Horror Movie Posters That Are Nightmare-Inducing


Hi, I’m Allie. I love horror movies. That’s kind of my one personality trait. Anyway, one of my favorite activities as a child was walking through the aisles of the local video rental store* and giving myself completely avoidable nightmares by gawking at all of the terrifying VHS covers and posters on display in the “Horror” section.

But — because I was an actual child at the time — I wasn’t allowed to read the back descriptions of any of the films, so instead I’d just make up the entire plots of the films in my head. What a fun way to pass the time as a kid, amirite?

So, in no particular order, here are some of the horror movie VHS covers and posters that are still burned into my dumb adult brain, and what I decided the movies were 100% actually about as a child:

1.

Candyman (1992)


Tristar Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: There is a bee near an eye. I! Do! Not! Like! It! Frankly, the shadowy figure in the reflection of the pupil didn’t even register for me as a kid because I was so focused on a bee! Near an eye!

What I Imagined The Movie Was About As A Child: A really smart bee that tricks people into letting him into their brains through their eye sockets with the promise of free candy, so that he can control their bodies.

2.

The Company of Wolves (1984)


Cannon Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: There is a whole-ass wolf head coming out of this man’s mouth. Why? What’s happening? Is he turning into a wolf? Is a wolf turning into him? Is this a metaphor? IDK.

What I Imagined The Movie Was About As A Child: Little Red Riding Hood’s weird twin brother ate the wolf before the wolf could eat their grandmother, but now it’s trying to escape out of his face.

3.

The Evil Dead (1981)


New Line Cinema / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: There is something about a hand-drawn poster that never fails to get to me. Maybe it’s because someone had to sit down and put time into such a freaky image? Either way, the Evil Dead series has some of the very best ones (Army of Darkness being my personal favorite).

What I Imagined The Movie Was About As A Child: “Wow, the ground sure is angry at that lady…”

4.

Hellraiser (1987)


Entertainment Film Distributors / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: This one’s kind of self-explanatory, but there’s something about Pinhead’s eye contact and gritted teeth that really get ~under my skin~.

What I Imagined The Movie Was About As A Child: A Needle Man? A Needle Man who wants to give me a present? (To be fair, I was NOT far off.)

5.

Re-Animator (1985)


Empire Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: Another EXCELLENT example of a genuinely “No, thank you” tagline paired with the perfect image. Also, the creepy campfire-esque shadow on his face really ties the whole thing together.

What I Assumed The Movie Was About As A Child: A man befriends a talking head — not the band, no relation — and they go on merry scientist-y adventures together. Think Ratatouille but, like, with a scientist and his disembodied head.

6.

Black Christmas (or Silent Night, Evil Night) (1974)


Ambassador Film Distributors / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: Oddly enough, this one was less about the poster (I know!) and more about the tagline…it’s pretty messed up! And, for the record, my skin is on just fine, thank you. I spend a lot of money on skincare I pretend to understand for it to be this tight.

What I Imagined The Movie Was About As A Child: This lady forgot to leave out cookies for Santa (or worse, she ATE the cookies meant for Santa) and he. Is. PISSED.

7.

Ghoulies (1985)


Empire Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: I guess I’m just not a huge fan of stuff in my toilet that doesn’t belong there. I grew up in Florida. Lizards and frogs and snakes (oh my) finding their way into your plumbing was a real thing.

What I Imagined The Movie Was About As A Child: 100%, without a doubt, something to do with your poop coming to life and trying to murder you and your family.

8.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)


Mike Lederman / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: More like A Nightmare On NO Street, amirite ladies? IDK, I tried something. Anyway, it’s just a freaky poster overall and has stood the test of time. Her eyes are so big and the weird Freddy overlay is certainly a choice. Also, she appears to be sleeping in the nude, which, to young me, was scary for other reasons (spiders getting into my body through my butt, obviously).

What I Imagined The Movie Was About As A Child: I refused to look at this cover long enough as a child to come up with something other than “No <3.”

9.

Creepshow (1982)


Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: This one just checks off pretty much every “what I’m freaked out by” box. Hand-drawn poster? Check! Skeleton with hair? Check! LIVE THEATER? Check!

What I Assumed The Movie Was About As A Child: This poor person worked super hard to put on a show and waited so long for people to come and see it that they just straight-up died there and now they host an all-skeleton musical review and IT’S TO DIE FOR.

