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Breakout hot takes: horror movie poster edition

October 26, 2023

  • Company + Culture
Halloween blog

Posters that give us the creeps

Our team is fully remote, but one thing that brings us all together is spooky movie season. We’ve been talking about our favorites and critiquing classic posters all of October. Here, our creative team shares our thoughts as we celebrate Halloween. Read on if you dare. 

The Shining

The Shining

Favorite of: Maddy Austin, Senior Designer

The design is simple and graphic (no surprise there), when most posters use photography. Using a two-tone image and typography, the poster easily conveys the unease you feel throughout the film. The longer you look, the madder you start to feel.

My favorite part about this poster is the fact that it went through hundreds of rounds of revision. Bass must have really felt for Jack Nicholson’s character (and real-life Shelley Duval) by the end. It makes the madness feel all the more real.

The typography gives us tension, and the pointillism within the title text shows a face that is haunted, which is not coincidentally how the audience will see themselves watching the film.

The shining

The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs

Favorite of: Tess Lantz, Design Intern

This poster conveys so many overarching messages from the movie in one still image. Clarice is being silenced by a moth, a creature which appears in the movie, referencing both the title and also how the character feels throughout the film. 

The moth is a death’s head moth, named for what appears to be a skull on its back. In the poster, however, the moth’s skull shape is created from bodies, an optical illusion symbolizing the nature of the film’s murders.

I love the intentional use of contrasting reds, oranges, and yellows with the stark black and white background, alluding to ambiguity and mystery. The use of small caps text is also great, referencing being silenced or feeling small, but it still has that punchy red color that makes it unmissable.

Silence of the lambs

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

Favorite of: Chandler Wescott, Designer

The lights, the alphabet, the bikes, the shack—there are so many elements of the show captured in the poster imagery.

Stranger Things is set in the 80s and has a great retro vibe. This poster leans into that by mimicking early Star Wars posters and others of that era. The character Eleven holding her hand out even looks like she’s a Jedi using the Force.

I also love how the logo is typeset. The designers took a very common typeface and transformed it into an instantly recognizable logo. The glow effect matches the glow of the stars and the moon, implying that a lot of this show takes place in the dark.

Stranger things



Favorite of: Pascale Grant, Designer

This poster is successful because it captures the feeling of uncertainty and isolation of the film.

From a design perspective, I love the distressed red font. The text as the focus in the negative space really evokes the feeling of being trapped and in the dark. 

The text also becomes the basement labyrinth itself which is also very clever. Your eye is led down the text, making every twist and turn of the film, with one of the characters residing in the final N” of the title, trying to make their way through the basement and finally arriving at the end: the credits. The only colors used are black, gray, red, and a touch of yellow, suggestive of the dark horror of the film.


The Stuff

The Stuff

Favorite of: Elise Johnston, Senior Writer

This poster really sets expectations. There’s some gross stuff” — and it might kill you. We already know we’re in for a kitschy ride. 

The Stuff is about the 80s’ obsession with weird diet foods, out-of-control consumerism, and dangerous marketing. The poster gets most of this across in just a few sentences and one disgusting image.

What I love even more than the image is the WARNING!” banner at the top. You, the viewer, are in the world of The Stuff, and you’re receiving a PSA. 

As a copywriter at Breakout, I’m always advising clients to present a problem and an immediate solution in their copy. Perhaps the spookiest part of this poster is that it presents a problem…and no solution. Yikes!

The stuff 1



Favorite of: Meghan Cleary, Designer

The most iconic element of this poster is Drew Barrymore’s scared face in the background. Drew was the most famous star in the cast, and (*spoiler alert*) her character’s murder is one of the most shocking in horror history. Her prominent feature in the film’s marketing campaign led audiences to believe she would be the star of the franchise only for her to be killed in the first 20 minutes. Genius.

The poster relies on minimal color use, highlights the actors, and uses no splatters of blood or usual horror gimmicks. The typeface used in this poster is a staple of the franchise and still used in the movies today. The subtlety of the point on the M hints at Ghostface’s knife. Scream is not your average horror movie.


The Descent

The Descent

Favorite of: Jenn Levreault, Creative Director

I really like the nod and reference to Philippe Halsman’s photograph In Voluptas Mors featuring Salvador Dali and six women’s bodies forming the shape of a skull in the background. The addition of light behind the six women on the movie poster is a great reference to the movie and how they are trying to get back above ground.

This movie envelopes many themes like death, ambition, and rage — all of which can be seen through the forms in this poster.

The use of type is not particularly exciting, but this poster does a really good job of speaking to the events of the film in a simple, creative way that calls back to an iconic photograph at the same time.

The descent

Night of a 1000 Cats

Night of a 1000 Cats

Favorite of: Nick Fava, Writer

I love this poster because it does its job: get someone to buy the movie. Me. I bought this movie for $1 when I was 16. It’s a disjointed mess of a film, but pray you have nine lives” was all I needed to read to make the purchase. 

This poster doesn’t play around whatsoever: there are going to be a lot of cats and they’re not going to be friendly. I love the use of a” preceding 1000 cats in the title, implying that this is not just a swarm, but an entity. 

The plot actually follows a maniacal rich man in a castle who leads his dates to a pit of hungry cats with the help of his Igor-esque butler sidekick. But the only thing the movie needs to do to fulfill the poster’s promise is, at least once, to show the horrific mayhem of too many cats.

Night of 1000 cats

A scary good design team

We’re armchair film critics and horror buffs—and we’re a full-scale creative agency, too.

Reach out to learn how we can design, write, develop, build, and launch a brand and website that will grow alongside you into the future.

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