Horror Movie Newspaper Ads from the ’80s!

I recently bought a former film buff’s collection of 1980s newspaper clippings, not knowing quite what to expect. Just one of those things you grab on the off-chance that it’s going to be better than your brain tells you.

Well, the gods favored me on this deal, because the collection — around a hundred clippings stuffed into a school folder that’s probably as old as they are — is 100% amazing.

The original owner was only too happy to get rid of it, though I couldn’t imagine why. Film was obviously his greatest childhood passion, with at least two dozen ticket stubs hiding between all of the other ephemera. His feng shui must be better than mine: I’d never be able to part with something that was once so dear to me.

As if the sheer volume of goodies wasn’t enough, the guy’s main interest seemed to be horror movies. Below are several scans from his (well, my) collection, all from the very late ‘80s.


Child’s Play! (1988)
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I’ve written about my childhood approach to horror movies many times before, but the gist is that I was too afraid to really dive in, yet too fascinated to ever look away. Child’s Play was an early exception of a horror movie that I actively sought out, and didn’t just watch because it was on television and it was better to be scared than bored.

As a series of films, it’s one I’ll defend until my dying day. Neatly navigating several decades’ worth of changing trends and in-style attitudes, each movie was perfect for its time, and the most recent entry, 2013’s Curse of Chucky, may actually be my favorite of them all.

Course, for serious scares, nothing tops the original, when Chucky was an asshole of the less lovable sort. Simply by virtue of what he was, I think Chucky was the one slasher that every kid was at least a little bit interested in. I mean, the movie opens with (human) Chucky sneaking around a giant toy store, and hiding from the police under a pile of Fireball Island boxes. The film was a secret gateway drug for kids who wanted to dip their feet into fake blood.


Bad Dreams! (1988)
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My family subscribed to two newspapers and each had a wildly different set of comics, so I ended up seeing a lot of horror movie print ads, sheerly by happenstance. Back in ’88, this Bad Dreams ad would’ve terrified me, yet in a weirdly gripping way.

I often tried to imagine what the theaters showing these movies looked like, picturing groups of punks in leather jackets threatening other groups of punks in leather jackets, while people dressed for a Twisted Sister convention intentionally spilled their popcorn.

As for Bad Dreams, I’ve never seen it, but I didn’t need Google to tell me that it was partially inspired by A Nightmare on Elm Street. As if the title and the Freddish hand weren’t big enough clues, the movie starred Jennifer Rubin — aka Taryn from Dream Warriors, my all-time favorite Elm Street character!


The Serpent and the Rainbow! (1988)
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Given how hard the movie is to describe and label, I’d credit The Serpent and the Rainbow’s killer promotional art as a big reason for whatever successes it had. Who could forget the sight of Bill Pullman looking like a zombie on Ash Wednesday?

(Oh, and if you haven’t seen this film, you should fix that. It’s good. I’ve always been impressed by its “realist approach,” with Wes Craven pretty bravely avoiding anything so over the top that it would’ve marked The Serpent and the Rainbow as “popcorn horror.” It may not have helped ticket sales, but it sure helped to keep it scary.)


Return of the Living Dead Part II! (1988)
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It would be several more years before I’d see any movie from the enormous Living Dead franchise. Hell, given the TV shows I watched, it’s unlikely that I’d even seen a promo for one by that point.

This newspaper ad offered nothing except the title, which would’ve forced the me-of-1988 to imagine everything else. Like I’ve mentioned in my stories about wandering the horror aisles at old video stores, whatever popped in my head would’ve been way worse than the reality.

Really, if judging sheerly by title, is there anything more scary-sounding than Return of the Living Dead Part II? (I’d only learn later that the movie was a semi-spoof. Fitting, since the title sounds so much like a parody of horror movies.)


House II: The Second Story! (1987)
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The original House has a major cult following, owing to its willingness to “embrace cheese.” (Not to mention its willingness to borrow actors from classic ‘80s sitcoms. Behold, Bull from Night Court, looking like a zombie General Traag!)

It’s a fun little movie for sure, but here’s the thing: House II is A THOUSAND TIMES BETTER. I think of it as the Gremlins 2 to the original’s Gremlins, if that makes sense. One of those rare films that manages to be weirder than everything else without once seeming like it’s just doing it for weirdness’s sake.

(I’d also nominate House II as one of the perfect ‘80s horror movies to show people who are genetically predisposed to dislike ‘80s horror movies. By the end of it, when the film transforms into a sprawling sci-fi epic from out of nowhere, they’ll be left wondering about what the hell else they’ve been missing.)


Pumpkinhead! (1987)
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I love Pumpkinhead, which isn’t italicized because I’m more referring to the monster than the movie. Pumpkinhead isn’t a top tier horror icon, existing as a sort of gatekeeper for casual fans who are ready to trade their white belts in for orange ones. (Specifically pumpkin orange, because sometimes shit just works out perfectly.)

Basically, Pumpkinhead is the dude you run to after you’ve already rotated through all of the big guns. He’s there to tell you that no, you actually don’t have to have plush dolls at Spencer’s to be a gem. Trust him — he’s right.


The Unholy! (1988)
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I’m not sure if many of you have even heard of The Unholy before seeing this ad, the largest of the ones featured here. Now an obscure find, it looks like the film’s only U.S. release was on this little-known but wonderful multi-pack.

From what I can gather, it’s somewhere between The Exorcist and Species. The ad seems a little subdued for an R-rated movie, so I’ll go ahead and confirm that the demon lady shown above more commonly wore clothing of the see-through variety.

Doesn’t it look more like an advertisement for some bad TV movie? Like something one of the kids from Growing Pains would’ve been in. Probably Ben, but possibly Carol.

Thank you for reading about newspaper clippings from 25 years ago. We’ll have to do this again, sometime.