The origins of gothic fiction lie in Horace Walpole's classic The Castle of Otranto, which feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of romantic literature. Being the earliest #horror sub-genre, #GothicHorror focuses on folklore and religious traditions associated with death, the afterlife, evil and the demonic. It tends to dwell on the supernatural aspects of life and manifests itself in stories about monsters, witches, vampires and ghosts.
Gothic fiction has always been a beautified version of literature and known for its lucid ability to blend an idea as horrific as death with something as alluring as love. Unlike most mainstream horrors, gothic horror is very character oriented and difficult to produce because of its aged source material, expensive production design and the necessity to present it in a classic Shakespearean manner.
Usually, these films focus a lot on aesthetics and visual detailing, which can be seen in the posters that publicize them. Gothic horror film posters are very artistic yet still abide by the conventional designs. With rich and contrasting color palettes, depiction of abnormal objects with serenity, along with the introduction of central characters and the emotions associated with them, these posters generate a very vivid image of what's to come.
10. 'The Witch' (2015)
#TheWitch was the directorial debut for Robert Eggers, and though it may not qualify as a traditional gothic horror along the lines of Dracula or Frankenstein, it does have a medieval folklore setting, heavy religious themes and a slow burn. The poster depicts the head of a goat, and a strong one going by its long horns and grizzly hair. The expression is serene, and serenity is not something to look forward to in a horror film. The poster hints at two things — the involvement of nature with the supernatural and the tranquil pacing of the film.
9. 'Crimson Peak' (2015)
#CrimsonPeak is one of the best gothic horrors in decades, and visually, the most appealing one I've come across. Horror enthusiasts are well aware of del Toro's knack for horrific and extravagant visual storytelling, and though some aren't able to connect with his approach, you can't help but admire his vision. Even the poster is graced with his love for hues of red and blue. The poster hints at three things — the blue depicts the icy cold nature of a ghastly European mansion, the red depicts life (or the living) and the red blending with the blue indicates a sense of entrapment.
8. 'Hellraiser' (1987)
#Hellraiser is a gem from Britain, and both the film and poster's depiction of #bodyhorror make Pinhead appear as a highly unsettling figure. The poster gives minimal hints about the intensity of the film and uses the horror tagline to further suggest Pinhead's insidious nature. The figure in the poster is disfigured, with pins at the corners of what appear to be sections cut into his face. Assuming nobody can survive something like, coupled with his white lifeless complexion (common for vampires), we can make claims that he is a resurrected figure. There's a box in his hands and his gentle way of presenting it may may suggest the presence of a weaker victim, woman or a child.
7. 'The Hunger' (1983)
#TheHunger is an erotic horror, and taking a look at its cast, you shouldn't be expecting anything other than style and sexiness. The poster is intriguing, with its use of bloody red to color the woman's back, drawn in the shape of a heart. The red is indicative of blood, while the heart symbolizes love — two consistently conflicting themes in gothic horror. We can see her hugging two other characters, hinting at a probable love triangle. With their heads bent towards her, they seem to be obliging her. The stained knife in the center hints at the involvement of death, and since the rope appears to tear the poster across the heart, it probably belongs to someone out of the three.
6. 'Hour Of The Wolf' (1968)
This was the only horror film the legendary Ingmar Bergman directed, and similar to his other movies it is full of forlorn figures and a nihilistic tone. The movie is a sight to behold with its haunting monochrome color scheme, and borrows inspiration from the works of Mario Bava. The poster perfectly captures the visual experience of the film with a shadowy chiaroscuro and the sorrow in Max Von Sydow's eyes, outlined in black — a recurrent gothic technique. Between his palms lays a naked woman, and the pink border hints at a possible romantic angle, though one that is filled with tragedy.
5. 'What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?' (1962)
Out of all the posters in this list, I believe this will be the most difficult one to interpret for anyone who hasn't seen the film. The woman in the yellow section portrays anguish or suppressed anger, while the one in pink reflects terror (notice the use of wide eyes). The dark lipstick and nail polish is reminiscent of gothic makeup design, while the broken doll head may lead you to believe that a baby might be important to the film, as referred in the title. But I interpret it as something psychotic and a reminder of broken childhood, a motif also used in Deep Red.
4. 'House Of Usher' (1960)
House of Usher is an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's work, and there is nobody else but Vincent Price who's capable enough to complement it. The three shots on the left do give away most of the story, but it is the beauty of this hand-drawn poster that is truly admirable. The Victorian setting is clearly visible through the dresses and the old cellar, which can only belong to an isolated mansion. The posture of the grey-haired man is slightly antagonistic and hosts a cold expression in contrast to the other two. The woman is also lying in a transparent coffin, and could only suggest one thing: resurrection. The highlighted use of fire is a clever use of foreshadowing, which you'll fully understand once you've watched the film.
3. 'Black Sunday' (1960)
#BlackSunday was the first film in which Mario Bava earned a director's credit. One of the greatest horror films of all time, it was considered unusually gruesome and introduced a female vampire as the lead. The poster is dominated by a woman's face, with wide eyes that indicate terror and heavy shadowing on her face, hinting at the possibility of her having a dark side. The open coffin quite obviously hints at the rise of the dead, and there's a woman being sacrificed with men in cloaks presiding over the cult ritual. At the bottom right corner, there's a carriage heading towards what seems to be a mansion on a hill, a commonly used plot device in gothic horrors.
2. 'Frankenstein' (1931)
It's almost impossible to leave out #Frankenstein from a horror list. James Whale used the German Expressionist style in this iconic "horror talkie," and even after 80 years there hasn't been a version that could claim to be better. Frankenstein's dedication to his experiment beside the image of his lady love lying helpless on the edge of the bed reveals his obsessive nature. Hovering above them is the solemnly dazed face of #BorisKarloff in a contrasting blue background, that portrays lifelessness.
1. 'Nosferatu' (1922)
Coming to the king of gothic horror: #Nosferatu. The original posters were destroyed after the Stokers sued Murnau for adapting Dracula. This is an early hand-drawn poster that captures the towering gothic architecture, Orlok's vicious teeth and his grim enlarged eyes glistening with curiosity as to the viewer's blood type. The moon in the distance only illuminates his face and keeps the smaller-looking structures in dark. This makes Orlok appear as a figure looming over the place, bringing a foreboding sense of doom along with him.