” had a Brit behind the camera, but it was half bloody Hammer film, one half Shaw Brother martial arts madness. This Japanese poster (for the English and Chinese-language film) keeps Dracula out of the frame, instead focusing on one of the ancient, hopping Chinese vamps which bedevil a pair of British vampire slayers and a group of mainland Chinese siblings who are down to kill the undead.
I don’t know much about “A Little Chinese Vampire” (1988? I’m not even sure of the year), but the Chinese costumes pop against the traditional vampire imagery we’re used to in this slapstick comedy in this Thai poster.
Erik Matti is the latest Filipino filmmaker to revisit their local vampire myth with 2012’s “Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles.” This particular legend involves a nocturnal shapeshifter with a taste for fetuses and unborn babies. The poster for Matti’s film is pretty direct in its imagery, giving us a monster and a pregnant woman being menaced by it – somewhat less lurid (and actually, less effective) than the art used for 2004’s gruesome “Aswang.”
It feels somewhat like cheating to include this striking image from 2004’s “Night Watch,” the first entry in what was proposed to be a three film adaptation of Sergey Lukyanenko’s bestselling novels. But the character featured in the image – put-upon magician and agent of the peacekeeping Night Watch, Anton (Konstantin Khabenskiy) – is a vampire for a large part of the film’s running time (he’s trying to bust a rogue vampire stalking the streets of Moscow). So much of that film was about what could be seen behind veils or just behind human perception, and it’s wonderfully illustrated in this painted image from the movie’s domestic release.
Tomas Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In” received some wonderful art when it reached our shores back in 2008, but the Swedish import had even more impressively enigmatic art upon its release back home, giving adolescent hero Oskar, child vampire Eli, and one of the latter’s unfortunate victims space to be seen (the relationship between the three is crucial to the story, and presenting them like this tells you so much about Eli and the dynamics with her companions).
Meanwhile, “Trouble Every Day” (2001) shows the vampire struggling in modern times.
Finally, the vampire of all vampires deserves his own space, with Jess Franco’s “Count Dracula” getting some love here. I wanted to include the Spanish-language “Dracula” poster (the notoriously sensuous take on Stoker’s novel filmed concurrently with the Bela Lugosi version), but thought I’d expose you to this pair of gorgeous images for Franco’s film, which was thoroughly traditional in the sense that it didn’t skimp on the sex and violence one would expect from a story featuring the Transylvanian count.