After the release of SHOCK FESTIVAL, which is a book illustrated with over 600 pieces of faux movie memorabilia, I became a favorite among indie filmmakers for poster designs and campaigns. During the years of 2008-2011, I worked regularly as an illustrator and designer, for Synapse Films, Grindhouse Releasing and nearly a hundred film productions. When a filmmaker or video company hires me, they not only get my expertise as an artist and designer, but my extensive knowledge of hard-sell film marketing and promotion—so I not only design the posters and covers, but write the ad copy and slug lines as well. (In effect, they sign a one-man advertising firm for a pretty low price!) Here are some highlights from that wild period, with commentary. You can see my more recent work in my GALLERY SECTION.
MURDER LOVES KILLERS TOO
Of the more than two hundred commissioned posters, flyers and other movie promo items I have done to date (private and commercial), this still remains my favorite. It’s the only one I have up in my house. That may be because the film itself is actually very, very good—unlike so many of the low budget horror projects out there. MLKT proves that real vision can redeem any subject matter—even something so obviously inspired by other things. I was allowed to watch the film before I began work and it brought forth some great concepts, such as the bumblebee, which ties into the killer’s psychosis in a very “giallo” way. (Images like that were typical of Italian horror import poster campaigns from the 1960s and 1970s. ) The director told me he wept tears of joy when he saw this for the first time. I also did two other versions because I liked the project so much. You can see those in my extended gallery, along with the “censored” version I was asked to re-paint for the DVD cover. This was deemed too extreme for mass market consumption. I can’t imagine why!
This was a very special poster for me, because it was the official on-sheet displayed in theater lobbies during the 2010 re-release of William Lustig’s classic eighties sleazebag horror epic. I was going for less of a period thing here and more for timeless art in the design. My original vision was just to have the “maniac” Joe Spinell’s face filling the entire poster, in a rain of blood and gore, but that was nixed as too extreme, so the faces on either side were added later in Photoshop. You can see the original vision in my extended gallery section. This was a great honor to work on.
THE EVIL DEAD
Another great honor, this poster was commissioned by the people in charge of ZOMBCON 1 in 2010, and was personally approved by director Sam Raimi. I wanted to go back to the eighties and do a wild new one-sheet design that would capture all the madness of the film. The image of Bruce on the left really gets the grue in your face—it’s actually the moment at the end of the film where he’s dragged along the floor, clutching at the Book Of The Dead. I captured the image as a reference photo and turned it vertically, so it just looks like he’s really upset.
This was not a commissioned work, but rather a poster I created for my book SHOCK FESTIVAL, featuring the great Hollywood star Thomas Jane (HUNG, THE MIST) as Nathan Oblivion. I include it here because this poster was featured prominently in the motion picture JOHN DIES AT THE END, directed by my good friend and collaborator Don Coscarelli. You can see it in Dave’s apartment near the start of the movie, along with several other goodies from my book. RUNNER is my favorite image from SHOCK FESTIVAL, by the way, and Don’s decision to use it (out of the 600 images in my book) was entirely coincidental! SHOCK FESTIVAL posters were also featured in the films THE HILLS RUN RED and CHILLERAMA, all directed by friends of mine who were fans of the book.
SHE WOLF RISING
I was asked to do something very simple with this one, kind of in the style of TRUE BLOOD. I include it here for no reason other than I completed the entire thing in just one day, after another version I worked on for a week was rejected as too crazy and bloody. That Romano. Can’t take him anywhere.
BLACK DEVIL DOLL
This was the very first commissioned work I received after SHOCK FESTIVAL began to turn heads in 2008. It also very much retains the bigger than life flavor of the period it parodies. I went on to design every piece of promo material for the film, including the DVD cover, soundtrack album, print ads, and even flyers for the theatrical release. There was also a “style A” version, and a bobblehead toy, which I did the box for.
