Voted Most Likely to Slaughter
READING “The Slasher Movie Book” is like paging through a 1980s yearbook from a high school for maniacs. Look how young Michael and Jason look! Oh, and there’s Freddy in that sweater he wore, like, every day. And whatever happened to Chucky, that little monster?
The new book, a compendium of horror film artwork to be released by Chicago Review Press on Friday, features scores of posters, advertisements and video covers culled from the collection of J. A. Kerswell, 43, an Englishman who grew up watching classic American horror films on late-night television or on rented VHS tapes. “I loved the scares, the cat-and-mouse thrills,” Mr. Kerswell said by phone from his home in Bristol, England.
He fell especially hard for what he called the “underdog” slasher, a low-budget subgenre that generally follows a formula: a sexually repressed man-child kills, in outlandish ways, frisky teenagers who are having sex in dorms, homes or (ideally) the woods. The golden age of slashers began in the late ’70s and lasted through the early ’80s when “Friday the 13th,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween” turned into box office hits.
International in scope, “The Slasher Movie Book” traces how the genre’s conventions — lustful teenagers, gleaming cutlery, bloody deaths — have been used to market these films to mostly young fans.
Beginning in the silent era, when a frightened woman peered out from the poster for “The Cat and the Canary” (1927), the artwork ranges in flavor from cheesy to gristly. The poster for “Happy Birthday to Me” (1981), for instance, shows a young man about to get a skewer of meat and vegetables to the throat. (The tagline: “John will never eat shish kebab again.”) One series even has a superstar logo: the hockey goalie facegear used to advertise several “Friday the 13th” sequels has become shorthand for the franchise, much like another white mask did for the musical “The Phantom of the Opera.”
The slide show above includes five examples from the book that offer a cinematic timeline of how slasher-film posters have evolved. The New York Times asked several artists to design their fantasy versions of posters for the original “Friday the 13th”; their work is here.
Courtesy of The New York Times