Recently, friend and fellow author, Christopher Ruz, was tweeting about why he wrote his Rust series and why horror appeals to him. One of the things he mentioned was a cover for The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut. This got me thinking, a bit of a nostalgia trip. We have Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and Youtube for streaming movies and TV shows and it’s wonderful. It’s occasionally hard to pick something new but on the whole, most of us love this method of watching. Before this, we had the mythical Blockbuster Video, or the various local joints that popped up, occasionally symbiotically with grocery stores.
Walking through the aisles of videos is actually something I do miss about the pre-digital age. Sometimes, it was quite enjoyable to just go and wander around, taking in the box art. It’s sort of like looking through books can still be. Interesting cover? Let’s see what it’s about.Most of the art on Netflix tends towards screenshots or a simple promo image and text. All of Netflix’s original shows seem to rely on this especially. Daredevil, amazingly, only has one semi-interesting piece of art and it’s more of an abstract, symbolism than something that sets tone. (I’d show you the piece in particular but I can’t find it.)
Of course, the undisputed king of box art is always Horror. The mid-90s saw most movies just using their poster or a slight alteration for the cover art but horror attempted to keep that up for a few more years. So I wanted to share a few of the covers that really stuck out to me. I saw the following covers at various ages, some earlier than others. I’m sure you’ll gather why they stuck with me.
Critters is a weird series but the cover for two always caught my eye because, well…there’s a rolling ball of fuzz and teeth. I remember catching part of it on TV once. Long enough to see one of the characters, a shapeshifting bounty hunter, change her breast size through her jump suit, die, and the male hunter shift his mouth away from grief (I think).
Ah, Evil Dead 2. I didn’t see this until a long time later but this cover always got my attention. How could it not? The skull is looking at you. It was creepy but captivating. Of course, this simple cover doesn’t do the movie justice at all. There is no hint at the very silly, slapstick horror flick within.
Dead Alive (also known as Brain Dead) is one of Peter Jackson’s early works and influenced by Evil Dead. And that cover was even creepier and stranger than the Evil Dead 2 cover when I was a wee Ashe. I’d wander by them, staring. Amazingly, despite being prone to nightmares, neither of these covers hit me. I’ve yet to actually watch the movie either but I’m familiar enough with it thanks to internet infamy.
The hand always caught my attention. And House 2 is just a very silly, fun movie. If you’ve never seen it, you should.
Those were the ones that stood out in the horror section. That really cemented in my memory enough to find for this post. Only four, sure, but this was before I got into horror or started pushing boundaries as a teenage (which, of course, involved movies with gratuitous nudity). If I added video games, I could continue on too. NES games had quite a slew of interesting covers as well. I’m happy to say that this old style has returned somewhat among fans. I’ve seen a lot of recent flicks get the VHS art treatment. It can be pretty fun. And some movies, like Kung Fury, evoke the style deliberately to start with.
There are a slew of other movies I would’ve added from other genres but they were half-remembered. Vague recollections of faces and concepts. Because of Highlander, anytime I saw Christopher Lambert’s strange face on a cover, I would look at it. Some movies I was familiar with, saw on TV or at a friend’s or what have you but didn’t see the box art until long after that. And then when DVD started to take over, you got new box art sometimes that was, shall we say, lacking in effort compared to the original. Sometimes, even in comparison to the original poster, usually due to copyright laws being so strange.
So, take a moment to appreciate those old pieces of glorious box art. Maybe dig up a few of your favorite movies and see what kind of goofiness they got back in the day. Enjoy a little stroll down the aisles.