I have a special sort of nostalgia for old horror movie newspaper ads.
While I’m now a fan of scary movies, they terrified me as a kid, in that “do not touch” sort of way. Catching movie promos on television was a daily risk, but there was something even spookier about the newspaper ads, which were usually just a page away from Garfield and Snoopy.
I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I think the reason is in that paragraph. I was unlikely to see a trailer for Pumpkinhead on television, because Pumpkinhead wasn’t advertised during cartoons. In the newspaper, all bets were off. There could be a Pumpkinhead ad right under the crossword puzzle, next to a pitch for Oliver & Company.
The genre freaked me out, but it also intrigued me. I’d stare at those ads and imagine dank theaters full of hoodlums and hedonists. I believed horror movies to be “dangerous” in a pretty literal way, which of course made them seem twenty times more interesting.
Below: Another batch of horror movie newspaper ads from the ‘80s and ‘90s, acting as the sequel to this older Dino Drac article.
Wow, check out this drive-in’s doubleheader: Ghoulies AND A Nightmare on Elm Street! I couldn’t dream up a more perfect evening. Just me, Freddy, a 1978 Chevrolet Malibu, and maybe some nachos from the snack shack.
Given its iconic status as a home video rental, it’s hard for me to register that Ghoulies even had a theatrical release. This ad proves that its famous pitch was there from the start: “This movie has monsters in toilets, and you as a rational person should not ignore that.”
The Ultimate Double Creature! (1986)
In what appears to have been a nationwide promotion, moviegoers could see both Aliens and The Fly for the price of a single ticket. Not bad!
I suspect that many who took ‘em up on that offer needed a day to recover. After all, neither Aliens nor The Fly are “light” horror movies by any stretch. To this day, I still treat Aliens like a “big event” movie, and approach it with trepidation. The Fly is a bit less intense, but it compensates with that shot of Jeff Goldblum upchucking buggy stomach acid.
Gremlins 2! (1990)
Studios sometimes design “extra” newspaper ads that are only good for a week or so, meant to connect certain films to upcoming holidays or current pop culture trends.
Here we had Gremlins 2 — by that point nearly a month into its theatrical run — presented as the perfect film to watch on Independence Day. No arguments here.
What makes these ads special is that they often use custom art. Even as an absolute Gremlins maniac, I can’t say that I’ve seen this “Gizmo rocket” image anywhere else.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter! (1984)
Oh, good lord. Friday the 13th Part IV at a drive-in theater. That sounds incredible. Three people paying attention, and everyone else using the movie to mask lurid tomfoolery. Popcorn as pebbles and half-broken neon signs. I need to be there.
Trick or Treat! (1986)
Throwing this one in for Jay, because he loves Trick or Treat a little too much. (And no, I still haven’t seen it, even if I’m perfectly aware that a Halloween horror movie starring Skippy Handelman is guaranteed to become an obsession. Someday!)
And is that Link underneath it? Why yes, it is! Totally forgot about that one. It was like Monkey Shines meets You’re Next.
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare! (1991)
Freddy’s Dead is hardly the most revered Elm Street movie, but the marketing was undeniably cool.
The first ad, used exclusively on the film’s release date, was designed to look like it’d been crudely “corrected” by some rando from the newspaper.
The second one is a riot, with Freddy celebrating his box office victory over Terminator 2. (To be fair, Terminator 2 had already been in theaters for months when Freddy’s Dead debuted.) If only for the sake of getting a T2-inspired spin on the Freddy’s Dead logo, I love this.
Halloween 4! (1988)
Though one could easily blame Halloween III for the Michael-heavy marketing of Halloween 4, I think it was more about competing with Freddy and Jason than “apologizing” for Season of the Witch.
Remember, prior to this movie, Michael hadn’t been seen since 1981. The whole “slashers as pop icons” thing hadn’t even happened yet. In wrestling terms, Michael missing that boat was like Shawn Michaels missing most of the Attitude Era despite arguably starting it. I can’t blame the studio for wanting their slice.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2! (1986)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 was released as an unrated film, which for box office profits was about as detrimental as an “X” rating. (And an “X” rating was what the MPAA wanted to stick it with, anyway.)
Nobody under 18 was allowed to see it in theaters, whether they had chaperones or not. This film was never gonna be a box office smash, but under those confines, it’s amazing that it came close to doubling its budget. (Per Wikipedia, it was produced for 4.7 million, and made 8 million in theaters.)
This was the first Texas Chainsaw movie I saw, back in the early 2000s. Gotta say, I think the sequel paid off those many years spent HEARING about Leatherface way better than the original could’ve. You can’t beat the first movie for its creepily realistic ambiance, but Part 2 was exactly as loud and gory as I always imagined a movie named after chainsaws would be.
Thanks for reading about old newspaper ads. If this sort of thing is up your alley, you might like these other Dino Drac features, too: