What Do All Horror Movies from 1996-2002 Have in Common?

21 Jan

By Brian “Pac” Sostak

Okay, maybe not all horror movies, but a pretty large sampling of them.  There is one distinct characteristic so common among horror movies during this 7 year time frame (and a few outliers) that it is hard to go unnoticed.  No matter the success of the film, the director attached to it, whether it went straight to DVD or was released in theaters with a multimillion dollar marketing campaign, all of these films boast one uncanny similarity…

Jennifer Love Hewitt?

… the movie poster.   Despite the immense amount of horror movies that hit theaters from 1996-2003 and the variety in quality and marketing budget, it seems that all of these films hired the same graphic artist to design the movie poster despite the fact he only had one trick.  Here’s how it is done:

  1. Start with a completely black background
  2. Add a large picture of a mysterious figure, face, or set piece that represents the title of the film or drives the plot*
  3. Insert some contrasting color to make the above figure stand out (preferably red, orange, or blue)
  4. Place 3 or more heads of the stars of the film (in a V formation if possible)**  
  5. Insert the title and other text of the film including: The cast names, the sequel number, catchphrase or high-praise review

*May be substituted for small picture of the killer if #4 is the primary focus of the poster
** Boobs are an extension of the head (especially if the head belongs to the above mentioned Jennifer Love Hewitt)

Let’s take a look one of the most popular and acclaimed horror franchises during this time period, and one that started in the seminal year of this case-study, Scream.

 All three posters include the five necessary steps for the 96-02 horror movie poster.  Notice how the head/figure in the background focuses on the character’s eyes, this is important – always focus on the eyes when using a large head.  Scream and Scream 3 chose a blueish white to contrast the black background, while Scream 2 was rebellious and used red.  Also important to note: not only do the three posters include 3+ heads but they are also placed in V formations.  Scream 3 went as far as to say “screw it” and used the same V formation as Scream 2 with Nev Campbell, David Arquette, and Courtney Cox Arquette in the same locations.  Though Scream  was the first slasher film to use this poster template, it certainly was not the last.  Take a look at these other popular slasher films from the same 7 years.

Chose a small image of the killer instead of a large head. And don't forget JLH's boobs.

Notice how the killer rounds out the V formation in the first poster, that's called innovative foreshadowing

No Halloween film outside of 1996-2002 used this format

The Halloween films also used a distinct vertical V formation rarely seen on other movie posters.  This poster template was not reserved solely for slasher films, it would become a staple for other popular sub-genres as well including Supernatural Horror.  Like these films:

The format was so successful they brought it back in 2006 for FD3

Pretty sure they used the same photo of Josh Hartnett for both posters

Affleck was the bomb in "Phantoms".

 Little known fact about Dracula 2000, the graphic artist was so pressed for time that he was unable to shoot a photo of the Dracula from the movie, instead he cropped in an image from The CrowOther sub-genres of horror saw the success these films had because of their innovative poster design and decided to get in on the mix, some of those sub-genres include:

Haunted House

Religious

 

Creepy Farm Kids

And Science Fiction Horror

 Science fiction horror faced an interesting dilemma with their movie posters, one they had to uniquely overcome.  Often times, these sci-fi horror movies only boasted two “billable” stars.  Their solution:

Screw it, let's just use 2 heads

I know, Jason X and Bride of Chucky are more slashers than sci-fi, but one took place in space and the other is about the transfer of souls so it kinda counts.  In the case of Jason X, there was no billable star so they created the illusion of Jason’s head as 2 separate heads, officially making the poster the most well crafted part of the entire project.

Still one sub-genre remains in the ever popular horror culture that cannot be overlooked, though these films were rare they still deserve to use this template for its poster.  I’m talking of course about comedy/horror.

Terrifying and Funny

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Home Alone 3 is not a horror movie”, but let’s compare it to another horror film already mentioned on this list Halloween: Resurrection.  In both films a group of annoying and unsuspecting men and women break into a house to basically mess sh*t up.  When the home’s tenant discovers that his house has been infiltrated he designs a variety of elaborate traps to capture and/or kill the home invaders.  Once the “guests” become aware of the tenants occupancy they shift their focus from messing sh*t up to capturing/killing the tenant back, most likely to no avail (because we need more sequels!).  There are really only two differences between these two films – Home Alone 3 is a family movie and therefore shows no on-screen violence or murder (off-screen, who knows), and Halloween: Resurrection portrays Michael Myers as the antagonist even though he is perfectly within his rights to kill all those who trespassed on his property.

Just Ask Clint Eastwood

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6 Responses to “What Do All Horror Movies from 1996-2002 Have in Common?”

  1. Red DVD February 2, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Hello there 🙂

    What was the very best and most terrible film of 2010 in your oppinion? For me personally it might have to be:

    Greatest: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One

    Worst: A Nightmare on Elm Street

    Thx 🙂 ❤

  2. David July 14, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    Guys

    I liked your article, interestingly humorous!

    I’d like permission to reproduce on my (not yet published) website, which is essentially an information and directory website for collectors of movie posters and similar memorabilia. Although most articles have been written by me I do have a section dedicated to “guest contributors’.

    Naturally appropriate recognition will be given and back linked to your website.

    let me know!

    • Brian Pac Sostak July 18, 2011 at 11:53 am #

      Thanks for your interest in this article and our site, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Please feel free to include our article/website in your directory, as long as you provide reference and a link to our page (as you stated).

      Please let us know when your site becomes live so we can check it out.

      Thnaks

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What Do All Horror Movies from 1996-2002 Have in Common? (via Chris and Pac Take on Hollywood) | The Calculable - January 22, 2011

    […] What Do All Horror Movies from 1996-2002 Have in Common? (via Chris and Pac Take on Hollywood) Posted on 22 January, 2011 by Jarle Petterson By Brian “Pac” Sostak Okay, maybe not all horror movies, but a pretty large sampling of them.  There is one distinct characteristic so common among horror movies during this 7 year time frame (and a few outliers) that it is hard to go unnoticed.  No matter the success of the film, the director attached to it, whether it went straight to DVD or was released in theaters with a multimillion dollar marketing campaign, all of these films boast one unc … Read More […]

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    […] Mixing alien invasion with 1990′s teen slasher, The Faculty is a very underrated and often overlooked movie when talking about the teen slasher.  Written by Kevin Williamson (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer) and directed by Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk ’til Dawn, Sin City), The Faculty is a well written and well-directed horror film with a unique and entertaining concept, Despite the genre and the incredibly cliche movie poster. […]

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