It's often said that movies - specifically horror movies - aren't what they used to be. But it's not just the movies that aren't made the way they used to be, it's also the art that's created to market them. In fact, it's kind of hard to even refer to the posters studios churn out nowadays as art - considering there's nothing all that artistic about them.
While posters for films like Jaws, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween grabbed - and continue to grab - our attention and demanded we see the movies, the posters that accompany horror movies nowadays don't have quite the same effect. While studios once used to commission artists and photographers to create beautiful pieces of art to promote their movies, they no longer seem to be interested in such artistry.
Advancements in technology have more or less ruined the art of movie poster art, the same way they have the art of makeup effects. Just as the Tom Savinis and RIck Bakers of the world have been all but replaced by computers, so too have movie poster artisans like Drew Struzan and Tom Jung. Gone is the stunning artwork that we used to proudly display on our bedroom walls, replaced by quick Photoshop jobs that are more focused on showing us the recognizable faces of the actors in the films than they are giving us an actual piece of art. Posters we wouldn't be so proud to display, to say the least.
But an interesting thing has been happening in the last few years. Fed up with the boring and uninspired artwork that studios are bringing to the table, fans have begun taking matters into their own hands, and creating their own poster art for their favorite movies - at long last giving other fans pieces of artwork that are worthy of being hung up in their homes. Whether for local screenings of classics or just for fun, these fan-made creations have single-handedly rejuvenated the dying art, art galleries like Mondo popping up to showcase the incredible talents of artists that the movie studios aren't bothering to seek out.
Not surprisingly, horror fans have been gobbling up these fan-made posters like they're going out of style, voting with their money and proving that they want a return to the ways of old as much as the artists themselves do. Limited edition offerings from artists like Jason Edmiston and the folks over at Phantom City Creative typically sell out in mere minutes - sometimes in seconds - and those who miss out on their releases have been known to spend hundreds of dollars to get their hands on the art, on eBay and at conventions. While the art of poster art may have been killed off by the studios, it's the fans that have been keeping it alive - channeling the spirit of the artwork that the studios kicked to the curb decades ago.
One of those fans is Matthew Chojnacki, a freelance writer and film/music historian from Cleveland, Ohio who has gathered his favorite pieces of fan-made movie poster art in a new book titled Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art From The Underground. The book collects together some of this so-called "art from the underground" for the very first time, taking the beautiful artwork off of walls and the internet and putting it together into one big ole coffee table book. The book is a veritable art gallery you can hold in your hands and enjoy in the comfort of your own home, a labor of love that serves as a wonderful reminder that some people still care about movie poster art - even if the studios do not.
Chojnacki, who counts the posters for Sleepaway Camp, Friday the 13th and Piranha among his all-time favorites, had previously released a book called Put the Needle on the Record - an award-winning book that highlighted vinyl cover art from the '80s. "I love (and collect) gig posters for concerts, and started to realize that this same crowd was creating stellar posters for film fests and cult cinema showings," Chojnacki told me, when I inquired as to why he decided to give the same treatment to movie poster art.
Finding himself hooked, and realizing that a book hadn't yet been released on the topic, Matthew set out on a mission to gather together the cream of the crop of alternative film art - a mission that lasted one year and saw him combing through over ten thousand images, from upwards of one thousand designers. The result of all of his hard work and sleepless nights is a beautiful 200+ page hardcover book that features over 200 pieces of art from over 100 different artists, spanning 20 countries. The films depicted range from comedies to dramas, mainstream hits to cult classics, with a heavy focus on the horror genre.
Out of the 200+ different posters featured in the book, over fifty of them present some of our favorite horror films like we've never seen them before, everything from Street Trash to Psycho, Zombieland to Black Christmas. Some of the designs are minimalistic, others cartoony and still others photo-realistic and jam packed with intricate detail - all of them working together to form one of the most visually pleasing books you've ever had the pleasure of perusing.
Included with each piece of art is information about the artists, who relay behind the scenes details about the process of creating the art you're looking at. Some artists even list their influences and favorite films, allowing you to get to know the men and women behind the art. Each page also provides a URL to each artist's website, a smart move by Chojnacki that directs you to the corners of the web where you can see more art from those artists that contributed your personal favorite pieces to the book. As such, the book is as much a spotlight on these artists as it is a visual feast for the rest of us to consume.
So then, why does the book's curator feel that studios no longer care about artwork the way they used to? "I think most will say that it's due to budgetary reasons," Chojnacki told me. "But really, when nearly all mainstream films cost $25+ million, that logic doesn't fit. In reality it's partially due to laziness, and partially due to the mechanics of how film posters are pieced together. With the latter point, marketing research does indeed show that many go to film based on casting/celebrity placement. And also, once a poster goes through the approval and legal processes, it becomes a very watered-down piece (...of crap). Let's face it, most posters are now simply celebrity head shots. Well airbrushed, of course."
But all hope is not lost, as some studios, companies and filmmakers do still care. In our conversation, Chojnacki went on to tell me that one of the artists featured in the book, Federico Mancosu, created an alternative poster for Django Unchained, which so impressed Quentin Tarantino that he used it as part of the film's teaser campaign. In fact, Chojnacki even told me that many of the posters featured in the book have actually been green-lit by the studios to sell, proof that these alternative film posters are perhaps starting to catch on. "I think that studios are now well-aware that the hardcore moviegoers really do appreciate alternative movie posters," he said. "There are a few studios jumping at the chance to use these artists, such as Scream Factory, and also Waxwork Records."
Whether or not the major studios eventually decide to return to the ways of old, and once again wow us with eye-catching poster art that's as impressive and engaging as the movies themselves, the fact of the matter is that there are still artists out there that care about the art of movie poster art - and as long as they're out there, the artform will remain alive and well. As the tagline on the back of the book states, "Film poster art is back.... with a vengeance," and the stunning artwork on display in it is living proof of this fact.
Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art From The Underground was released yesterday, and you can pick up a copy through retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I can think of no better way to support these incredible artists than by picking up the book, and I can think of absolutely no reason why you shouldn't. If you're a fan of movies, and artwork, Alternative Movie Posters is an absolutely must-own addition to your collection. For a fraction of the cost that some of these posters sell for online, you get full color high-resolution photographs of over 200 of them, while at the same time getting to know some of the top artists in the game - I don't know about you, but I call that money well spent.
Support the arts by picking up your copy today!