42nd STREET FOREVER 4
Of all the DVD covers I’ve done, this is still my favorite, incorporating art from dozens of actual period movie posters and creating a new image for the main cover, using that art as a jumping off point. I like this trailer series a lot and was honored to be a part of it. Later, I did 42nd STREET 5, on which I also served as the director of the special features documentary.
This was one of many jobs I did for Synapse Films, one of the front runners of quality exploitation and erotic cinema on DVD. I worked for Synapse about a year, doing DVD covers and Video promotional campaign material. This was for their IMPULSE PICTURES line of obscure foreign erotic thrillers. I like this job because it has a classy quality that the film most patently does not. It’s actually a horror movie!
This was another I did for Synapse Films. It’s interesting because it’s one of the few photo shoot covers I ever attempted, and it features two players from my book SHOCK FESTIVAL—T. Lynn Mikeska (Traci Lynn Darcie) and Scott Hiles (Roc Benson). I shot Lynn as the screaming victim, with Scott’s hands over her face, and then added all the blood and sweat and grunge digitally in layers. I was upset by this one, because the director went in and added a bunch of extra black grungy stuff I didn’t like… but it’s still an a pretty striking cover.
MELT YOUR BRAIN PRINT AD
SLIME CITY MASSACRE
This is one of the slickest, most polished bits of art I ever did for anyone, for the sequel to SLIME CITY. Greg Lamberson, the film’s director, was a big fan of SHOCK FESTIVAL, and commissioned this piece, which was lots of fun. I worked directly from photos of the actors on this one, and painted the background elements without reference. I got a kick out of this because the green guy in the middle there is Kealan Patrick Burke, a great writer of horror fiction whom I admire quite a bit. Having rented the original SLIME CITY when it was first on VHS back in the eighties, this was an especially awesome honor.
PLEASURES OF THE DAMNED
This was the absolute worst film I ever did a poster for—and I loved it! The filmmakers were obviously going for camcorder trash-slash-rape-porn with this one, and it sort of reminded me of what H.G. Lewis was doing back in the day with a 35mm camera. I tried to make the poster as trashy and slapdash as I could. Who knows if it works? I actually did two versions: the teaser and the “Style A.” (I prefer the teaser actually.) I include this one in my favorites because it’s a film I am literally embarrassed to be associated with. AWESOME!
SEA OF DUST
I still haven’t seen the film this is supposed to be a poster for, but I saw some trailer stuff and it seemed pretty cool. I included it here because it’s one of my more ambitious pieces, with a central image of Tom Savini, master of gore effects and star of my second-favorite Romero film KNIGHTRIDERS. I usually design the art and layout and write the taglines for all of these, and since the filmmakers wanted the “humor of the film” (which I hadn’t seen) to be prevalent in the poster, I settled for a joke in the ad copy. It was changed twice before they liked it. It’s always difficult to give a client something so specific when you haven’t actually seen the movie they’re talking about!
BEYOND THE DUNWICH HORROR / THE DISCO EXORCIST
This is one of my favorites, done as a homage to the 1980s style of garish movie art on VHS boxes. Of all the films I have done, this captures it’s period very well. I also became good friends with the director Richard Griffin, which is something that doesn’t always happen on these things. In fact, it almost never happens. I went on to do THE DISCO Exorcist for him a few years later, which was also fun. Ironically, though I developed a rapport with the filmmakers, I was never allowed to see the movie while I was doing the poster, working exclusively from still photos. It still came out as a remarkably on-target representation of what’s in the movie.
No, this is not a classic movie poster from “the day” I created it myself as an insert for the DVD relase of the film, which was originally called THE DEPRAVED when released in the 70s. I like this one because it captures the period really well. It was actually deemed “too accurate” to be on a DVD cover, where floating heads in Photoshop tend to be the order of the day (I don’t now who started that trend but I want to kill him!), and so I re-designed the image and cropped it later for the front cover.
Please see my GALLERY for the most UP TO DATE examples of my illustration work.