The Art of the Sell: “The House of the Devil” poster

These posts celebrate the movie trailers, movie posters, commercials, print ads, and other promotional material that stand as their own works of art. 


I have a longstanding appreciation for movie posters, going back to the days when my trips to the theater were sadly infrequent. I’d wander the hallways staring at these vivid promises of cinematic wonders to come, resigned to the knowledge that taking in this one design and promotional statement would likely comprise the totality of my experience with the films in question in the palace of flickering lights where they were best seen. As official movie posters have generally drifted toward a numbing sameness, I’m glad there’s been a bit of an insurgency answering back with towering examples of design work as grand as the movies themselves. The ingenuity of the Mondo folks alone makes up for a long multiplex hallway’s worth of big heads in the mists of the sky.

As I enjoy the afterglow of this summer’s most surprising and endearing new hit series, Stranger Things, I find myself thinking of a favorite film from recent years that trafficked in a similar sort of horror movie nostalgia, albeit without the helpful dilution of Spielbergian childhood scrappiness. Ti West’s The House of the Devil is a splendidly patient film that expertly evokes the horror movies of a certain era, when the downbeat grit of the nineteen-seventies was giving way to the glossier, stackable franchise mentality of the nineteen-eighties. There are a few posters that swim in the same waters, but the one I like best (as the opening paragraph implies) may not really be official. Created by Scott Hopko of Hopko Designs, the poster’s simplicity is an insightful match with the film, which does more with unsettling stillness than with bloody splashes. The unfussy directness of the tagline — listing the tasks associated with an especially unfortunate babysitting gig — is similarly in line with West’s creative sensibility.

In essence, this poster accomplishes precisely what I was after when I tacked countless one sheets to walls of my various dwellings. It captures the very spirit of a film I adore, calling to mind the bountiful merits I found on the screen. It’s less a promotion than a companion. Admittedly, that might mean it’s not doing the most fundamental job of a movie poster. Somehow, that doesn’t trouble me much.

Other entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Art of the Sell” tag.

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