The fantastic thing about the VHS years is that the poster art was frequently hand drawn and frequently had very little or nothing to do with the actual film. If you picked a film based solely on the box cover, you had a pretty good chance of being disappointed or at least surprised. Distributors seemed to see a snazzy box cover as a good way to get some mileage out of a subpar film. That still goes on today, but it seems to happen less frequently and the artwork just isn’t the same.
In spite of the trickery that duped more than a couple of horror fans in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, there are some terrific and legitimate films that have terribly misleading – albeit awesome – cover art. Forthat reason, we present to you ten shining examples of awesomely misleading film artwork.
If you were to take this Roger Corman produced classic at what you see portrayed in the film’s artwork, you would be terribly surprised when you actually sat down to watch it. The robot arm featured on the cover doesn’t exist in the film, and that same robot arm is holding a shopping bag full of body parts, which doesn’t pertain to anything that actually happens in the film. The Chopping Mall box cover is essentially advertising a completely different film. However, misrepresentative cover art doesn’t stop the film from being a great deal of fun. Chopping Mall never takes itself too seriously and it’s that approach that makes the ludicrous concept of short-circuited robots killing teenagers trapped in a mall work beautifully.
The House on Sorority Row
The cover art for The House on Sorority Row doesn’t even make the film look like a distant relative of a horror film. The box cover looks like that of a steamy romance novel adapted for the screen. The sultry, barely clothed, hand drawn cover girl doesn’t even really resemble anyone in the film, which makes the whole presentation even stranger. But, the box cover probably led to some extra rentals by viewers in the market for something of the soft-core porn variety. Anyone who rented the film hoping for some cheap thrills was probably slightly disappointed to learn that the story revolved around a group of sorority girls dealing with the aftermath of a prank gone wrong. But, perhaps those who rented The House on Sorority Row looking for something sexually deviant were pleased to learn that the film does offer a look at a few bare breasted co-eds.
I Spit on Your Grave
The latest issue of Rue Morgue definitively addressed the long-standing rumor that the buns on the cover art for I Spit on Your Grave belong to the lovely Demi Moore. That rumor is totally true. That would be perfectly okay if Demi Moore were in the movie. However, the former Mrs. Bruce Willis isn’t in the film and doesn’t even look like Camille Keaton, who played the lead. As for exactly why Camille Keaton’s backside wasn’t on the cover of this rape/revenge story, we don’t know. We were not able to track down a definitive answer.
Return to Horror High
The poster art for Return to Horror High features a cheerleading skeleton. Of course, the film has absolutely nothing to do with cheerleading skeletons. But I suppose, in some ways, the misleading cover art is appropriate, seeing as how the whole film hinges on misdirection and playing with the audience members’ expectations. The artwork is clever and perhaps that is what led to Cheerleader Camp (also on our list) making the decision to seemingly model their film’s cover art after Horror High’s artwork. Horror High wasn’t necessarily a hit at the time of its release, but it’s developed at least a small cult following over the years. It’s the kind of film that’s better after you’ve watched it more than once. The first time watching it tends to be a letdown for a lot of viewers, but the film is easier to have fun with upon a second viewing.
If we were to interpret the plotline of Curtains using only the box cover to guide our decision, we might be persuaded to believe that the film was an early entry in the killer doll sub-genre. However, it is not a killer doll film and the doll from the poster is in Curtains for all of about three seconds. Though the film’s cover artwork is ultimately misleading, Curtains is an unsung classic. It’s never received a proper Region 1 DVD release, which is a shame. Curtains is available as part of a single disc 4-pack with three other films that are worth taking a pass on. The 4-pack is definitely worth picking up until Curtains receives the royal treatment that it deserves. It would be great to see Scream Factory or Scorpion put out a feature packed DVD/Blu-ray release with an improved transfer of the film.
The cover to Sleepaway Camp made the film look appealing. The artwork prominently features a tennis shoe getting stabbed and a letter home from an unhappy camper. Of course, none of this really has anything to do with the actual feature. But, the film gave viewers a fairly solid summer camp slasher and if you haven’t seen the film, you will undoubtedly be caught squarely off guard by the ending. It is a doozy. Sleepaway Camp is also noteworthy for introducing us to the beautiful and talented scream queen Felissa Rose.
The cover art for Popcorn, like most of the films on our list, is incredible but it gives prospective viewers nearly no clue as to what actually goes on in the film. The poster has a skeleton sporting a mask in the likeness of Maggie (Jill Schoelen) the lead. Though the killer in the films does use masks to disguise his identity, he certainly never wears a Maggie mask. And while the killer is disfigured, he has not decomposed to the point of only skeletal remains.
Cheerleader Camp (AKA Bloody Pom Poms)
As we mentioned previously, it seems that Cheerleader Camp took a great deal of inspiration from the equally misleading cover art for Return to Horror High. The main difference between the two box covers is that instead of using a full skeleton, like Horror High, Cheerleader Camp differentiates itself slightly by using a human looking cheerleader from the neck down with what just might be the face of Skeletor where the girl’s head should be. Cheerleader Camp is surprisingly not that bad. The fact that Leif Garrett is in the film doesn’t necessarily instill confidence in viewers or make it stand out as a must see, but it’s better than one might expect and at least worth watching once.
Prior to watching House, one might think it to be about a floating severed hand that persistently rings some poor guy’s doorbell. Fortunately, there’s much more to House than what the box cover may have led audiences to believe. That’s not to say that a severed hand never makes an appearance in the film, but it is far from the focus of the picture. The Vietnam backstory added a really unique element to the film that you don’t necessarily see in a lot of horror films.
I used to love to stare at the cover to Fright Night when I was a youngster. The VHS artwork was fascinating and the film represented forbidden fruit to me. However, my loose interpretation of what the film must be about was quite incorrect. I used to think it must have something to do with a gaggle of ominous looking vampire clouds. When I finally watched the film – at some point during high school – I was sorely disappointed to learn that Fright Night had no vampire cloud formations to offer. The actual goings on in the film more than made up for my disappointment, though, and Fright Night remains one of my faves to this day.