If one of the joys of being a horror fan in the 1980s was being seduced by the shocking and lurid come-ons in the newspaper advertisements for these movies, one of the downers was going to the theater and not getting all those ads promised. In the quest to sell tickets, movie marketing often exaggerated what the films themselves had to offer, and occasionally they flat-out lied to us. Here are 10 examples, culled from my new book Ad Nauseam: Newsprint Nightmares from the 1980s, available now from 1984 Publishing.
1. ALMOST HUMAN (1980)
Distributor Joseph Brenner was a frequent purveyor of Italian fright flicks in the U.S., but when he got ahold of a 1975 crime thriller called Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare (Milan Hates: The Police Cannot Shoot), he decided not to trust the appeal of its action and sold it as some kind of creature feature.
2. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1980)
While the vengeful heroine of this notorious rape-revenge film does wreak horrible revenge on the men who assaulted her, Jerry Gross Organization’s copy still fibbed a bit: She dispatches only four guys, and not one of them is burned.
3. THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN (1981)
Months before the official Halloween II hit theaters, Group 1 tried to con fans of John Carpenter’s hit original by passing off an Aussie psycho-thriller initially titled Snapshot (directed by Simon Wincer, who would go on to helm Free Willy and TV’s Lonesome Dove) as a sequel.
4. BEYOND THE FOG (1981)
Released around the same time as The Day After Halloween, here’s another faux Carpenter knockoff, courtesy of Independent-International. This one wasn’t even a new movie; it was a 1972 British production first released at home as Tower of Evil and in the States under that moniker as well as Horror on Snape Island.
5. NIGHTMARE (1981)
21st Century Distribution’s initial ads for this slasher bloodfest credited gore-makeup god Tom Savini as its “Special Effects Director.” But according to Savini, he only served as a consultant, and the text was altered in the later print promos.
6. SCREAMERS (1982)
This New World Pictures ad should come with a warning all right, but one about its dishonesty: You will not, in fact, see a man turned inside out at any point in this Italian import, originally known as Island of the Fish Men.
7. DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. (1982)
In addition to being a “bloodthirsty, homicidal killer,” Aquarius Releasing claimed the doc to be a “depraved, sadistic rapist.” The truth is, he is neither of these, nor does he make house calls; he’s a scientist creating zombies deep in a tropical island jungle.
8. MORTUARY (1983)
Though a mortuary does figure into the plot, this is actually a slasher film (with none other than a young Bill Paxton as the psycho). But by the time it opened, the stalk-and-kill genre was running out of gas, so Film Ventures International misleadingly sold it in both the print ads and trailers as a back-from-the-dead opus.
9. CHOPPING MALL (1986)
Read the fine print on this Concorde Pictures ad: The menace terrorizing young people in a galleria after hours is not the grotesque humanoid that image promises, but a trio of security robots running amok.
10. SATURDAY THE 14TH STRIKES BACK (1989)
Here’s a different kind of lie. Concorde Pictures took out this ad in the New York area, giving the impression the film was being released there—but according to those who went looking for it at the time, the movie didn’t actually play at those theaters!
Growing up in the 1980s, Michael Gingold became obsessed with horror movies, and his love of the genre led him to become a Fangoria writer and editor for nearly 30 years, as well as a Rue Morgue contributor. But before all that, he took his scissors to local newspapers, collecting countless ads for horror movies, big and small. Ad Nauseam: Newsprint Nightmares from the 1980s is a year-by-year deep dive into the Gingold archive, with more than 450 ads.