10 Terrifying Horror Signs from Films
Camp Crystal Lake – Friday the 13th (franchise)
Being both the welcoming marker to a summer camp and (later) an eerie epitaph to a terrifying series of murders, the Camp Crystal lake sign marks the entrance to “Camp Blood”, the home of Jason Voorhees for the Friday the 13th series. The cheery sign is a clever juxtapose to the film’s brutal killings.
The Slaughtered Lamb – American Werewolf in London (1981)
American Werewolf in London is a comedy-horror flick with fearless storytelling and some of the best use of prosthetic special effects to ever grace a cinema screen. But amongst the laughs and screams are a handful of textual wonders that are still talked about to this day. The design work for See You Next Wednesday, John Landis’ fictional film within a film, is felt throughput the movie. However, one of the film’s most iconic imagery comes in the form of the Slaughtered Lamb’s hanging signboard.
Traditional British pub signs were designed to be memorable, but more than that, they were designed to be visually appealing. American Werewolf’s fictional pub certainly manages to be both of these things. Featuring a severed wolfs head pierced on a bloody pike, it’s certainly a stark and shocking imagery to be found in a rural country town. There’s only one thing missing, as pointed out by Jack Goodman “Where’s the lamb?”
Sign – Pet Semetery (1989)
The misspelt tatty sign that hung from the entrance of The Pet Semetery is a morbid monolith to the dead pets of Ludlow. Built from the broken hearts of kids, the spiral patterned graveyard is filled with gravestones and markers, each one a testament to design teams’ efforts in creating such a morbid looking place. It’s crowning jewel is the main sign that marks the entrance to the cemetery. Made form wood and paint, it’s rustic appeal lies truly within the graveyards contexts within the films story.
Graffiti – Candyman (1992)
Candyman has a number of cool design elements that are easy to dismiss at first viewing, from the huge graffiti face that marks Candyman’s lair, to the paintings that lie within, but for our list, we are going for the fowl filthy writing message that adorns the toilet wall mid film, “Sweets to the Sweet”. The message was seen earlier in the film when two Chicago graduate students investigate the Cabrini-Green housing project, spayed in graffiti outside a suspected candy-man victims’ home. The message is once again revealed with a filthy toilet, scrawled in human excrement, and pointing towards a toilet filled with bees. This little textual flair has become a signature for the Candyman series.
Welcome to Amity Island – Jaws (1975)
Amity Island has a little shark problem, in Stephen Spielberg’s epic summer block buster Jaws, which sees a giant great white shark terrify the little community. A huge chunk of the budget for the film went on the mechanical shark, Bruce, who had a nasty habit of breaking down. It’s because of Bruce’s reluctance to perform that a lot of the “Shark” scenes had to be shot from the point of view of the flesh-eating villain.
One of the small pieces of levity came in the form of a beach sign, that a local residence vandalises for comedy effect. The giant Amity Island welcome sign shows a woman happily paddling away on a inflatable Lilo, but the plucky residence paints a sharks fin and a shocked face on the lady, who is declaring “Help Shark!”.
A Warning – The Shining (1980)
From those three little numbers that adorned the room of 237, to the creepy 1930s picture that was doctored to fit Jack Nicolson right in the middle., there is an orgy of design elements through out Kubrick adaption of Stephen King’s The Shining, to keep even the most hardened fan looking out for more. For this list, we are looking at one of the rarer design moments in film, where the artistry is captured on film. Young, caught in one of his trances, Danny picks up lipstick and proceeds to draw out the words REDRUM, on the bedroom door, which reflect MURDER in the vanity cabinet mirror. The style of writing and quirky way the middle D and R are spelled backwards have been an iconic part of the films legacy, with many fans artwork copying actor Danny Lloyd’s handwritten message (literally) down to the letter.
Graffiti – They Live (1988)
John Carpenters epic sci-fi alien invasion film, They Live, is an amazing look at a world already invaded by an alien presence. Mixed with powerful social commentary, gripping satire and low budget 1950’s B-movie special effects, the film is a smorgasbord of eccentric design elements.