10.

Fright Night (1985)


Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: First off, it has two taglines, so…double scary?! Also, the title rhymes?! OoOoOh! Listen — obviously, it’s the scary cloud. It should go without saying that it’s the scary cloud. I don’t like scary faces in clouds. Mufasa would never.

What I Assumed The Movie Was About As A Child: “This family needs to check their chimney because that pollution looks CRAZY…”

11.

Alice, Sweet Alice (or Communion) (1976)


Allied Artists / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: As a child I was VERY scared of masks. I hated Halloween time at my local mall because every store would have those godawful lifelike, plastic-y masks, and teenage boys would put them on and run around the stores to scare kids like myself. Nightmares. The irony is that, nowadays, I’m scared if people AREN’T wearing masks (Get it? Because of the pandemic? Waka, waka).

What I Assumed The Movie Was About As A Child: Someone was so frightened that they jumped and dropped their very weird groceries EVERYWHERE. It was probably because of one of those teenage boys from my local mall!

12.

Jaws (1975)


Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: I actually don’t think I’d legally be allowed to even publish this post if I didn’t include this one somewhere. It’s a classic for a reason. It’s like the Beatles or Chanel No. 5 — you don’t have to like it, but you have to respect what it did. Also, it’s a giant freakin’ shark.

What I Assumed The Movie Was About As A Child: A big ol’ shark who just wants to befriend local swimmers…seeing as THEY’RE THE ONES IN HIS HOME. Just look at him?! He’s frowning! Maybe he even fell in love with this lady? Now he just wants to be human instead of a shark. It’s The Little Mermaid, but with a shark. Frankly, I would still watch that version.

13.

Dead-Alive (or Braindead) (1992)


Trimark Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It Was So Freaky To Me: The video store near my house had a full-size poster of this for some ungodly reason that they had hung up for YEARS and it never failed to bother me. Peter Jackson and company were like, “You know what’s freakier than ONE pair of eyes looking directly into your soul? TWO PAIRS!” Anyway, I now own this poster (and several others from this list) as part of my personal collection. We call that “growth.”

What I Assumed The Movie Was About As A Child: A lady is giving birth to her own skeleton through her mouth. Her own tiny, tiny skeleton. Hold me closer, tiny skeleton.

SURPRISE BONUS ROUND: Since you’ve made it this far into the post without leaving and/or calling me mean names, here’s a few more horror movie posters I wanted to include…because they 100% gave me nightmares as a teenager/grown-ass adult woman:

14.

Saw (2004)


Lions Gate / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It’s So Freaky To Me: Truly, genuinely, I have to know…who in the actual hell approved this poster? IDK if some of you are even old enough to remember when this movie came out back in 2004, but allow grandma here to explain to you: This poster was IN MOVIE THEATERS. A HUGE PHOTO OF A DECAYING, REMOVED HAND WAS HUNG IN THEATERS WHERE PEOPLE — namely (at the time) 13-year-old me — COULD SEE IT AND IMPRINT IT IN THEIR DUMB BRAINS FOR DECADES. No, I DON’T need a hand!

15.

The Descent (2005)


Lions Gate / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It’s So Freaky To Me: Really…you…you need an explanation? Also, it’s been 15 years and I’m still annoyed the tagline wasn’t, like, “Cave into your fears” or something. IT WAS RIGHT THERE.

16.

Sinister (2015)


Summit Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It’s So Freaky To Me: I’m a card-carrying member of the “The first Sinister is a criminally underrated horror movie and more people should see it” club and I remember the first thing that caught my attention for it was this poster. It’s simple but effective, and — like Bughuul himself — sticks with you. Plus, “Once you see him, nothing can save you” is what my friends told me about my ex, so…it’s also relatable.

17.

Us (2019)


Universal Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why It’s So Freaky To Me: Why yes, this movie DID just come out last year…when I was 28 years old and the world made sense. And yes, it DID still freak me out so bad it gave me nightmares as an adult. I have a thing about (and by “thing about,” I mean “fear of”) doppelgängers AND, as mentioned earlier, also masks. This poster managed to encapsulate both while also making me fear America’s sweetheart, Lupita Nyong’o!

So, uh, yeah…there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this trip down nightmare lane! What horror movie poster(s) gave you nightmares as a young, impressionable child? Which of the above posters is your personal favorite? Share yours in the comments below!

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