Nostalgia is huge in both the horror community and the entire pop culture landscape of late, and a pretty incredible resurgence has been happening within the genre in the last few years – the resurgence of the VHS tape, and all of the awesomeness that it brought along with it back in the ever-so-glorious decade of the 1980s. Though the format should by all means be long dead and gone by now (with DVDs even in the process of being relatively obsolete), nostalgia has been keeping VHS and the entire era of its dominance alive and well – fans who grew up frequenting their local Mom & Pop video stores, holding on for dear life to something they have so many fond memories of.
Despite the fact that the major distribution companies stopped putting their movies onto VHS nearly a decade ago, those diehard fans have been keeping the spirit of the format alive all by themselves, working together to keep the tape flowing. Countless websites, 'zines and documentaries have popped up in recent years, dedicated to preserving and re-animating the not-quite-dead format, and many filmmakers have even set out with their friends to make their own retro-style movies – which they of course almost always release on VHS tapes. In fact, so many fans are doing it nowadays that I’d have to say the market is becoming quite flooded, with several VHS-only distribution companies being formed in the last couple of years. A glorious time to be a fan of the format, for sure.
If you’re going to make a new movie that looks like an old movie – tracking issues and all – you of course can’t advertise and sell it with artwork that’s not period-authentic, and the increased demand for the hand-drawn retro art that was such an important part of the VHS era has led many artists to try their best to channel the spirit of the time. By no means an easy task, but there’s one guy out there right now that’s making it look pretty damn easy – and doing it better than everyone else. His name is Marc Schoenbach, and the artwork he’s been creating is ripped straight from the horror section of that Mom & Pop video store you spent so much time in. So spot-on is he with recreating the beautiful artwork from the '80s that I’m willing to bet you’d have a hard time picking out which pieces were his if you put them up against real posters from the era.
Though he’s proven himself more than worthy of being the go-to guy for this sort of vintage style artwork, New York-based Schoenbach didn’t always have art on his mind. In fact, he graduated from college with a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology, and he jokes that his dream was to one day become a real life Clarice Starling. After finding that there wasn’t much demand for such a specific degree, Schoenbach soon realized his true passion was in the creative arts, and in 2006 he began creating his own fake horror movie posters, drawing inspiration from the attention-grabbing VHS box art that so transfixed him in his youth. He cites artwork used for Creepshow and Return of the Living Dead as being particularly inspiring to him, and he created about a dozen faux posters for made-up movies before he decided he was ready to go bigger.
It was at that time that Schoenbach began contacting independent filmmakers and offering up his services, free of charge at first. In 2011, with a few gigs under his belt, he launched his company Sadist Art Designs. Now that his art is out there for everyone to see, he’s been getting a lot of attention within the horror community, and filmmakers frequently contact him to help make their movies stand out. If you’ve made a horror movie that’s ripped straight out of the '80s, or just want to draw people in with eye-catching artwork, you need look no further than Sadist Art Designs, which Schoenbach says is “your one way stop in creating unique and iconic imagery that’s sure to make you proud of your project.” To say he’s been living up to that claim would be an understatement.
Though many of the films that he’s created posters for have yet to be released – and in some cases have yet to even be completed – his artwork has nevertheless generated interest and buzz about those movies, drawing fans in the same way many a budding horror lover was drawn in by the art on display at the video shop. A good poster makes you want to see a movie – a fact that Schoenbach understands and has been proving over the course of the last year. If a picture says a thousand words, then his posters read like glowing reviews of the movies they’re promoting – movies that his art simply demands you to watch.
When I asked Schoenbach why he loves the art from that time period so much, he pretty much perfectly summed it up for me, echoing my own sentiments. “They've got heart!" he says. "Because posters from this era were all hand-painted, there was no skimping. No quick Photoshopped, slapped-together nonsense. The posters from that era all made you want to see the film... even if the film blew.”
As for how he goes about so accurately channeling the vibe those posters gave off, in a way few artists have been able to, Schoenbach offered me some insight into the process: “There's actually a lot that goes into getting that authentic '80s look," he explains. "Layout I think is key... choosing something that's interesting and foreboding is always a good thing. That painted look is no easy task and using the right brush strokes and textures also adds to it – this is something I am still trying to perfect. Then a lot of it has to do with color palette. While I design exclusively in Photoshop, I do not use any effects that would not have been available back in the '70s or '80s. Finally, I don't like to use anything in the poster that's modern-looking... like a person using an iPhone, or riding a 2013 Corvette... stuff like that. Oh and text! There's this one artist out there who’s great at his craft... then he ruins it all by using modern text, like Times Roman... that's just being lazy!”
A full-time psychologist during the day, the lifelong horror fan (it all began with a viewing of Halloween II at just 4 years old!) says that his ultimate goal is actually to write his own movies. “The funny thing is, I got into poster design as a way for the industry to take my own personal ideas seriously,” Schoenbach told me. In fact, the name of his company is based on a short story he wrote back in 2005, about an artist who kills people and captures their dying expressions on film... a story I’d not only love to see turned into a movie, but one I’d also love to see Schoenbach draw up a poster for!
I leave you with this teaser image he whipped up for a mysterious upcoming Halloween project with Frank Sabatella and Sideshow Pictures. Details are wrapped up tighter than the Yummy Mummy at the moment, so you’ll have to keep your eyes locked on the Sadist Art Designs Facebook page in the coming weeks. To see more of Marc’s amazing artwork, “like” the page and check out his blog. If you’ve made or are making your own movie and you’d like him to design the poster, he’d be happy to help you out... so feel free to drop him a line!