It’s only when our hero, WWF wrestler Roddy Pipers nameless character (Credited as Nada), discovers a pair of special sunglasses, that we begin to understand the extent of the invasion. The glasses allow Nada to see through the smoke and mirrors of the alien’s influence. He only sees the core of their message that lie under the projections of advertisement and mass media. This revelation reveals a host of simple black on white text that encourages the human population to “Buy”, “Consume” and “Sleep”.
One of the more impactful textual moments takes place at the opening scenes, as the films title cleverly blends into a wall chock a block full of graffiti. It’s a simple message and one that plays out for further effect later, “They Live”!
Street Sign – A Nightmare on Elm Street (franchise)
Wes Craven’s epic supernatural slasher film spawned one of the most successful horror film franchise in history. Not only did Freddy Kruger manager to maim his way through 9 films, he also boasts sales of novels, comics and video games, alongside a song and music video. Freddy’s popularity is hugely unnerving, considering the child molesting killer is the villain of the series.
Whilst the series plays very heavily on the creative deaths, with people being sucked into beds, puppeteered off buildings and even video gamed to death, there is one key design element that goes very much unloved but is a huge part of the franchise. The Elm Street road sign. Whilst it’s just a simple street sign, it’s a constant in the series, and always integrated into merchandise and fan art. And if you are wondering why you can’t quite remember seeing the sign in the films, look again because “Every town has an Elm Street!”
Bates Motel – Psycho (1960)
There is never a sign more synonyms with horror than the one that adorned the front of Bates Motel. Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho, was not only an amazing horror film, but one that completely blindsided audiences with its leading ladies’ death with the first half of the film. Hitchcock’s use of psychoanalysis and mirroring quickly subverted the audiences perspective from the beautiful Janet Leigh, over to the melancholy Anthony Perkins, playing his best turn as Norman Bates. And whilst Bates was running around in Mummy’s drab, hacking and slashing, watching over the whole ordeal was a little neon sign that hummed gently next to the hotels drive way.
The large sign, declaring that the motel is indeed open, has become a huge part of the film’s iconic imagery. Even the recent TV series, that looked at Bates early life, used the sign as it’s main logo. It’s these very lights that drew in Leigh’s Marion Crane, as she drove past in the rain.
Curfew – It (2017)
Words speak louder than words, and never has that been truer than in the 2017 release of IT Part One. Andrés Muschietti’s re-imagining of Stephen King’s bestselling novel, hit’s all the right notes, projecting the coming-of-age story line that was necessary to carry King’s message over form the novel. With everybody transfixed with Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise, it’s easy to overlook some of the artistry in play for the textual elements of the flick.
The film is filled with cool signage and paperwork, from the Derry sewer map, to missing person posters and the cool as hell painting of the 1929 Bradley Gang massacre (complete with hidden Pennywise). But for this list, we are looking at two very cool things that both have huge impact.
Patrick Hockstetter, the fire-starting member of Bowers Gang, is haunted by the images of dead kids, when he unwittingly ends up in the Derry sewers. Moments before his death, at the hands of Pennywise, he sees a balloon floating towards him with the words “I Love Derry”. This dastardly detail is an awesome nod to a moment in the Novel (and the sequel) where a young man is killed by Pennywise, when he is thrown from a bridge after a homophobic attack.
The other moment is the police board that is placed outside the school. This ominous board reminds the kids of a curfew that is in place, after a series of child disappearances. It’s a simple touch, but one that is weighed down in so much emotional history. Not only is it a reminder of the disappearances, but also the complacency of the local police, who feel that a curfew is just enough to stem the flow of strange happening s in Derry. Creepy stuff!
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“Hello Horror Fans – SIGN me up for more of this. I do love the more creative side of films, especially ones that are illuminating. Did we miss any signs that should have made our list? POINT it out to us in the comments below
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